Supplementary Feeding


The aim of supplementary feeding and mineral licks is to fill the nutrient shortages in natural grazing. The animal is thereby placed in position to express its genetic potential (making it an attractive mating partner) in terms of maintenance of mass, condition, high reproductivity and mass of calf at weaning. Game in their natural state would not require supplementary feeding, as the animals would be able to move to areas where more nutritious food was available. With the encampment of game on game farms, it has become necessary in many cases to provide supplements (Van Hoven 1994). The main aim of winter supplementary feeding is to make up for shortages in grazing and to stimulate the appetite of the animals so that weaker grazing can be utilised. The diverse and active rumen micro-flora that flourishes in game that feeds on good supplementary nitrogen licks improves the digestion of cellulose. They also increase the rate of food flow through the digestive canal. This stimulates the appetite and consequently the voluntary ingestion of food. Appetite stimulating licks with urea or protein base are preferred to an energy enriched lick (Orams 2002). Commercially available licks and supplements (Table 16) are available and used in the game industry. Under certain conditions and certain time of the year, it may also be good to supply supplementary feeds that assist in the maintenance of animal’s body condition and general health.

Feeding requirements of game

The food substances that are necessary for the survival of animal are proteins, carbohydrates, fats and water. Animals sometimes may require supplements of protein and carbohydrates. Balanced concentrate supplements, such as dry pellets and game cubes, can be successfully used. Young growing calves require at least 8 percent crude protein in the plant material. Ungulates require only 5 percent crude protein. This indicates that game thrive better than cattle in weak veld conditions. Female animals require a higher food intake when they are gestating or lactating. Insufficient feeding during the suckling time decreases the production of milk, although the female will use her body reserves before the volume of milk decreases. Protein or phosphate licks during droughts will be little or no value for animals, especially to grazers, as energy. Food is the main limiting factor (Van Rooyen 2002).

Name of product




Game block Voermol General protein and mineral supplement All game
P6- Phosphate Voermol General protein and mineral supplement All game
Fosblok KynochFeeds Phosphate, trace mineral and salt supplement All game
Kimtrafos 6 KynochFeeds Phosphate, trace mineral and salt supplement All game
Kimtrafos 12 KynochFeeds Phosphate, trace mineral and salt supplement All game
Sheep block KynochFeeds Protein and trace mineral supplement All game
Lumol energy block KynochFeeds Protein, trace mineral supplement All game
Vitamin A KynochFeeds Vitamin A supplement Equines
Kynofos 21 KynochFeeds Monocalcium phosphate concentrate Grazing animals
Promix MK 11 KynochFeeds Monocalcium phosphate concentrate All game

Table 15: Commercially available licks and supplements used in the game industry

Protein-rich licks

According to Van Niekerk (1985) the protein intake of game species should be enough for the replacement of the body tissue that is broken down daily, for the growth of hair, horns and hooves. In general, the proteins needs are greatest in young animals and gestating or lactating game cows. Protein from plant sources should in most cases be more than adequate. Micro-organisms, which can use inorganic compounds such as ammonia, build body proteins of high quality in their cell from sources of inorganic nitrogen that non-ruminants cannot use. The primary objective of protein supplementation is to stimulate the microbes in the rumen during periods when there is a shortage of nitrogen, so that digestibility and voluntary crude food is stimulated. Voluntary rough food intake decreases sharply when the crude protein content of the veld drops to under 5 percent. For optimal animal production, the grazing must contain 8 to 9 percent crude protein. The most important source (component) of protein supplements is used in South Africa is lucern meal. Plant protein sources called oil cake meals include sunflower, peanut and cottonseed meal. Waste product protein sources are blood meal, carcass meal, whale meal and chicken manure.

Non-proteinaceous nitrogen (NPN) licks are used to improve animals utilisation of low digestible crude foods. Non-proteinaceous nitrogen (NPN) sources are urea and biuret. Urea can be presented in a dry limited by salt, for example dicalcium phosphate represents 40 to 60 percent of the mass. Molasses and yellow mealie meal (crushed maize) are added to make the lick palatable enough so that the minimum requirement of urea can be ingested. Urea poisoning can easily occur with an overdose. Rumevite provides preventative measures against urea poisoning. Rumevite licks, which consists of a mixture of mealie meal, dicalcium phosphate, ureum, dry molasses, salt and trace elements, provide preventative measures against ureum poisoning. Similar lick blocks can be made, using the following percentages:

  • Dicalcium phosphate or bone meal 20
  • Mealie meal 10
  • Salt 40
  • Ureum 10
  • Molasses 15
  • Lucerne meal 5

Protein licks should be available for four to eight months of the year, corresponding with dry season and forage quality.

