DCAD Done Right

Targeting a prepartum diet that is fully acidogenic with high dietary calcium can help improve the postpartum calcium status of transition cows.

Learn about our DCAD program

Start with the Right Anion Source

Animate® nutritional specialty product is a unique and patented anionic mineral that has been shown to help keep transition cows healthy and productive.

Learn about Animate

Our DQA® program is not just about testing ingredients. It is our promise to produce only the highest-quality products — from sourcing of raw materials and our manufacturing process to industry-leading expertise and technical support. It is this commitment to excellence that helps us ensure that our products are safe and effective for your animals.

Hear from a Dairy Producer

“I’ve learned that a low-DCAD, high-calcium diet is what we need to make the transition work.”

Dairy producer Tony Herman has been feeding a negative DCAD program for 15-20 years. His goal is to have cows calve, relax, be comfortable and not have any negative health events like retained placenta or milk fever.

Transition Dairy Cow Studies and Insights

The proof is in the program. University research shows the benefits of feeding an acidogenic prepartum diet.

Managing Calcium Status and Preventing Hypocalcemia in Fresh Cows

Dr. Bascom reviews the consequences of low serum calcium concentrations and how to reduce the risk of hypocalcemia in fresh cows.

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Five Reasons To Make Understanding DCAD Nutrition a Priority

Learn why feeding an acidogenic ration adds up to greater farm profitability.

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A Fully Acidogenic Negative DCAD Diet Can Help Keep You Profitable

Learn how your prepartum DCAD diet should work for you.

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DCAD Done Right

Hit the bullseye with these four steps to maximize your prepartum DCAD program.

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Track the Trends

The Animate® App is designed to help you track the factors that affect transition cow performance, including ration DCAD, urine pH, bunk space, stocking density, days in close-up and other key parameters.

  • Set up and organize your dairy information.
  • Enter data based on individual cows’ and farm details.
  • View all data entered collectively by date.
  • View and track trends for your herd over time.

You Herd Right Podcast

You Herd Right Podcast

Take a deep dive into a range of topics, tactics and innovations in dairy production. Gain greater insights into dairy cow health and the success of dairy operations. Hear from experts in the field as we dig into the details and best practices for nutrition, animal health and dairy cattle management.

    Episodes include:

  • Feeding and managing your prepartum dairy cows.
  • Research that supports fully acidogenic, high dietary calcium diets.
  • Mineral guidelines.
  • Compensated metabolic acidosis.


Meet the Animate® Team

Questions about Animate®?

