Sheep should be fed high-quality pasture or a diversified feed. A block of white salt, often known as "sheep salt," should be kept on hand at all times. Because they contain too much copper, red salt blocks or salt blocks intended for cattle and/or horses should be avoided.
Salt blocks are small cubes of salt that will dissolve in water when soaked to provide salt for grazing animals. The salt is important because it helps reduce the incidence of disease in sheep by lowering their temperature after exercise. It also has anticlotting properties that help prevent internal bleeding that can lead to death if left untreated.
Salt blocks are useful for maintaining healthy populations of sheep in rural communities where access to mineral licks is limited. They are also useful for weaning young lambs so that they will accept solid food instead of milk. This is called "milk-weaning." Young sheep may not eat the salt block but once they start eating solid food, the milk-weaning process is completed.
Salt blocks are available in large supermarkets and some livestock stores. They usually come in two sizes: 1-inch and 2-inches squares. However, any size between these two would work fine as long as you follow the instructions below.
Salt blocks should be placed in a dry, well-ventilated area where they will not be exposed to direct sunlight or rain.
It's fascinating to me that white salt blocks (just sodium chloride) are nearly non-existent on the Prairies, but blue salt blocks (99 percent sodium chloride, 120 mg/kg cobalt, 180 mg/kg iodine, and ultramarine-blue dye) are the most frequent block/loose salt for beef cattle on pasture.
In fact, research has shown that using a blue salt block can increase the amount of salt your cow consumes by as much as 20 percent without affecting her taste preferences. This increases the amount of water in her diet and may even help control soil erosion. The color change occurs because calcium carbonate precipitates out of the solution when sodium chloride is added to water.
Cows are typically offered salt blocks that have been dyed either red or black. These colors indicate that the salt contains antinutritional elements such as iron and magnesium that would otherwise inhibit its absorption by the animal's digestive system. Although these colors provide an indication of the antinutrients present in the salt, they do not necessarily mean that it will be well absorbed by the cow. For example, studies have shown that if too much iron is consumed, it can actually hinder the absorption of copper, which is needed for blood to clot properly. Similarly, cows that consume large amounts of magnesium can still absorb some calcium, but any excess would simply be passed through their systems.
The type of salt block used by a dairy farmer will usually match the breed of cow being fed.
If you believe your horse isn't getting enough of the block, supplement with granulated salt. Plain table salt is enough; kosher salt, with its rougher texture, is preferable. (If your horse is currently receiving commercial feed or a vitamin/mineral supplement, omit the iodized salt; he is getting enough iodine.)
Horses are born with an innate ability to detect and avoid toxic substances in their environment. However, like humans, they can become ill from consuming too much salt. The best choice of salt for your horse is free-running salt harvested at the same time and place as the rock salt used by humans. This salt has no additives and contains only sodium chloride. It is white when dry and red when wet.
Salt blocks are useful tools for trainers who need to provide their students with a regular source of exercise during all seasons. They are easy to clean and maintain and do not require refrigeration. Salt blocks are safe for most horses and contain less than 1 percent sodium per block, which is equivalent to what's in sea salt. A single block provides riders with approximately six hours of exercise at a slow pace.
Salt blocks were first developed in New Zealand and are now also manufactured in Australia and England. Like many novel ideas, however, they have been met with some skepticism by members of the equestrian community.
Horses like regular (white) salt or rock salt. A mineral block is popular among many individuals. However, because the quantity of block ingested by each horse varies so greatly, it is not a good idea to include minerals other than sodium chloride (salt) in a block. Other additives can cause problems when they are included in the block or after they have been dissolved in water and ingested.
A mineral block is simply a porous ceramic container with holes drilled in it to allow water to flow through and reach the salt below. The salt slowly releases its moisture into the water, keeping the salt dry and free from bacteria that could otherwise mold or grow toxic substances.
These blocks are available at horse farms and pet stores, but if you want to make your own, use a porcelain dish or bowl as a base and pour a thin layer of salt into it. Then place this dish inside another larger one and fill the space between the dishes with pebbles or small rocks. Make sure there are no gaps where water can seep through. Finally, put the whole thing in a freezer for several hours or until the salt is frozen solid.
Once the salt block is frozen, remove it from the freezer and cut it into pieces about the size of a golf ball. Put the salt block into a glass of hot water and let it melt away, following the instructions on the package.
Minerals for sheep should be administered freely and in a loose form. They should not be limited in any way, and they should not be sold as a mineral block. However, all of the sheep minerals I've come across throughout the years had additions such as corn distillers and dry grains. These are easy to find and provide necessary nutrients for your flock.
Sheep don't need much in the way of minerals. The most important ones are calcium and phosphorus. Other needed minerals include iron, iodine, zinc, manganese, and copper. Of these, iron is by far the most difficult to obtain since it must be in the form of blood meals or powdered metal. Iodine is only required by pregnant ewes and their offspring, so including some kind of iodine supplement in the diet is enough for most other sheep.
As for the rest, they're not essential for healthy sheep, but without them they will suffer from certain illnesses. For example, without zinc there's a risk that your sheep will develop bloat, and without magnesium there's a chance they'll get kidney stones.
Mineral blocks contain portions of various minerals in a ready-to-feed form. This means that you can give your sheep a daily dose of specific elements without worrying about whether or not they like what you're giving them.
However, mineral blocks are expensive and not necessary for healthy sheep.