Coated copper sulphate (CCS) could be used as a Cu supplement in cows. To investigate the influences of copper sulphate (CS) and CCS on milk performance, nutrient digestion and rumen fermentation, fifty Holstein dairy cows were arranged in a randomised block design to five groups: control, CS addition (7·5 mg Cu/kg DM from CS) or CCS addition (5, 7·5 and 10 mg Cu/kg DM from CCS, respectively). When comparing Cu source at equal inclusion rates (7·5 mg/kg DM), cows receiving CCS addition had higher yields of fat-corrected milk, milk fat and protein; digestibility of DM, organic matter (OM) and neutral-detergent fibre (NDF); ruminal total volatile fatty acid (VFA) concentration; activities of carboxymethyl cellulase, cellobiase, pectinase and
α-amylase; populations of Ruminococcus albus, Ruminococcus flavefaciensand Fibrobacter succinogenes; and liver Cu content than cows receiving CS addition. Increasing CCS addition, DM intake was unchanged, yields of milk, milk fat and protein; feed efficiency; digestibility of DM, OM, NDF and acid-detergent fibre; ruminal total VFA concentration; acetate:propionate ratio; activity of cellulolytic enzyme; populations of total bacteria, protozoa and dominant cellulolytic bacteria; and concentrations of Cu in serum and liver increased linearly, but ruminal propionate percentage, ammonia-N concentration, α-amylase activity and populations of Prevotella ruminicolaand Ruminobacter amylophilusdecreased linearly. The results indicated that supplement of CS could be substituted with CCS and addition of CCS improved milk performance and nutrient digestion in dairy cows.