Minerals don’t get the attention that protein does when cattle producers are formulating rations. Yet without adequate amounts of minerals, the beef animal can’t fully utilize the protein and other nutrients in a ration for maximum breeding efficiency or optimum growth. A feeding program that shortchanges minerals is robbing profitability.
Most cattle producers are aware of the importance of minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium in a ration. They are sometimes called macro minerals because a beef animal requires a relatively large amount of each. Macro minerals often have the same function in both humans and cattle. Calcium, for instance promotes bone growth whether those bones are part of a calf or a young adult.
Other minerals are less known, but not any less important. Copper, zinc, manganese, iodine, cobalt and selenium are examples of trace minerals that perform very specific purposes in beef cattle.
Research indicates that copper plays an important supporting role in reproduction efficiency. Many herds respond to copper supplementation with increased conception rates and shortened return to estrus intervals.
Ted Bentley is a firm believer that good nutrition, including proper mineral supplementation, is key to getting cows in shape for the breeding season. CRYSTALYX® Supplements help him get his cows in the best shape possible.
“I artificially inseminate as many cows as I can. We aim to have 90 percent of the cows go through the chute,” the Torrington, WY, registered Charolais producers says. “I’ve got a lot of management and labor invested in them. It’s foolish to cut corners or to cut back on nutrition.”
Copper, along with zinc and manganese, has also been tied to animal health. Calves that receive adequate copper, zinc and manganese have enhanced immune responses. Other minerals, like sulfur, seem to help the beef animal better utilize other nutrients in the ration.
A beef animal doesn’t need large quantities of minerals to meet nutritional needs, but cattle do require adequate levels of each mineral. CRYSTALYX® Supplements are formulated so cattle receive 100% of the NRC requirement for trace minerals.
Can CRYSTAL-PHOS® be a more cost-effective supplement than dry mineral, even with lush summer forage available? A group of ranchers, with the help of a local CRYSTALYX® dealer, decided to find out.
A western South Dakota CRYSTALYX® dealer had a group of ranchers as customers that were part of a grazing association. They were running their co-mingled cattle on national grasslands. A dry mineral supplier approached the ranchers with a proposal. They were told they could supplement with dry mineral at a cost of no more than five cents per-head, per-day. The supplier would put out two weeks of mineral and only re-supply every two weeks. The ranchers quickly realized that a limit on how much mineral was delivered could be a problem. If the supply is consumed in a week, the cattle would be without mineral for another week until it was restocked.
The CRYSTALYX® dealer had a better idea. Because of his own experience with CRYSTAL-PHOS,® he recommended it to the grazing association. Past experience in his area projected CRYSTAL-PHOS® intake to be around two ounces per-head, per-day on green grass.
“CRYSTAL-PHOS® is formulated for an intake of a quarter pound in fall and winter when forage is dry and brown and the cattle need more nutrients,” said Mark Robbins, Research Manager for Ridley Block Operations. “In the summertime when forage is lush, you’ll likely see about an eighth of a pound or a two ounce intake. In the summer, when the grass gets green and things get warmer, it’s difficult to keep the animals on a mineral supplement. We generally see a lower intake of CRYSTAL-PHOS® in the summer, but cattle still consume it at acceptable levels.”
The dealer told the grazing association they could have a summer supplementation program using CRYSTAL-PHOS® at a cost of approximately five cents per-head, per-day. Better still, the supplement would be continuously available, and the barrels could be used to better manage grazing patterns by moving the cattle around in the pasture.
As the ranchers in the association learned over the summer, that is exactly what happened.
The demonstration tracked 1,308 head of cattle in three different pastures during a period from June 20th through the end of August. Using a CRYSTAL-PHOS® cost of $830 per ton, the average cost across all pastures and all cattle was 4.7 cents per-head, per-day, and the average consumption was 1.8 ounces per-head, per-day.
