Gavin and Patrick are often plugged in to some podcast or another about farming or politics or cooking, which supplies a never ending source of discussion. The one Gavin made me listen to the other day talked about salt in the diet of dairy cows helping to reduce the acidity of the animals. When the sward of grass available to eat, or when the diet available in feed stall barns is more acid than alkaline, then the animals can be more susceptible to pests, like flies and worms. Amongst other things, this is very abbreviated for the point of this blog.
With regard to pasture we have more fly strike, (when flies lay eggs in the wool of the sheep and then you get flesh eating maggots in the sheep not nice) with the sheep when the grass is more woody than when the grass is lush. Lignin, the stuff that makes plants woody is acid. The man in the podcast said that it was better to put the salt in the drinking water rather than as a block and then to offer saltwater and plain water to your animals so they can chose what they wish to drink. It is important to use seasalt preferably organic.
Now we have had some logistical issues with accessing wormer for the sheep so we thought well lets give it a go. I have no data for the affect on worms or pests, but we were all astounded to observe that every single sheep chose to drink the saltwater not just for one day, but every day over a period of 4 days. They still have the choice of one of the other and will always finish the saltwater before the fresh water.
This is not a randomised control experiment I am sure, but it certainly shows how much the animals require extra trace minerals that can be found in seawater, but not in the soil. This area of France has been cultivated for between 2000 and 7000 years. I have not done enough reading to be more accurate than that, but let's face it, it's a long time. I am sure that in the beginning farming was much more cyclical in nature than it is now. Fewer people, less system pressure and everything that comes with that. We have a lot of catching up to do on rehabilitation of the soil to catch up with all the losses. But it is not insurmountable.
If anyone wishes to listen to this podcast this is the link
Ep. 196 - Steve Campbell - Remineralizing Cattle with Salt on Working Cows with @TuneIn. #NowPlaying http://tun.in/tlkUI9
If you would like to see the video which shows none of the sheep drinking the fresh water the I will post the entire length of it on our Facebook page later.
See you all soon
I am farming sheep and goats on the Dordogne/Gironde border with my husband and our 3 children. We have an on farm butchery and sell our meat direct to the public via the markets and delivery points in our local area