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Do Animals Know Which Minerals They Need?

By   /  October 5, 2020  /  3 Comments

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Photo courtesy of smallfarms.cornell.edu This is the latest knowledge we have on how animals and the
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  1. Bill Fosher says:

    I’ve always wondered how an animal was supposed to know the difference between sodium chloride and sodium selenite. And given that the threshold for seeking sodium is relatively low and the limit is relatively high, if an animal chose Na2SeO3 rather than NaCl as the sodium source, and consumed it until the desire for sodium was met, it would either be getting a toxic dose of selenium or be trained that salt was bad. I don’t like either outcome.

    And as Beth Burritt points out, this is a very expensive approach to what is usually pretty far down the list of limiting factors on animal performance.

  2. emily macdonald says:

    Given that social learning is critical for young animals to make good nutritional choices and optimize growth and productivity, I am reconsidering a my decision to defer turning out my ewes and lambs until post- weaning in order to control internal parasite infections.

    How long do you think the lambs would need to graze with their mothers to learn what to graze? Would a couple of weeks before weaning be enough?

    • Bill Fosher says:

      Hi Emily,

      I think they need more than a couple of weeks if you’re trying to get them to eat things that are not in the diet they had in confinement. My ewes and lambs run together all season (born on pasture in May, and self-weaned) and I’ve noticed a marked increase in the flock’s willingness to eat “weeds.”

      What tastes good and meets nutritional needs changes over the course of a growing season, so the only things that your ewes are going to teach the lambs to eat are the things that are good for them in that two-week window.

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