“The demonstration showed that in lush summertime conditions, intake will generally be around two ounces per-head, per-day,” Robbins said. “That translates to a cost of less than five cents per-head, per-day.” Robbins added that CRYSTALYX® supplements offer a number of advantages in addition to cost savings:
• Continuous availability
• Contains chelated/organic trace minerals
• Ability to focus grazing within a pasture — makes most efficient use of all the pasture
• Weatherproof (wind and rain)
• No waste
• Highly palatable — cows will consume it
• Eliminates need for expensive, specialized feeders
“As you go through the summer and the grass starts to dry off, you’ll get into a protein deficient situation,” Robbins said. “So then, in addition to CRYSTAL-PHOS,® you should start feeding another CRYSTALYX® product with protein like HE-20,TM Natural 27,TM BGF-30TM or HP-40.TM
HAVRE, Montana —New research here asks: If CRYSTALYX® can attract cattle to better graze under-used pasture land, how does a loose dry mineral compare to CRYSTALYX®?
THE STUDY DETAILS
• Location: 630-acre and 820-acre pastures on the Thackeray Ranch in the Bear’s Paw Mountains, south of Havre. Each pasture’s terrain was classified as easy, moderate, difficult and extreme. Easy and extreme pastures were not used. Researchers based classification on nearness to water, elevation and slope.
• Grazing period: September through mid-November 2000 for pasture 1; late November through December 2000, for pasture 2.
• Setup: Electric fence split each pasture for two experimental treatments, allocating terrain styles equally. A total of 226 Continental-cross cow/calf pairs, previously acclimated to CRYSTALYX,® were randomly assigned to pastures and treatments. Cows in each group were randomly assigned to wear electronic Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) tracking collars that recorded their movement and grazing activity by satellite.
• Supplement: Experimenters offered cows either trace mineral-fortified 30 percent crude protein CRYSTALYX® BGF-30,TM or a commercially prepared dry mineral mix in open mineral feeders. White salt blocks were also placed about 40 yards from each supplement source.
• Data collection: Investigators regularly collected data from the collars and observed cattle from horseback. They calculated the time cattle spent within 10, 100, 200, 400 and 600 yards of blocks, mineral and water. They then estimated the ability of each supplement to attract cattle into areas that were difficult to graze, and then hold them nearby.
RESULTS: IMPROVED GRAZING PATTERNS
• During the entire trial, 74 percent of the collared cows visited the CRYSTALYX® blocks at least once in four days. That compares to only 55 percent for the dry mineral mix.
• As expected, cattle were less likely to visit both supplement sources when they were placed on difficult terrain vs. moderate.
• Cows sought out and visited the areas with CRYSTALYX® more often than those containing dry mineral. On average, cows visited the CRYSTALYX® blocks every other day. They visited dry mineral feeders only every four days.
• CRYSTALYX® appeared to have the power to hold cows in under-utilized areas, thus increasing forage utilization. Cows actually spent about 400 percent more time at the CRYSTALYX® blocks than the dry mineral feeders.
• One of the biggest surprises in the fall and winter study was the finding that the CRYSTALYX® blocks were even more attractive than water. Cows spent more
time within 200 to 600 yards of CRYSTALYX® blocks than within similar distances to water.
This study confirms previous studies showing that CRYSTALYX® can attract cattle to rougher portions of pasture land and improve grazing efficiency. It shows that blocks are visited more often and more consistently than loose mineral, offering a more effective supplement and grazing management tool than dry mineral.
Bailey, DW. Effectiveness of Low-Moisture Molasses Blocks and Conventional Formulations for Delivering Supplemental Minerals to Cattle on Rangelands. Northern Agricultural Research Center, Montana State University, 2001.
They say you can’t do anything about the weather, but you can make sure the weather doesn’t do anything to your livestock supplementation program. Early spring snow along with rain and wind can take a toll on your supplementation program if you’re relying on dry minerals.
CRYSTAL-PHOS® from CRYSTALYX® can stand up to the extremes of spring weather. Weather blows away dry mineral or turns it into hard chunks, but will not affect CRYSTAL-PHOS.® It comes in windproof, weatherproof steel barrels, so key nutrients and minerals won’t wash away or blow away, and there’s no need for special mineral feeders. Waste is eliminated and so are extra equipment costs, making CRYSTAL-PHOS® a better way to feed minerals.
