Free choice mineral lick – Balancing our soils biologically as opposed to mechanically.

Dear Reader

All soils are deficient in minerals. Some a lot more than others. Plants growing in those soils will have the same deficiency that is in the soil. Accordingly the animal, in our case global warming reversing cattle (click on the green to find out more) and Eggmobile sheltered laying hens, that eats the plants growing in the deficient soil will be deficient in that mineral too. An imbalance of minerals eventually leads to disease.

The common, mechanical, way it to take soil samples and then apply the minerals recommended by the agronomist or technical advisor of the company selling the minerals. The minerals are spread via compost spreader that is pulled by a tractor. Tractors cannot have babies, they use diesel, they compact your soil and tractor drivers are expensive labour.

We address this problem by providing our cattle a free choice mineral lick in what we call our mineral wagon. Please click here to see a short video of my favourite Simbra heifer accessing the minerals.

The principle works as follows. The cows goes to the wagon, it licks whichever of the mixes it needs. It’s body takes what it needs and the rest, approximately 70%, comes out the back end biologically available to the plants to grow and to be incorporated into the soil.

We have 3 separate minerals that we put into 3 compartments on either side of our mineral wagon. Mshangazike and Kasango are filling up the wagon.



1. Approx 75% Khoisan salt and 25% bokashi. It is critical that the salt must be the dehydrated sea minerals and not the washed, iodated salt as the Sodium Chloride is much higher in the latter and accordingly the minerals in the former are much higher. Bokashi is a probiotic that we make ourselves from EM (Effective Microorganisms) and wheat bran. If you dont want to make it then buy it from these guys at Probiokashi (disclaimer: it is NOT my cattle that feature on their website. I breed for beef and not leather)

2. 50% kelp and 50% diatomaceous earth. The ocean has the complete mineral spectrum in it and like the the Khoisan salt above the kelp is an excellent tonic for the animals. Diatomaceous earth is a great mineral that we feed to our cattle, our laying hens and we also put it into the nest boxes which keeps our hens skins bug free. We buy it from Farian 078 379 3542.

3. Pat Coleby is a prolific author of many books that you can buy from Acres USA. Natural Cattle Care being just one of the titles. She has developed a mineral lick which we have been using for a few years. 2kgs dolomitic lime, 1kg copper sulfate, 1kg sulphur dust and 1kg kelp. Mixed together. All these ingredients are available from your friendly chemical rep.

Sticking to the theme of 3, we move our cattle 3 times every day. This is so that they stay in the top third of the grass where the energy is, they spread their manure and urine (the only fertiliser we use) all over the farm and there are enough reserves left in the plant so that we can regraze in 6 weeks. Also known as high density grazing or mob grazing. A lot of animals in a small space for a short period of time. It is regenerative agriculture. Espoused by Andre Voisin, proselytised by Alan Savory and Joel Salatin. On our farm it was implemented by Christo Kok and refined by Ian Mitchell-Innes.

In the photo above Khiphelakhe and Shayelakhe are doing one of the three daily moves. On  top of the water tanks which are on top of the mineral wagon are heavy metal water tank protectors that we had to weld up as the black cattle keep trying to get into the tanks on hot days. One of the reasons I don’t buy in black cattle anymore.

We don’t have a mineral wagon for our laying hens. However they have a balanced laying mash made for them by Profile Feeds that has all the minerals they need.

Finally our beef is legal grass fed beef which yours probably is not. You can read more about this, if you care, below. You can also buy our beef and eggs, details are further down the page as well as on the sourcing produce tab at the top of the blog.

We are all farmers by proxy – Wendell Berry




3 Responses

  1. Very great post. I simply stumbled upon your blog and wanted to mention that I’ve really enjoyed surfing around your weblog posts. After all I will be subscribing to your rss feed and I am hoping you write once more very soon!

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  3. Hi Angus, three questions:

    – Do you supplement selenium in any way (since kelp is low in it)?
    – Are there any phosphate shortages in your grass during the growing season?
    – What protein source do you use in dry months?

    Thanks for your advice previously too!

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