When CRYSTALYX® first started the blog more than 2 years ago, one of the first topics I “blogged” about was supplement value. I like to draw attention to value and to topics that differentiate supplements when the feeding season begins. After all, it is September and many fall and winter supplement programs are being evaluated or started now.
I get the above question a lot, and it’s usually followed up or preceded by, “okay, what should I supplement or what would you recommend.” The question actually leads to more questions, and is also a good reason to evaluate why we supplement our cattle and what are the benefits.
There’s been a lot of renewed interest in the practicality and feasibility of managing beef brood cows in dry lot systems. There’s some University trial work, economic analysis, nutritional strategies, etc..., being discussed on how these systems may or may not fit. Recent effects of drought, commodity prices, and cash rent for pasture ground, and shrinking availability of pasture in the Corn Belt has been the main reason for this renewed interest. I say renewed because I do believe this practice really isn’t new and it’s not really a concept. It’s one way to cope with drought, and was likely more common place historically when every farm had 20 beef cows, a few sows, chickens, and a dozen milk cows. I can still find a spot or two in my travels where beef cows are managed in dry lot year round and the subsequent calving season is year round as well.
Several CRYSTALYX® blogs have been topics surrounding “volatility” in our business and how it is more or less the norm these days. I think the weather we’ve had in the past couple of years could be summarized much the same. From floods to drought to extreme heat and cold and late spring blizzards, it reminds me of a common saying I here almost everywhere I travel, “we sure have had a weird ____ “ (fill in the blank and pick your season of year).
Drought followed by Grass Tetany. Sound like a contradiction? It can happen, especially when pastures were grazed heavily during a drought and /or during dormancy. Spring growing conditions, combined with some moisture on relatively “denuded” pasture ground, means the only forage that’s available to grazing cattle is the lush fast growing new grass. In ideal grazing conditions, there would normally be some old growth or residual forage that gets grazed along with new grass at turnout. This helps dilute or minimize the amount of new grass being consumed; the new grass which poses the greatest risk to magnesium deficiency or Grass Tetany.
So What’s the New Normal?
Some may say what is normal, period? An average can be the mean of two extremes; I guess put another way it translates to volatility. The new normal in the feed and livestock business would probably be defined as higher costs/prices and ever increased volatility or price swings. This has definitely been the case in the past 4-5 years and one could write volumes on the reasons why; some are short term causes (drought) and others long term (market demand driven, political, etc...). These higher costs and values are basically the upward shift into a new level we see today and are likely here to stay. This volatility can create opportunity but can also pose great danger. Just ask anyone in the grain trading business.
The holiday season is a good time to reflect upon the past year. We might ask ourselves, what went wrong, right, what we’d do again, and what we learned not to do. 2012 was a challenging year in many respects. No doubt the drought was the most challenging and a news making event. It will be a large factor in shaping our industry for the next several years.
Cows grazing cornstalks, it’s a common practice in the Midwest, albeit some information is being written about it as though it was a new practice. It isn’t. However much has been learned with more recent research data and the ability to efficiently utilize this resource has improved with different strategies. This season, with the drought conditions plaguing a large area of beef cattle production, grazing not only cornstalks but other crop residue will have a new value component.
Traditionally, the use of CRYSTALYX® supplements has been in fall and winter months with running age beef cows. This is still where the vast majority of product volume is used but growth within other segments of beef cow production and during spring and summer months has been growing. Earlier blog articles have described the benefits of using CRYSTALYX® as a vehicle to deliver not only protein and energy but mineral/vitamin programs in the summer, additives for fly control and growth promotants, etc…
2012 has been a tough year for many in our business so far. The negatives of the drought and its effect on the industry continue to make headlines. In times such as these I find it important to remind customers, prospects and fellow colleagues of the basic fundamentals of CRYSTALYX® supplement programs. During opportune or inopportune times (depending on how you see the glass as ½ full or empty), a lot of producers and sales people study alternatives which means there are new people looking at CRYSTALYX® programs.