Supplementing with CRYSTAL-PHOS® gives grazing beef cattle the key minerals they need, including calcium and phosphorus, as well as vitamins and trace minerals. Cattle on CRYSTAL-PHOS® will typically consume four ounces to one-quarter pound per-head, per-day, giving them 100 percent of NRC requirements for key trace minerals, which include chelated/organic trace minerals from Zinpro.® Like all CRYSTALYX® supplements, CRYSTAL-PHOS® is consumed as cattle lick the highly palatable, molasses-based surface. Key nutrients essential for maintenance, growth and reproductive performance are consumed in a controlled, continuous manner. And CRYSTAL-PHOS® is naturally self-limiting because it can’t be bitten or chewed.
COMPARE CRYSTAL-PHOS® TO DRY MINERAL FEEDING
• Won’t wash away or blow away
• No extra investment in mineral feeders
• Daily consumption is limited
• More palatable, so intake is enhanced
• Barrels can be easily moved for more effective pasture and grazing pattern management
• More cows consume CRYSTAL-PHOS® on a more regular basis as compared to conventional dry mineral.
Recent research done by Montana range scientist Derek Bailey has shed new light on the best system of providing minerals to cattle already being given low-moisture protein blocks. Bailey tested whether cattle should be provided mineral supplementation with dry mineral or by a low-moisture mineral block.
Bailey used electronic collars tracked by satellite, along with horseback observations to follow cattle movements precisely. The cows were given CRYSTALYX® low-moisture blocks and either loose mineral or Crystal-Phos® low-moisture blocks, as they were either grazing or offered harvested forage.
The research showed that cattle visited the CRYSTALYX® Crystal-Phos® every 2.7 days versus every 7 days for the dry mineral. Even when held in a smaller area while being fed harvested forage, the cattle used Crystal-Phos® more often (SEE CHART).
This study is the latest in five years of statistically supported research by Bailey showing the value of low-moisture blocks as a forage management tool. Improved grazing wastes less forage, increases the quality of more heavily grazed areas, and assists in the protection of ecologically sensitive areas.
Long-term study results have found low-moisture molasses blocks to be more reliable than either loose mineral or water for better grazing distribution. And self-feeding low-moisture blocks also reduce labor required to move cattle by horseback.
As part of its decade-long series of surveys on U.S. cattle-management practices, researchers from USDA's National Animal Health Monitoring Service drew blood samples from cows in 411 operations in the top 23 cow/calf states. Then they measured those 3,902 samples for their levels of two important trace minerals—zinc and copper—to help judge whether the typical operation's cattle are receiving sufficient levels.
• Based on these results, there's about a one in four chance you have at least one animal in your operation that's severely deficient in zinc. It's almost certain you also have an animal that's at least moderately deficient—94 percent of all sampled cattle were considered severely deficient.
• About 6 percent of operations had at least one severely copper-deficient animal; 85 percent, at least one moderately or severely copper-deficient animal.
• Just under 42 percent of the operations and 43 percent of the cattle sampled were considered either moderately or severely copper deficient. About 2 percent of operations and 3 percent of the cattle were severely deficient.
• While the study found no regional variations in zinc levels, operations in the West generally showed larger average serum copper concentrations…about 10 percent below the average for both the Midwest and South.
It is important to remember, the research authors point out, that the largest losses suffered by both zinc and copper deficiency are the ones you seldom see directly—lower growth rates, poorer feed efficiency, reduced reproduction and a weaker immune system that leaves calves vulnerable to disease…both on the ranch and in the feedlot.
They advise that today’s intensively managed cow/calf operations include regular nutritional analysis to assess trace-mineral status of their animals and forage. Where indicated, adequate quantity and quality of mineral supplementation should be provided.
Bear in mind, though, that the quality of the supplement is important to ensuring adequacy in cattle. The authors of this study noted that even though 63 percent and 64 percent of the study respondents already provided supplemental zinc and copper, respectively, even those supplemented operations showed patterns of deficiency.
Those results point out the fact that not all sources of supplementation are equal. Bioavailability and palatability may differ and thus change the amount of nutrients consumed. Low moisture blocks such as CRYSTALYX® contain a more available form of phosphorous and are more palatable to encourage sufficient intake.
