THE IMPORTANCE OF SALT IN EQUINE NUTRITION
In this hot weather, we all can worry about salt and if our horses are getting enough. We hear from Dr Cliff Lister, nutritionist for Horslyx, about the importance of salt in equine nutrition and how Horslyx has the everyday requirements of salt covered!
The need for salt has long been recognised. A craving for salt by grazing livestock was recorded by early settlers long before its nutritional requirement was fully understood and the provision of salt became synonymous with good stock husbandry. Actually, the appetite is more for sodium than chloride since chloride deficiency rarely occurs naturally but salt is the most readily available and cheapest source of sodium.
If salt is provided free choice, stock grazing forages will consume adequate amounts to meet their sodium requirements. Equally important, animals will not over consume salt to the point that toxicity occurs if adequate drinking water is available. In his textbook published in 1912, Kellner stated that “salt possesses, in a very high degree, the properties of a spice; it improves the appetite and makes many feedstuffs palatable which without salt, would not be readily eaten”. We now recognise salt as a flavour enhancer and flavour potentiator in both animal and human nutrition!
Salt is made up of sodium and chloride. Both are essential major minerals and their metabolism, function and requirements in animals are inter-related.
Sodium and chloride maintain osmotic pressure, regulate acid-base equilibrium and control water metabolism in the body. Whilst plants can use sodium and potassium interchangeably, animals do not.
Sodium is the major cation in extra-cellular fluid and chloride is the major anion. When salt intakes increase, animals drink more water and water absorption increases to protect the gut and maintain osmotic pressure across the intestinal wall. A lack of dietary sodium can therefore reduce water intake and absorption from the gut, leading to dehydration.
Conversely, sodium is the major cation in equine sweat and salt concentration can reach 45g/litre. But the high loss of sodium in sweat during exercise balances the loss of water from the body and provides a defence against hypernatraemia (excessive sodium levels in blood and body fluids).
In addition to all this, both sodium and chloride play important roles in the absorption of several essential nutrients from the intestine. The absorption of glucose and most amino acids from the small intestine into the blood requires an adequate supply of sodium. Galactose (the second sugar along with glucose which makes up lactose in milk) is also absorbed by the same sodium-dependent transport system as glucose – making sodium intake equally important for nursing foals as adult equines.
Forages are generally poor sources of sodium due to soil, plant and husbandry factors and a low intake of salt can reduce both water intake and nutrient absorption resulting in reduced performance and feed efficiency.
Clearly, any degree of exercise, or very hot temperatures, will increase the need for both water and salt to replace body losses.
There are multiple ways to provide salt to your horse or pony. Salt blocks or salt licks are an affordable and convenient approach and probably the best known options, however Horslyx Balancers will provide a 500kg horse with a tablespoon of salt per day when fed at recommended daily levels. This is an easy option to make sure,
not only is your horse receiving a balanced diet, but also extra salt daily, through the busy summer months when feed may be reduced due to sufficient calories coming from the grazing.
Horslyx Balancers have been carefully formulated to balance the deficiencies found in forage and grazing. This is a unique and innovative approach to ensuring that the modern horse receives an ideal supply of vitamins, minerals and trace elements including sodium chloride to support optimum health and vitality. You can choose which Balancer to offer your horse or pony and this allows you to target your horse’s individual needs and provide everyday balanced nutritional support for your horse.
Horslyx Balancers are available in Original, Mint, Garlic, Mobility, Respiratory and Pro Digest and in sizes from 650g up to 80kg. For more information please get in touch on email@example.com.