why do cows lick salt

Salt plays a vital role in the nourishment of pets and commercial breeding of livestock, especially cows. Cows need this trace mineral for a wide range of functions. Do you want to supply a suitable amount of salt for cows? Below is the information about salt lick definition, why do cows lick salt, and what if cows are in salt deficiencies.

What is a salt lick?

Salt lick or mineral lick is a location where animals regularly come to have significant mineral nutrients by licking the salt and other mineral sources.

Salt lick can be natural or artificial. Natural salt lick provides important elements such as phosphorus, sodium, calcium, iron, zinc, and trace elements required in the springtime for animal growth.

Compared to the natural one, man-made salt licks are used in the husbandry of livestock, viewing, photography, or hunting purposes. It is illegal to hunt over or maintain artificial salt licks as a form of baiting in some states in the U.S., but legal in others.

salt lick for cows

Salt licks are also used for hunting purposes. A high level of salty mineral deposits exposed during extreme weather can attract a wide range of animals from miles away to seek out needed nutrients. Many researchers believed that certain fauna can detect calcium in salt licks.

In the ecosystem with the low availability of nutrients, the presence of those licks is considered crucial, in the ecology and diversity of organisms that go to these areas. A lot of animals often visit salt licks to consume clay or drink clay-saturated water to supplement their diets with nutrients.

Most of the salt is hidden in animals’ diets. Water also accounts for a large part of their salt intake. Because animals require about 2-3 times as much water as feed, the salt concentration of water can fulfill part of their demands for salt.

Why do cows lick salt?

Just like humans, salt is an essential element of cows’ survival. In addition to fulfilling the mineral requirement, salt is required for the proper function of cows’ bones, muscles, nervous system, and circulatory system.

Furthermore, salt is needed for normal immunity and high resistance to diseases. Cows need a balance between sodium and other trace elements and minerals in salt, so sometimes they desire salt to meet the sodium demand.

cows lick salt cube

For cows in lactations, they need salt to ensure high milk quality which contains two vital elements: sodium and chloride. Sodium helps control pH levels of the blood and other fluids while chloride aids digestion and keeps the acid and base balance in their body.

For nursing calves, calcium from salt is necessary for building strong bones and teeth, a regular heartbeat, muscle movement, and other functions.

Besides natural salt licks, salt blocks can be a substitute when rearing cows, they hence can lick whenever they want. It is advised to add 0.5 % salt in all formulas for your cows.

What if cows are in salt deficiencies?

Cows are deficient in salt can dispose of various debilitating diseases and even death.

Depraved appetite and reduced weight occur if cows are lack of salt. In time, they tend to eat odd materials such as dirt, rocks, and wood to satisfy their instinctive taste for salt.

As previously stated, sodium or chloride impact greatly the milk of lactating animals, thus a lack of both of them will cause reduced milk production.

Salt deficiency caused milk fever as well. In time, a milk-producing cow may not be able to stand or even have a lowered body temperature. It usually occurs in lactating cows because their bodies consume more calcium to produce milk than usual.

cows need salt

Cows do not have enough salt in their diets can lead to rickets. This bone disease not only causes softened bones during early phases but also abnormal growth and impaired movement in later stages.

Grass tetany is a serious disease for dairy cows associated with low levels of magnesium which often be found dead without any signs.

Cows lacking selenium either die at birth or shortly thereafter of white muscle disease. Cows affected by this disease may exhibit signs ranging from lameness, a failure to stand to heart failure.

Although it seems to be dangerous, it is totally preventable with proper nutrition for the calves and the pregnant sows.


Critical minerals like salt are commonly passed off as a trivial feature in the scheme of cow’s nutrition. However, I am sure that you will no longer disregard its role after reading my article about why cows lick salt. Salt is truly the “main character” toward the importance of health, growth, reproduction, and general maintenance of cows.


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