"The sales of sheep licks have reached colossal proportions, and the use of many of them is a waste of money," declared Mr. C. J. Woollett in his presidential address before the annual conference of the Institute of Stock Inspectors this week.
LEGISLATION is required to compel vendors to state the contents on a label," be continued. "If this were done, many licks now on the market would soon be off. One, for instance, contains a quantity of sand (silica).
"It is my firm conviction that unless the ingredients of a lick are compounded to make up for soil deficiency they are almost worthless. Of course the line of investigation to provide a lick for wool growth does not come within this category.
"In view of high production costs we should advise stock owners as to the need for revising their ideas on the utility of licks. One owner-manager in my district, who has over 22,000 sheep, spent £310 in licks in 1927-28. £227 in 1928-29, and for nine months of 1929-30 he spent £110 on Liverpool salt alone. Taking all things into consideration, he now considers that licks, as at present on the market, except salt, are unnecessary on his country.
"Apart from the country growing salsolaceous herbages, there are numbers of sheep owners who do not provide licks or even salt for their sheep and their sheep look as well, and do as well as the sheep belonging to nearby neighbors who provide expensive licks as a routine practice. There seems to me no certainty that salt as a lick is essential, unless it is deficient in the soil. Many people reason by analogy, that because salt is necessary in food for human beings to ward off diseases, the same thing applies to stock. I join issue. No doubt this question will be settled sooner or later by one of our investigators," Mr. Woollett concluded.
Reference was also made to the indiscriminate use of licks by Major C. T. Sanderson, Senior Veterinary Surgeon of the Department of Agriculture, in an address to the conference.
Major Sanderson said that there must be a scientific feeding of minerals to stock in relation to proteins and carbohydrates. Stock lick's generally were made up of everything likely to do an animal good, whereas specific licks calculated to remedy some particular mineral deficiency of the soil were really required.
"I have seen, and you have seen, lunatics that have given salt licks to sheep that were already getting salt from bore water," he said. "The sheep have died and their owners have wondered why they died."
Some men, he continued, gave their sheep sulphur in licks. Sulphur went clean through the sheep onto the pastures without the sheep deriving any benefit whatever from it. It would have been cheaper to have paid a man to spread the sulphur on the pastures with a shovel.
The soils in this State were deficient chiefly in calcium and phosphoric acid and in protein, and Major Sanderson urged stock inspectors to encourage the use of licks that would remedy these deficiencies alone.
Dealing with the effect of caseous lymphadenitis on the export mutton trade, Major Sanderson said that, while not wishing to create a scare, when it was found that as many as 50 per cent. of a flock of sheep were infected it was time to increase efforts to combat the disease. He requested that inspectors make every effort to make known and encourage the use of the preventive measures recommended by the Department.