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Formulating DCAD to Drive Milk Fat

April 10, 2019

Based on Dr. Rich Erdman’s conference presentation

Summary by Kai Yuan, PhD

Dietary Anion Cation Difference (DCAD) is not only important for pre-fresh dry cows but also for lactating cows. Based on a total of 43 published articles, increasing dietary DCAD linearly increased dry matter and NDF digestibility, and milk fat percent and milk fat yield.


Dr. Rich Erdman, University of Maryland. DCAD: It’s not just for dry cows. 2017 Tri-State Dairy Nutrition Conference Proceedings. 


Key Points:

  1. Every 100 mEq/kg increase in DCAD 0.1 percentage unit increase in milk fat percent and a 38 g/d increase in milk fat yield.
  2. Increasing DCAD from 0 to 500 mEq/kg of DM resulted in a 3.5% unit increase in DM digestibility and a 7.5% unit increase in NDF digestibility. One of the modes of action of DCAD is the increase in ruminal pH and NDF digestibility.
  3. The minimal DCAD for lactating cows is most likely about 300 mEq/kg of DM, and the decision to feed additional higher DCAD with depending on the cost of supplementation and the added value of the extra milk fat produced.
  4. Feeds like soybean meal, alfalfa haylage, barley, grass silages, and molasses are high K and also high DCAD. Corn silage is intermediate in DCAD content. Protein supplements such as DDGS and canola meal are intermediate in K content and are low DCAD feeds because of their high S content. Dietary buffers containing bicarbonate and carbonate salts of K and Na will increase DCAD.
  5. Potassium provided by QLF lactation supplements helps to increase dietary DCAD to support milk fat production in the warm summer months.
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