They like it, and salt provides them an efficient way to uptake certain minerals no longer present in the biosphere.
Years ago, an abundance of minerals resided in the soils and plant life - today, they are all but gone. As the great western herd of 70 million bison moved over the vast landscapes of California, they would ebb and flow with the natural flora present.
Driven by taste, pressured by predators, the massive, heaving mass of Bulls, Cows and Calves would meander from site to site, uninhibited by your swimming pool or interstate 5.
Seasonal and geographical variations would permit rooting depths of the perennial grasses to forage deep within the crevices of ancient buried rocks and mine out minerals from eons ago. This, combined with the natural growth cycle would present various plants of diverse size, shape and color to the heard. Each individual inside the group would select its grazing requirements based upon need and metabolism. A wonderful and magnificent dance of give and take would result. Those not capable, or adapted to ferreting out the right plant, at the right time, with the right nutritional uptake would fall to predation and not reproduce. The cycle of life is far more efficacious, and might I add, brutal than our puny brains and opposing thumbs could ever be - nature is, if anything - a strict schoolmaster.
In today's world of modern Ranching, none of this is true.
The animals cannot roam freely, at least not to the extent they once did. They cannot cross from the pastures outside of your community, over the streets, past the grade school, behind your backyard BBQ, and near the coastal shrub plains to gobble up a snack of Arizona Bunch-grass for that boost of iron or copper they so desperately need.
Conventional Ranchers - the majority of producers, today, do not salt correctly. The Cow must choose their nutritional uptake. When a Rancher puts out a salt block, it is usually what the Rancher thinks the Cow needs - the Cow cannot speak, so the husbandman must interpolate its needs - right?
Wrong - the Cow can speak, just not with words.
In fact, nature speaks all the time, we just choose not to listen.
Here is a short clip of how we manage and handle Salt on our Ranch (BTW - we are not conventional Ranchers if you haven't figured that out yet)
By Douglas Lindamood
Chief piglet chaser, cattle wrangler and chicken whisperer - SonRise Ranch