Why Do Animals Need Stock Supplements? Over many years we have worked with farmers to keep their stock healthy. When running a farm supply store in Lilydale our customers were mainly dairy and beef farmers, horse owners amongst the viticulturists, market gardeners and orchardists. Regenerative farming was uncommon and we saw many problems with animals due to conventional farming practices. These problems were mostly addressed using pharmaceuticals which rarely addressed the cause of the problem.
In the late 80’s we became aware of Pat Coleby who advocated natural farming including natural treatment of animals using stock supplements. We started stocking these supplements for our clients and later employed a naturopath to advise of their use. The results using these supplements were remarkable and yet simple and cheap to use. We started advocating their use far and wide as well as selling Pat Coleby’s book “Farming Naturally and Organic Animal Care” which was radical at the time. We learnt a lot through farmers reporting their trial uses and observations.
Why Do Animals Need Stock Supplements?
From time to time, stock cannot obtain adequate nutrition from pasture and conserved feeds. This can be due to cold, wet conditions or lack of feed in dry periods, poor pastures, poor quality hay and silage and many other reasons. An unhealthy soil is a common factor. Other stresses such as pregnancy, metabolic disorders, birthing or high milk production can compound the basic problem. Below a dairy cow self-selecting minerals from a mobile feeder.
A Living Soil Food web
Many soils are compacted and are ‘dead’ due to the use of toxic chemicals to kill weeds and pests in particular. The soil becomes acidic or out of balance due to not enough or too much fertiliser making the problem even worse. These soils are unable to function as they should due to severely reduced living soil microorganisms being present. Living soil microorganisms are needed to release plant-available nutrients to the plant. Due to the lack of minerals and particularly trace elements being supplied to the plant, the stock on these pastures perform poorly. Animals require nutrient-dense pastures for the rumen and gut bacteria to function properly. Without the minerals and trace elements, animals are also prone to metabolic and other disease. This lack is particularly damaging to young stock and to high-producing animals. A good soil test that reports on available and total minerals in the soil is a good basis to determine if your animals have access to the ones that they need.
How do I know if my animals need stock supplements?
There are obvious signs such as excessive worm burden, and poor weight gain. Other signs are common health problems such as pinkeye, foot-rot, staggers, scours or transport stress. Unfortunately, sometimes it is too late when the problem shows up e.g. low fertility rates or trouble with birthing. Anytime that your stock is under stress they may need supplementation. There are many simple supplements that farmers use to restore and keep their animals in good health.
What are Stock Supplements?
Stock supplements include a wide range of minerals and trace elements. Early pioneer of natural farming, Pat Coleby advocated an original stock supplement that included urea-free seaweed meal, dolomite, copper sulphate and yellow-dusting sulphur. These are most effective when made available to stock in a free-choice form allowing animals to choose what they need.
Over time, through experimentation, farmers have added more minerals. See Suggested Stock Supplements.They have discovered that animals are extremely intuitive when it comes to knowing what they need to keep healthy and will choose what they need when they need it. These needs vary throughout the year.
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Upcoming Blog: Benefits Of Stock Supplements