SAMPLING SHOWS YOU CAN’T ALWAYS RELY ON FORAGE
Most decisions to supplement trace minerals usually revolve around the operation’s forage-base quantity and quality. Yet, a similar 1999 USDA-NAHMS survey that sampled 709 forage samples were either marginal or deficient in the key trace minerals. Plus, other work from the mid-1980s shows NRC values may also mis-estimate the expected values for key trace minerals in common processed feedstuffs.
Many of you may have already heard of the new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) proposed by FDA. In a nutshell, previous FDA rules were focused primarily on identifying food safety problems after they occurred and responding accordingly. FSMA seeks to help prevent food safety issues in both humans and animals through preventative controls throughout all levels of production, storage and distribution. Part of the fallout of FSMA is the topic of antibiotic use in meat animals. With debate still ongoing, one thing is clear, that reliance on antibiotic use in food animals is on a downward trend. With this in mind, it is going to be more important than ever to build strong immune systems in our calves through sound nutrition.
While overall nutrition is important to maintaining health, there are several key trace minerals that are typically deficient in the diet that play critical roles in the development and maintenance of the immune system in calves. These key minerals are copper, zinc and selenium.
Copper is needed for proper development of antibodies and white blood cells in addition to antioxidant enzyme production. Copper deficient cattle are more susceptible to infections and do not respond as well to vaccinations. In addition, they tend to be less resistant to parasitic challenge. Studies have shown that cattle receiving proper copper nutrition tend to be less susceptible to infections and have less severe infections when disease does occur.
Zinc plays an important role in the maintenance of skin, gastro-intestinal linings, and the linings of the respiratory system. These are the body’s first defense against bacterial, viral and parasitic invaders. Additionally, zinc is crucial in non-specific immunity from neutrophils and phagocytic cells and antioxidant activity. Zinc is also necessary for development of antibodies needed for specific immunity
Selenium works in conjunction with Vitamin E in the removal of free radicals via antioxidant activity and is critical for phagocytic cell function in non-specific immunity. Research has shown that selenium deficient cells are less able to kill pathogens. Selenium deficient animals are less able to respond to a specific invader and have lowered antibody titers.
Since much of a calf’s body stores of trace minerals are obtained in-utero, especially during the last trimester, nutrition of the dam is crucial for the calf’s immunity. The dam’s nutritional status affects the calf in two ways. First, it affects the quality of the colostrum she is able to offer for passive immunity. Second, it provides necessary building blocks for when the calf’s body develops its own immunity.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that stress has a direct negative effect on immune function. For example, it has been shown that phagocytes do not respond normally to infection in the presence of cortisol (the “stress” hormone). Prolonged stress has been shown to actually increase an animal’s mineral requirements. The stress brought on by this harsh winter has taxed the levels dams have to give, thus making supplementation of the cow herd with high quality mineral sources critical this winter and spring. It’s important to keep high quality supplements in front of the cows even after calving as the cows need to replenish body stores to prepare for breeding. Calves also need access to supplements since some minerals, such as copper, are not transferred in milk in appreciable quantities. High quality supplements will give them the building blocks they need for a strong immune system.
In summary, maximizing immune function via nutrition, especially trace mineral nutrition, is going to become increasingly important in beef production. CRYSTALYX® offers a wide variety of high quality supplements that will deliver essential minerals and vitamins to cattle in an ultra-convenient delivery system. For cows and calves coming out of a stressful winter, consider CRYSTALYX® Breed-Up® Supplements (some available with Bio-Mos®). They are designed for pre-calving through breeding, but also work well on stressed cattle. They are fortified at 200% of NRC recommended levels of copper and zinc, including highly available, organic forms of copper, zinc, manganese and cobalt. Visit www.crystalyx.com to learn more about these products. Also like us on Facebook to learn more about how CRYSTALYX® can work for you.
Bio-Mos® is a registered trademark of Alltech, Inc.
CRYSTALYX® is a registered trademark of Ridley Block Operations
Many cattle producers also own horses and these horses are often in the same pastures as the cattle. In a perfect world, we’d offer equine supplements to the horses and bovine supplements to the cattle. However, in a co-pasture situation there is no practical way to keep these separate. As such, some choose a cattle supplement that all will eat.* In some cases this is harmless. In others it could be deadly.
What Do I Need To Watch Out For?
