Livestock Research for Rural Development 5 (3) 1993

Citation of this paper

Multinutrient lick blocks for dairy cattle in Gansu province, China

Chen Yuzhi, Wen Hong, Ma Xiuewu,
Li Yu, Gao Zhanqi and Mary Ann Peterson


Multinutrient lick blocks were manufactured for Holstein-Friesian cattle in Gansu province to improve the low milk yield caused by unbalanced feed and nutrient deficiencies. Three formulae (for cows, heifers and calves) have been formulated. The manufacturing process of the blocks has been tested using two types of presses. Supplementation with blocks increased milk yield by 6.7% and daily gains of growing heifers by 15.5%. Body condition was also improved.

Keywords: Multinutrient blocks, cattle, milk yield, growth


In China, Holstein-Friesian cattle are mostly kept in sheds. The average milk yield per cow in Gansu is 20% lower than the national average due probably to imbalaned feeding systems. The forage consists mainly of wheat straw since green fodder is only available for four or five months of the year.

The use of licking blocks is not a new practice for the Chinese farmers. Multinutrient blocks (Sansoucy et al 1987) provide non- protein nitrogen (NPN) in the form of urea also minerals and vitamins. This helps create an optimal ruminal environment which stimulates the digestion of the basal diet increasing not only digestibility but also the roughage intake.

Blocks are highly palatable when they contain molasses; they are consumed in small amounts throughout the day due to their hardness -- a feature that increases the efficiency of urea use. They are easily transported and offered to the animals.

Materials and methods

Three formulae were chosen to satisfy the needs of: cows, heifers and calves). The price and the processing characteristics of the ingredients are given in Table 1).

The blocks were made by mixing the molasses and urea first. This mixture was heated and the salt added, followed by the addition of the rest of the ingredients previously mixed together. The complete mixture was than pressed and the resulting blocks were wrapped immediately.


Table 1. Formulae of the multinutrient lick blocks for dairy animals
Ingredients Cow Heifer Calf
Molasses 8 10 15
Urea 16 12  
Salt 26 26 22
Ground corn 5 5 10
Lime 10 10 10
Clay 11.2 15 15
Bone meal - - 5
Mineral mixture 23.8 22 22.2
Total 100 100 100



This work also included the design and building of press machines for the formation of blocks. The characteristics of two presses are shown in Table 2.



Table 2. Characteristics of presses used for making the blocks
Press type Power source Dimensions (m) Weight (kg) Work pressure (kg/cm2) Production capacity (kg/h)
9YK-50 Hydraulic 0.6x0.7x1.0 240 52 50
Manual jack (50        
9YK-150 Hydraulic 0.75x0.4x2.0 640 176 150
electrical pump        


Feeding experiments

To determine the effects of block on animal performance, extended feeding trials have taken place in five dairy farms (State, Collective and Private) with a total of 344 Holstein-Friesian animals. One trial was carried out to determine the effect on milk production of 30 cows during a period of 121 days, another to evaluate the growth of 42 heifers.


Blocks made using both press machines were of a good hardness; the breaking strength was 44 kg/cm2. The nutritional values and composition of the three block formulae are given in Table 3. The blocks were of good quality, did not absorb moisture, did not become mouldy or nor did they lose shape when exposed to rain or sunshine.

Daily consumption (g/d) was on average 150, 100 and 50 for cows, heifers and calves, respectively.


Table 3. Nutritional characteristics of the multinutritional lick block.
  Cow Heifer Calf
Dry matter (%) 95.8 95.1 96.1
% in dry matter      
N x 6.25 40.0 31.1 20.0
Ca 2.3 1.1 4.3
P 5.0 3.3 0.4
In mg/kg DM      
Cu 933 651 140
Zn 5412 1814 1002
Mn (mg/kg) 3140 2825 804
Fe 1193 1198 1124
I 113 - -
Co 17 5 5
Se 57 26 42
Vit D3 0.03 0.04 0.02
Vit E - - 0.20



Results from the test with dairy cows are given in Table 4. Cows supplemented with the block had an average milk yield of 20.7 kg/day which is 1.3 kg or 6.7% higher (P<0.01) than the average of the control group.


Table 4: Effect of the multinutrient block on the daily milk yield.
  Number Milk yield
Control 15 19.4
Block 15 20.7
Probability   <0.01


In the growth trial, animals having access to the licking blocks had a daily gain of 0.835 kg/day which is 0.112 kg/day (P<0.05) higher than the control group (Table 5). Animals supplemented with the licking blocks would reach 380 kg body weight (weight at the first service) 65 days earlier, giving an earlier first calving.

Table 5. Effect of blocks on the average daily gain of heifers.
  Number of animals Daily gain (kg)
Control 21 0.723
Block 21 0.835
Prob   P<0.05


Other advantages observed during the animal feeding trials on the farms were better skin coat and better body condition. The Lin Ze dairy farm in Gansu reported savings on the animal health budget during the year of block supplementation and that the annual death rate had dropped from 6 to 1% during the three years of block feeding.



The results in this study show that multinutrient molasses-based blocks improve the productivity of dairy animals. Blocks are easily produced and transported. In addition, they can be incorporated in daily feeding regimes with very few difficulties. The formulae can be adapted according to the feeding regime and to the kind of animal. It may be concluded that there is a good future for licking blocks in China.


Sansoucy R, Aarts G, and Leng R 1987 Molasses-urea blocks as a multinutrient supplement for ruminants. In "Sugar cane as feed", Animal Production and Health paper No. 72. FAO: Rome

(Received 1 August 1993)