What is hypocalcemia?
Hypocalcemia is a disorder in dairy cows caused by lower than normal blood calcium concentrations. There are two forms of the disorder, clinical and subclinical. Clinical hypocalcemia, more commonly referred to as clinical milk fever, is defined as a cow having a total blood calcium concentration below 5.5 mg/dl. Subclinical hypocalcemia (SCH) is defined by a total blood calcium concentration between 5.6 and 8.5 mg/dl.
Why are cows susceptible to hypocalcemia?
The sudden calcium requirement for milk production at calving places an enormous demand on the cow’s ability to maintain normal blood calcium concentrations. In addition, cationic dry cow diets (resulting mainly from feedstuffs containing high levels of potassium) can predispose the cow to hypocalcemia by reducing the effectiveness of the mechanisms the cow relies upon to balance her calcium status around the time of calving.
Why feed a negative dietary cation-anion difference (DCAD) diet?
Regardless of age, all prepartum dairy cows are susceptible to hypocalcemia due to the rapid increase in calcium requirements at calving.  Cows which are hypocalcemic have increased odds of developing retained placentas, metritis, mastitis and displaced abomasums which can lead to reduced lactation milk yields and decreased fertility.  Feeding a negative DCAD diet to cows prior to calving helps reduce the risk of developing hypocalcemia.
What is a negative dietary cation-anion difference (DCAD) diet?
A negative DCAD diet is a diet in which the milliequivalents supplied from chloride and sulfur is greater than the milliequivalents supplied from potassium and sodium.
How do negative DCAD diets work to reduce hypocalcemia?
Negative DCAD diets work by causing a mild, compensated metabolic acidosis. This is accomplished by feeding elevated levels of anionic minerals containing chloride and/or sulfur. The metabolic acidosis (lower blood pH), through the actions of parathyroid hormone and vitamin D, enhances the cows’ natural physiological mechanisms for maintaining normal blood calcium concentrations. These include dietary calcium uptake by the gut, bone release of stored calcium and urinary excretion of calcium.
Can I manage hypocalcemia without a negative DCAD diet?
While some nutritional feeding practices may help reduce the incidence of clinical milk fever (MF), those practices will have very little impact on the subclinical form of the disease.  Feeding a negative DCAD diet may help reduce the incidence of both forms of the disorder, milk fever and subclinical hypocalcemia.
Why worry about subclinical hypocalcemia (SCH)?
Cows affected by SCH are less productive and profitable, with an estimated cost to dairymen of approximately $125.00 per case. Since more cows are affected by SCH (> 50%) than MF (typically  < 5%), SCH has a larger negative impact on dairy profitability. (Oetzel, G.R. 2012. An update on hypocalcemia on dairy farms. Proceedings of Four-State Dairy Nutrition & Mgmt. Conf.)
How do I determine the level (incidence) of SCH in my herd?
The best approach is to test for serum total calcium by obtaining blood samples from fresh cows 48 hours post-calving (obtaining samples between 36 and 60 hours is acceptable). The test is fast, inexpensive and an effective method to determine the incidence rate of SCH in dairy herds.
What is my typical return on investment for a properly fed negative DCAD ration?
Estimates have shown that implementing a properly balanced negative DCAD diet may return greater than a 4 to 1 payback* realized through reductions in metabolic diseases, increased milk production and better reproductive performance. *Results may vary.
How long do I need to feed a negative DCAD diet for it to be effective?
To achieve the maximum benefit from feeding a negative DCAD diet, cows should be fed the diet a minimum of 21 days prior to calving. However, feeding longer than 21 days is recommended for optimal results.
Is it safe to feed a negative DCAD diet for longer than 21 days prepartum?
Yes, and it may be better to do so. Studies have documented the safety and effectiveness of feeding a negative DCAD diet for up to 42 days prepartum, ideal for one-group dry cow programs.
What level of DCAD should I feed?
Prefresh diets should be formulated to provide between -10 to -15 mEq/100 g DM. Ultimately, monitoring urine pH will be the guide for determining if cows are properly (fully) acidified. Targeting a urine pH range between 5.5 and 6.0 will result in cows being fully acidified and in optimal calcium metabolism.
How do I determine if I am feeding the proper DCAD level or if the diet is being fed properly?
Testing urine pH of cows is an effective and practical way to monitor the level of acidification. Proper acidification will result in urine pH values between 5.5 and 6.0. Urine pH will typically fall between these values when the DCAD of the prefresh diet is formulated to -10 to -15 mEq/100g.
When is the best time to monitor urine pH values?
The best time to test urine pH is between 6 to 9 hours post-feeding, as sampling time relative to time of feeding will impact urine pH values.
What macromineral levels should I balance for when feeding a prepartum negative DCAD diet?
Phibro recommends a properly balanced negative DCAD diet based on the following nutrient specifications:    
Why feed Animate?
Animate is a thoroughly researched and field tested anionic mineral proven to help reduce the incidence of hypocalcemia which can have negative effects on health, production and fertility. Because it is highly palatable and readily consumed, Animate can be fed in a fully acidified program without significantly decreasing dry matter intake, an important consideration when choosing an anionic mineral product.
What makes Animate different from other anionic products/salts?
The proprietary manufacturing process used to make Animate, incorporates mineral salts into a carrier matrix, making Animate highly concentrated and palatable.
Why is palatability important?
Maintaining high dry matter intake during the close-up period has positive benefits to the cow both prior to and following calving. Choosing an anionic mineral product that is palatable helps to achieve high dry matter intakes during the close-up period.

Talk to Your Dairy Advisor

Learn how Animate nutritional specialty product can support a proper DCAD balance in your herd.