To boil it all down to something very simple, the most common cause of soil and plant health problems comes from a lack of oxygen in the soil. This means the essential aerobic, air breathing soil microbes can’t exist in enough numbers to create enough soil electrical conductivity to allow plant growth. Calcium and phosphorus can’t be taken up into the plants to allow sufficient photosynthesis to occur to produce a healthy nutritious plant. The electrical conductivity of the soil can be somewhat induced through the application of conventional fertilisers. However, there is a problem. Many of these fertiliser salts (urea for example) will cause the structure of the soil to alter over time so that in essence, it becomes further compacted and anaerobic meaning that while plants will grow, they lack quality and nutrition beneficial to the animals it’s feeding.
In the absence of available calcium and phosphorus, plants will ‘fill up’ on potassium, an electrolyte mineral that holds on to a lot of water, thus diluting soluble sugars and not providing sustenance for the animal. This also leaves the plant very vulnerable to diseases and insect attack meaning not only increase pest management costs, but also can be life-threatening to stock if used as a forage or feed.
When we feed animals low sugar, low mineralised feed with a high water content and relatively high protein content, we are feeding an imbalanced diet. Ruminant animals may consume plant material, but this is not what they live on, the microbes in their rumen do; and the cow or sheep lives on the dead digested microbes that wash further down the gut. What happens in the rumen when feed low in sugar, high in protein and also lacking fibre, is the start of the animal health issues we see.