For lot-fed cattle the main benefits resulting from the addition of sodium bentonite to grain based rations are:
Improving the efficiency of the digestive process
Bentonite forms a gel in the digestive system to slow down the digestive process. The bentonite coats the feed particles, slowing the rate of release of fermentation products into the fluid phases. By providing a more even release of these products, the spiral into acidosis is avoided.
The buffering capacity of bentonite is related to the cation exchange capacity, or the ability to bind hydrogen ions. If cattle are fed on carbohydrate-rich food such as a high grain ration, they tend to over-eat, fermentation of the carbohydrates occurs, lactic acid is produced (pH falling to between 3.0 and 4.0), resulting in ruminal acidosis which severely affects animal performance and in severe cases can cause death.
The cation exchange capacity of bentonite buffers (neutralises) the effect of lactic acid and thereby prevents ruminal acidosis.
Bentonite is typically mixed with the grain and other mineral supplements at about 4% for starter rations and 2% for finisher rations.
The properties of Bentonite are such that optimum performance is probably achieved in the range 1.0% to 2.0% for starter rations.
Binding of protein
Bentonite can protect proteins from ruminal degradation, which allows digestion more efficiently further down the digestive tract..
Bentonite binds urea to provide a slow release in the rumen, which reduces the risk of ammonia toxicity and promotes a more efficient conversion to protein by the ruminal flora.
Bentonite also increases the saliva flow to the rumen. The bicarbonates and phosphates present in the saliva acts as a buffer in the digestive system.
Sodium bentonite is used as an effective pellet binder in the stockfeed industry.
Australian nutritionists have proven that a pelleted feed is more efficient in animal production than a powdered feed or mash. This increase in efficiency is due to the elimination of respiratory problems associated with fines in a ration.
When sufficient moisture is added to sodium bentonite through proper conditioning, a pliable or plastic clay-water system is developed. This hydrate acts like a putty which fills spaces between feed particles upon compression of the mesh in the pellet mill die. It has a lubricant-like slipperiness and can extend die life.
Bond strength potential is influenced by the development of maximum surface area of the bentonite. The finer the sizing distribution of the product the greater is the surface area.
The considerable benefits of using Bentonite in animal rations also apply to poultry, pigs, dairy cattle, horses, sheep and deer.
Three standard product grades are supplied to the stockfeed industry, namely, fine powder, granular and superfine grades at competitive market pricing.