Saturday, January 31, 2015
Domesticated Horses, Donkeys and Cattle Need Additional Salt
Wild animals living in their natural environment get salt from natural salt licks including rock outcroppings.These natural sources aren't available on most farms. Salt is composed of sodium (Na) and chloride (Cl) which are electrolytes that serve many biological functions in the body. There are numerous websites and blogs saying that salt is poison and that no animal needs to consume sodium or chloride. Before you buy into that, please do a little reading on blood chemistry (look for sites from medical organizations and universities). You will quickly learn how important sodium is in keeping our nerves, muscles, kidneys, and more working properly. Chloride also serves an important function in regulating body fluids and is a constituent in stomach acid (hydrochloric acid). You don't have to consume table salt to get sodium and chloride into your body. Many of the fruits and vegetables that humans eat are natural sources of sodium and chloride. In contrast, the pasture grasses that my animals eat contain little sodium or chloride.
Within the horse world, there is controversy over the effectiveness of salt/mineral blocks which were originally developed for cattle. Some people don't think horses can get adequate salt from a block because their tongues aren't rough enough. We provide salt/mineral blocks to all our animals so there is always salt available to them. The donkeys, in particular, use them daily and as you can see from the pictures, they are getting the salt from it. When it is very hot out and the animals are perspiring and respiring heavily, we provide them with additional loose salt/minerals, often mixed with some grain. As for the claim that salt/mineral blocks are toxic, I have never seen any evidence to that effect.
I think an important point to remember is domesticated animals are not wild animals and we can't treat them like wild animals and expect them to be healthy.