Animal feed resources information system

Edible earth

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: This datasheet is pending revision and updating; its contents are currently derived from FAO's Animal Feed Resources Information System (1991-2002) and from Bo Göhl's Tropical Feeds (1976-1982).


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Earth eating is common among range cattle and wild animals, especially in Africa. The patches of soil that attract animals have been chemically analyzed, but no specific mineral that entirely explains this behaviour has so far been found. Some patches have a salty taste which attracts animals; however, even in those patches the sodium is not always in the form of sodium chloride and may occur as sulphate or carbonate.

Below are some analyses of edible earth (Walker, 1975).

Locations Ca (%) P (%) Fe (%) K (%) Na (%) Cu (%) I (ppm)
1 Masuku, Zambia 4.77 0.65 10.1 16.2 0.8
2 M'bala, Zambia 4.76 0.32 1.9 1.25 13.2
3 Kalene, Congo 0.74 0.41 0.31 16.8 1.01
4 Katambora, Zambia 0.86 0.31 0.51 4.31 30.1 0.02
5 Luanga, Zambia 0.19 0.41 0.11 5.82
6 Rukwa, Tanzania 0.74 4.59 0.03 0.15 1.72 0.003
  1. This sample is from a hill extensively excavated by game and livestock. It has long been customary to drive stock to this site as the earth is believed to be necessary for the fertility of animals.
  2. From a large deposit between Kalambo falls and the Tanzania border that is much used by game and goats.
  3. From pan excavations sought out by cattle, which eat the soil avidly.
  4. From a pit excavated by elephants but used by other game as well as stock.
  5. From an area of edible earth pan of approximately 2 ha that is turned over by a vast number of game.
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DATASHEET UNDER CONSTRUCTION. DO NOT QUOTE. https://www.feedipedia.org/node/740 Last updated on October 3, 2011, 23:53

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