Cattle can't shake salt on their food but they like and need it

US - Salt, which is made up of sodium and chlorine, plays an important nutritional role in the diet of cattle according to Eldon Cole, livestock specialist with University of Missouri Extension.
calendar icon 19 February 2007
clock icon 2 minute read
But intake levels can vary just like the methods of getting salt in the cattle.

"Cattle like salt just like some people like salt. But in a herd of cattle you'll likely find extremes on intake. Some eat a lot while others may seldom touch it," said Cole.

Most forages contain ample amounts of chlorine, but most species of grasses tend to be short or borderline on sodium according to Cole. Legumes usually contain sufficient sodium to meet the needs of both the cow and stocker animal.

"As a rule, mature beef cattle need one ounce or less a day of salt. Research has shown the ounce can be obtained sufficiently either from a block or as loose salt," said Cole.

Salt was one of the original items to add convenience to cattle feeding. When added to protein or concentrate feeds at varying amounts, the intake levels can be controlled.

"You could put out several days worth of supplement and the animals would be expected to have a uniform, daily intake of the feed. Other feed ingredients are now being used that help control intake, but salt still works," said Cole.

Cattle normally voluntarily consume about 0.1 pound of salt per 100 pounds of body weight. A 1,200 pound cow would eat about 1.2 pounds of salt each day when mixed with a palatable concentrate.

The salt used should be plain white salt without other minerals in it.

Cole says one frequent question is whether or not this high salt intake will cause problems to the animal or even to the pasture (where the urine is excreted).

"The answer is, it doesn't seem to, so long as the cow or yearling has ample water available. Research and producer observations have not come up with any effect on fertility, calf crop percentage, weaning weight or animal appearance from high salt intakes," said Cole.

Using salt to control intake is not perfect and intake levels need to be monitored closely, especially when first introduced to cattle according to Cole.

Overeating sometimes can occur or some animals may refuse to eat expected amounts.

Source: High Plains Journal
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