Symptoms of protein deficiency

Depressed appetite is the primary symptom of protein deficiency. Depressed appetite may in turn lead to an inadequate intake of energy. Protein deficiency and energy deficiency often occur together. Other symptoms of protein deficiency are as follows:

  • Loss of weight
  • Poor growth
  • Irregular or delayed oestrus and
  • Reduced milk production

Energy-rich licks Energy production by animals requires carbohydrates and additional carbohydrates can be obtained from supplementary feeding. Almost all grain and their by-products can be used as a basis for energy-rich licks. The most important source of energy is mealie meal, other sources are bran, oats, molasses and mealie germ meal. Voluntary increase in ingestion is increased with energy-rich licks, and is usually combined with protein licks. They should be available for 4 to 8 months, depending on the forage quality (Snyman 1985). The main objective of supplementary winter-feeding is thus to supplement deficiencies and to stimulate the appetite of the grazing animal so that poorer grazing is utilised more effectively. Appetite-stimulating licks with a urea or protein base are preferred above supplementary energy-rich feeds as a supplement to natural grazing.

The amount of supplementation is dependent on the size of the animal and physiological condition. Only prescribed amounts of licks must be ingested. The local veterinary surgeon can be consulted as to what the local mineral deficiencies are in the area.Summer licks supply mainly phosphate, calcium and vitamin A and can contain trace elements such as copper, cobalt, iodine, manganese, zinc and magnesium. Winter licks contain energy, sometimes protein, urea, phosphate, calcium, sometimes trace elements and often vitamin A. Energy in the form of Kalori 3000 serves as a binding medium and improves the palatability of the lick. The form and composition of licks varies between game types. In general licks are presented in the form of blocks, food pellets or energy food mixture in meal form. The best alternative though is to manage the veld well, so that no supplementary feeding is necessary. If supplementary feeding is required the following can be used in early winter and for the duration of winter:

In Sourveld:

  • 50 percent salt,
  • 25 percent bonemeal or dicalcium phosphate,
  • 20 percent K-3000 molasses and
  • 5 percent urea.

Urea a cheap source of fermentable nitrogen has been used in different forms and feeding techniques

Natural licks

Natural mineral licks are mineral-rich reefs in the soil which herbivores utilise by eating the soil (biting or chewing) or by licking it. Mineral shortages are, therefore, supplemented by natural means. The warmer the climate, the more time the animals will spend on brackish lick. There are three problems that occur with the utilisation of natural licks, namely (Van Hoven 2006): · Soil is removed · Vegetation is destroyed · Disease is spread Soil is removed by the rolling of animals in or near the licks, the eating and licking of the soil and by the trampling effect of the animals at the licks and in the paths leading to the licks. The areas around the licks are usually trampled and over-grazed and have very little plant cover. As a result of the activities at licks, such as drinking, urinating, grazing, rolling on the ground and defecating disease can spread relatively quickly (Van Hoven 2006). A serious problem with most mineral mixtures is the tendency to become hard when exposed to moisture. This obviously limits intake unless fresh mineral is offered frequently, this is rarely done and is impractical for animals on a wildlife ranch (Tait and Fisher 1996). Few animals visit licks during the rainy season. This is in keeping with the fact that animals tend to disperse during the rainy season. Greater areas are utilised and drinking water is more readily available in sodium-rich pans. Eland, red hartebeest and giraffe have been observed chewing on old bones as a result of a shortage of calcium and phosphate (Van Hoven 2006).