When it comes to feed supplements, horses and cattle have similar requirements. As a result, the cattle and horse products look and smell about the same and the labels are almost identical. With this in mind, many choose one product to offer to both species for convenience sake. However, there are some CRYSTALYX® cattle supplements that you should steer clear of if you have horses.
Ionophores are specific types of antibiotics fed to cattle to promote growth and prevent coccidial infections. Horses are very sensitive to ionophore toxicity (~ 20 times more sensitive than cattle). Ionophores damage heart and skeletal muscle in horses. The extent of damage is dependent on amount ingested and over how long a time period. With this in mind, one should NEVER allow horses access to a CRYSTALYX® Iono-Lyx® Supplement (blue barrel). While accidental, one-time exposure will likely not result in adverse effects, it isn’t worth the risk to knowingly allow horses access to this product.
Urea is a natural by-product from the metabolism of protein for both horses and cattle. Urea is excreted by the kidneys, intestines, and found in saliva and sweat. Ruminants naturally recycle urea from the saliva in the rumen where it is utilized by rumen microbes and becomes another protein source for the animal. Horses also utilize urea to a certain extent, but they are much less efficient compared to ruminants.
Because urea is so efficiently utilized by cattle as a protein source many cattle supplements on the market include urea as one of the protein sources. CRYSTALYX® cattle supplements are no different. However, because horses have limited microbial activity and can be susceptible to urea toxicity in high doses, urea-containing products are not recommended for horses out of an abundance of caution. But due to low urea content and relatively low intake rates of CRYSTALYX® cattle supplements, one shouldn’t be overly concerned if horses accidently gain access to one of these barrels on a short term basis. If found, immediately remove the product from horses and observe carefully.
In summary, in a perfect world we would offer species-specific products at all times, but it is natural to want to offer one supplement product in pastures containing both cattle and horses. Because the nutritional needs of both of these species are not drastically different, this is often a valid strategy. However, there are some CRYSTALYX® cattle supplements that should be avoided for pastures containing horses. First and foremost, NEVER allow horses access to the CRYSTALYX® Iono-Lyx® Supplement. Secondly, CRYSTALYX® cattle supplements containing urea should not be offered to horses, especially on a long-term basis. These are not highly toxic to horses like ionophores, so it is ok to store them on your farm, as accidental exposure won’t cause problems. If you have any doubts regarding the safety of a product, please call 800-727-2502 to speak to a nutritionist or visit www.crystalyx.com to view product labels and supporting materials. As always, if you suspect toxicity in your horses of any sort, immediately remove the suspect product and call a veterinarian.
*Use of a product contrary to label directions is strictly at your own risk. Ridley Block Operations cannot be held liable for extra-label use of any product.
Internal parasites in cattle reduce feed intake, reduce average daily gain and alter the animal’s immune system. Expensive nutrients fed to sustain cattle are diverted to sustain the parasitic organisms instead. If one waits until clinical symptoms appear, the damage has already been done and the animal has been inefficient for quite some time. Therefore, the time to deworm is in the subclinical stage before major damage has been done and money has been lost due to poor productivity.
In order to control internal parasites, one must understand their lifecycle and how they are transmitted to cattle. Luckily, most of the economically important internal parasites (roundworms, stomach worms, barberpole worms, etc.) have similar life cycles (See Figure 1). The adult nematodes mate and produce eggs within the host. These eggs pass out of the gut in the feces. The eggs hatch, and the larvae go through several stages before they reach the infective stage. This infective stage migrates from the manure pat onto moist grass (See Figure 2) where it is consumed by the host then the larvae mature into adults, completing the lifecycle. It is important to note that these larvae need moisture (from rain or dew) and soil temperatures of 55° - 85° F to swim up the blades of grass. As the grass dries, the larvae move back down into the soil. Cattle do not pick up larvae from dry pastures. Thus, the warm, wet conditions we’ve experienced this summer have been ideal for internal parasite transmission.
Figure 1. Basic Life Cycle of Common Gastrointestinal Nematodes of Cattle (taken from www.safe-guardcattle.com )
Figure 2. Infective larvae found in a drop of dew. (Taken from Langston University).
