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Cattle Diets and Nutrition

Why do cattle need salt?


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March 04, 2015 7:40PM

The diet of most cattle is deficient in salt. Most plants, except in high saline areas where salinity-loving plants like salt grass like to grow, have very low levels of sodium in them. A cow can eat 100 pounds of forage and still not get enough salt in their diet, so salt in the form of salt mineral blocks need to be supplied as supplements.

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September 15, 2011 5:59PM

Salt (Sodium Chloride or NaCl) is one of the most important macronutrients that cattle need to function properly and remain healthy. Sodium (Na), is important because it:

  • functions as osmotic pressure, acid-base balance and body-fluid balance,
  • is involved in nerve transmission and active transport of amino acids,
  • is required for cellular uptake of glucose carrier protein
  • is a major cation or extracellular fluid and provides a majority of the alkaline reserve in plasma.

Chlorine (Cl):

  • is necessary for the activation of amylase
  • is essential for the formation of gastric hydrochloric acid
  • is involved in respiration and regulation of blood pH through the chloride shift.

The only conditions that prevail where salt deficiencies are reported is negligence, since salt is inexpensive to purchase and can be supplemented ad libitum (without limit) to livestock. Deficiencies of sodium and chloride mainly occur because plants have low sodium contents, because sodium losses caused by perspiration may occur in animals maintained in warm environments or used for hard work, and because sodium needs increase during lactation and during periods of rapid growth.