Oct. 24, 2011 - Livestock Health Requirements vs. Organic Certification



Non-Mineralized White Salt vs. Redmond Salt™ vs. Sea Salt

By Kendra Helfter
Whether a livestock producer or a livestock feed processor/handler, the definition for organic certification is clear on the topic of salt. Sodium chloride (non-mineralized salt) is designated as exempt within the regulation as “salt”. This was further clarified by the National Organic Program (NOP). Furthermore, reviewing NOP documentation the statement “excluding water and salt” is referenced multiple times as an organic certification procedure.

This year, to meet requirements for our organic certification, the trace mineral content within Redmond Salt™ and/or sea salts had to be provided to our certifier. Non-Mineralized or white salt, as indicated above, was exempt.

In order to regain focus on what is relevant; this article is NOT about organic certification requirements but IS about livestock nutritional requirements. Business is business and will never change. Companies continually seek out acceptance of their product(s) from various organizations to gain a marketing edge. Unfortunately, the health of livestock falls into the shady background.

What is reality and not the hocus pocus of marketing? This is it; animals need non-mineralized salt! Am I indicating that animals do not need trace mineral salts? No! Why I believe this is factual comes with a story and came at the tail end of learning from the animals. I’ve been working with livestock for 20 plus years and like many nutritionists once believed I knew best. However, I am continually humbled and often reminded that I can learn from the animals. The lead characters of this story; dairy cows.

We were contacted by a concerned farmer from Minnesota. The dairy herd had everything that they could possibly need to meet their nutritional requirements. A broad spectrum calorie source, adequate fiber sources, a cafeteria style individual free choice vitamin/mineral feeder and access to Redmond Salt™. Yet, the cows were licking metal gates, metal barn shelters and eating dirt. A water sample was taken and assessed. Once the water was reviewed, there was indication that the water source would increase their sodium chloride (salt) requirement. Yes, they needed more salt. But why were they not taking the Redmond Salt™? Here’s the answer! Redmond Salt™ contains minerals. The cattle were meeting their mineral requirements via their feedstuffs and access to free choice vitamin/minerals. They needed salt but the cows did not need additional minerals that would come along with consuming Redmond Salt™. Thus a simple conclusion was ascertained and the cows clearly informed us we were on the right track. We asked the farmer to provide the cow’s access to non-mineralized white salt. He chose to put out an initial 5 white salt blocks. Those white salt blocks were quickly consumed and another 5 white salt blocks were made available. Within 2 weeks those cows consumed 10 non-mineralized white salt blocks. What was also interesting, the current nutritionist had the farmer adding white feeding salt into the grain ration, believing that amount would meet the cow’s sodium chloride requirement. However, like many nutritionists the water’s nutritional content was not incorporated into the balancing of the ration.

From this day forward, no matter the species, I vehemently request that the owner provide access to a non-mineralized white salt. If the owner wishes to provide free choice access to another source of a mineralized salt, that is understandable and in no way harmful.

Lessons learned:

  1. Listen to the cows!
  2. If you’re meeting mineral requirements for your animals via other sources, a trace mineral salt may NOT be needed.
  3. Always provide free choice access to a non-mineralized white salt.
  4. Non-mineralized white salt is an inexpensive solution if the animals require sodium chloride.
  5. Always consider the nutrient content of the water source.