Control of internal parasites is a never-ending battle that entails a combination of pasture management and strategic use of anthelmintics. Control should be aimed at reducing exposure to infective larvae and disrupting the life cycle. Control practices include the following:
Move susceptible cattle to “clean” pastures. Clean pastures are those that haven’t been grazed by other cattle for at least 12 months, since larvae can survive for up to a year in pastures. Rotating pastures with other species (horses, sheep or goats) also acts to clean pastures, as these parasites are species-specific. When the larvae are ingested by anything other than cattle, they will die harmlessly in the gut.
Do not over-stock pastures. Over-stocking pastures forces cattle to graze closer to the ground and thus pick up more larvae.
If forced to use pastures that aren’t “clean”, refrain from turning cattle out on new grass until the dew dries.
Strategically use dewormers, especially prior to calving and/or moving to new pastures.
Periodically have fecal egg counts conducted to assess if your current deworming program is effective.
There are many anthelmintic products on the market to choose from. Safeguard® is one example of a de-wormer product line that has several methods of self-fed delivery products. Self-fed delivery of dewormer through a block form has many advantages over other delivery methods. First, drenches, injections and pour-ons require that cattle be worked in a chute. Not every producer can afford to purchase expensive catch gates and chutes. Also, there are inherent stresses placed on both cattle and humans when cattle are worked, especially when cows are in late pregnancy and/or temperatures and humidity are high. Lastly, there is the safety issue of working cattle in close quarters, especially when utilizing inexperienced help.
Figure 3. Self-fed deworming blocks don’t involve running cattle through chutes. This could be an ideal method for heavily pregnant cows or producers without access to chutes or working facilities. Carefully read label directions or consult with your local veterinarian to see if this method is right for you.
In summary, the warm, wet summer we have just experienced has provided ideal conditions for the transmission of internal parasites. Control of these internal parasites will depend upon a combination of pasture management and strategic use of dewormer products. No matter which anthelmintic product you choose, deworming cattle this fall will be critically important to maintain productivity over the winter. Consult with your local veterinarian to determine the anthelmintic program that is best for your situation.
Safeguard® is a registered trademark of Merck Animal Health
When considering mineral supplementation, one of the more costly nutrients is phosphorus. One may be tempted to skimp on the phosphorus level in a mineral, thinking that forages will make up for it. That can be a costly decision when you consider that phosphorus has a significant role in reproductive efficiency and growth and it’s the most prevalent mineral deficiency in grazing livestock.
Research conducted by USDA, from the Gulf Coast region of Texas, showed that cows supplemented with phosphorus had calves with higher weaning weights than non-supplemented cows. The same study also showed an increase in the percentage of cows that calved in consecutive years when they received supplemental phosphorus. A review of several studies concluded that a phosphorus deficiency can cause lowered conception rates, irregular estrus (heat), anestrus (no heat), decreased ovarian activity, increased incidence of cystic follicles and generally depressed fertility. In addition to the reproductive issues, cattle deficient in phosphorus will have decreased weight gain and conditioning, resulting from decreased appetite.
Producers may gamble on cattle getting adequate phosphorus from forages. However, phosphorus level varies depending on plant maturity, weather conditions, soil and fertilizer used. In 1999, USDA conducted a forage survey with 709 samples from 23 states. The phosphorus level for all samples ranged between 0.17% and 0.30% on a dry matter basis. At these levels, pregnant or lactating cows are likely not to receive adequate phosphorus.
Bridging the gap on phosphorus is simple with CRYSTALYX® Brand self-fed supplements. CRYSTALYX® CRYSTAL-PHOS®, Phos-Lyx®, Fescue-Phos®, Mineral-lyx®, and Breed-Up™ MAX deliver phosphorus to carry your cattle through gestation and lactation as well as the rest of the production year. In addition, all products have a balanced trace mineral profile, with CRYSTAL-PHOS®, Phos-Lyx®, Fescue-Phos® and Breed-Up™ MAX adding the benefits of organic trace minerals from Zinpro®. Research proven consistent intake across the herd means all your cattle will get the phosphorus they need. Visit our website at www.crystalyx.com for more information on low moisture block intake research and all CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements.
Source: Teri Walsh, Animal Nutritionist, Ridley Block Operations
Zinpro® is a registered trademark of Zinpro Corporation, Eden Prairie, MN
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.