Medicinal licks

When game is under stress, for example when game density increases on the available grazing and around water points, an unnatural increase in parasites and disease occurs. By the manipulation of management principles it is possible to minimise the problems to levels as close to nature as possible. This decreases pathological disturbances, as follows (Henderson 1985): · The best time to deworm game is on the arrival at the farm, or even before translocation or when the animals are caught. This prevents parasites and diseases from being moved to new areas. · The best time of year to put the blocks out is during July (winter) when parasites survive mainly in the digestive system of game. · Deworming medicines can be applied in the form of medicinal licks. The worm killing agents, however, must be tasteless, odourless and safe in oder to use successfully. Treated powder foods or mineral licks in pellet or powder form can be supplied. · Low level dosage spread over a few days is important. · Medication can be mixed with cut green lucern, pumpkins or carrots increase palatability. Some of different deworming media that have been successfully used are as follows: · Thiabendazole · Fenbendazole · Mebendazole · Lintex and · Rumevite wormablocks for roundworms.

Management Aspects

Some practical management aspects of supplementary feeding that a farmer must keep in consideration are the following (Van Hoven 2006): · Only prescribed amounts of licks must be ingested. · Lick containers, especially those containing ureum, must be protected against rain. · If nitrogen or protein licks are provided, they must not be put near drinking places. · Licks must not be placed in over-utilised veld, because it promotes large scale veld degeneration. · Nitrogen licks are only successful if the micro-organisms in the rumen of the ruminant are in a healthy condition. · Lick containers must be distributed at strategic points in the veld, so that animals do not concentrate on certain places. · Licks can be placed so that unpalatable plants are also utilised. · Licks can be used to create a degree of alternating grazing. · Cattle licks are sometimes not acceptable for game, but if the licks are placed near to salt licks, game will utilise them. · Natural licks can be used successfully for tourism aims, if the areas are open and visibility is good. Food ingestion is influenced by the availability and digestibility, as well as the nutritional and mineral content of food. Supplementary feeding can only be successfully applied if there is adequate edible rough food and the following principles apply: · The lick must only be used during food shortages in grazing to supplement or balance the animal’s diet, so that greater amounts of rough food can be eaten and utilised better. · The lick must be a supplement to the grazing, not a replacement. · The lick must be of such a composition that intake is controlled. Analysis of soil, plant and animal samples of determined areas must be made to produce a mineral lick of special composition.

Recommendations for Highlands Wilderness Game Ranch

It is highly recommended that mineral supplementation be provided throughout the year and be combined with a salt lick. Currently, salt blocks are placed next to Duncan applicators to lure animals for tick’s control. South Africa has a general deficiency in phosphorus and calcium. A phosphate-salt lick is therefore the best option when providing salt as supplementation. Micro-climate deficiencies or toxicities could also emerge due to deficiencies or toxicities in the soil or forage and animals should therefore be constantly monitored. Any sub-clinical form of nutrient deficiency or toxicity would usually first manifest itself in the reproduction and/or reproduction performance of an animal population. Browsers are usually affected by natural veld condition as the leaves of trees and shrubs seasonally provide a more constant higher level of protein than the grass provides.

The chance that browsers could experience an energy shortage at certain times of the year is therefore, greater than in the case of grazers. Protein, urea licks or the supply of planted forage high in protein can be provided for 4 to 8 months of the year, corresponding to the dry season and forage quality. These licks should be available from May to September. Energy-rich licks are usually combined with proteins licks. They should be available for 4 to 8 months, depending on the forage quality. Energy licks should be placed out from May to September. Protein as well as the carbohydrates for the energy-rich licks can be incorporated into the phosphate-salt lick. Thus protein and energy supplementation can be combined with the salt and mineral supplementation in winter.

The placement of licks is important, only prescribed amount of lick must be ingested. Feeding troughs can be used to contain feeding supplements and lucerne so that the feed cannot be contaminated by faeces, urine and soil. Licks can be placed in areas that should be visited more frequently, approximately 100 m away from tourist roads. In this way licks could be used as management tool to regulate animal movement. The licks should be distributed out across the entire area so that all game species have access to the licks and they should be near water. Licks must not be placed in over-utilised veld, because it promotes veld degradation.

Licks can be placed in areas with unpalatable grass species especially on the eastern part of management unit 3, so that these plants can be utilised to increase the utilisation of the veld. The licks should be protected from the weather as toxicity may occur if rain accumulates in hollows of the licks and dissolves toxic quantities of the Non-proteinaceous nitrogen (NPN) sources. The licks can be placed in an inverted truck tyre. They should have a cement base so that the licks are not in contact with the soil. If the lick is placed directly on the soil leaching of the nutrients from the lick may also occur, causing irreparable damage to the soil. Natural licks can be used successfully for tourism if the area around the licks is open and visibility is good.