As someone who spends a lot of time in range management and grazing theories, this application during the growing season is hard to grasp; “conceptually.” I live in Western Nebraska, west of the 100th Longitudinal Meridian where there are more so called “dry years” than wet, and pasture and rangeland is more abundant Vs. cropland east of this Meridian. Dry Lot management of cows in this environment may be considered foreign. Will it be so in the future?
Recently, I was at a meeting with colleagues and customers where this practice of dry lot for cows on a year round basis was being discussed. We discussed the types of rations that could utilize corn milling co-products, along with low quality forages such as CRP hay, straw, baled corn stalks, and silages. We also discussed breeding and early weaning strategies that would fit a dry lot program. We were reminded that in many areas (the northern plains), we “dry lot” cows for half the year or longer already. It’s called winter feeding! The summer form of this would simply be the same practice adjusted for the summer time and facilities. So this isn’t a new concept at all; our dairy neighbors dry lot and early wean year round all the time.
From an economic standpoint (given today’s market), I’m a bit of a doubter in the long term feasibility of year round dry lot systems. Pasture rental rates, especially in the Corn Belt, are hitting “break point” levels around $3.00 a day or more per cow-calf pair. Some dry lot feed costs are similar and varying analyses don’t necessarily take into account the equipment and facility costs. Not a lot of ranchers are set up to do this on a year round basis, at least not for all their animals; some perhaps. The skeptic in me does say if commodity prices retreat so will pasture and forage costs and the competition therein. However, I think it’s good our industry is having this discussion as it only will make us better managers and better producers of beef. In the end, that’s the goal.
Where does CRYSTALYX® fit in all this?
The meeting I mentioned above asked this question as well. Probably the best application for CRYSTALYX® in these systems would be to help overcome short comings in facilities, equipment, labor and management. Sound familiar? It should because in grazing systems, CRYSTALYX® shines in these areas as well.
Many of the diets that may be used in a summer dry lot system would consist of coarse, low quality forages. Mixing minerals into these diets could be a challenge, even if wet feeds such as silage or wet corn co-products are used. So, CRYSTALYX®, as the mineral and vitamin delivery vehicle, would fit well into these systems. If certain protein ingredients were not available, then perhaps the more conventional CRYSTALYX® products that offer protein (i.e. BGF-30™ and others) could be used. In essence, some of these programs may not look a lot different than winter programs.
For calves in these systems, weaning would likely come earlier and using CRYSTALYX® to help start stressed calves on feed and promote health would apply here as well (CRYSTALYX® Brigade®).
The necessary challenge in this industry is the need to adapt to an ever changing environment. The terms; Range Beef Cows and Dry lot management do seem to be oxymoronic but it’s good we are having these discussions. May the rain fall on your range.
With a long, snow covered winter and a rainy spring, many producers can be optimistic when thinking about forage quality and availability this grazing season. Reviewing the drought monitor, things are improving, but we’re not out of the woods yet. The effects of long-term drought are not limited to forage and water quality.
We all know that forage quality and quantity suffer in drought conditions. If hay is available, it’s going to be drought stressed too (low protein and trace mineral levels). These situations combine to result in a lowered plain of nutrition for your cattle. The outward signs of this will be weight and condition losses. However, this can also mean a loss of cow productivity.
Several university studies have shown that cow productivity drops during and following a drought. A New Mexico study showed that weaning weights and calving percentage were reduced as a result of a drought. A study from Arizona showed that the conception rates in 3 year-old cows was 20% lower in a drought year than a normal year. The same study also showed that supplementing during a drought raised conception rates. A second New Mexico study also showed lower calf weights (branding and weaning) and a longer calving interval in a drought year. These cattle also showed improved cow productivity and a shorter calving interval when supplemented.
Drought stressed forages need supplementing to help keep your cows working for you. CRYSTALYX® has a barrel for that. The Breed-Up® line of supplements provide the protein, minerals (copper, zinc, selenium, phosphorus) and vitamins critical to your herds’ reproductive efficiency. The addition of chelated/organic trace minerals ensures availability of trace minerals in situations where antagonists are high. The supplemental protein aids in dry matter digestion and helps your cattle make the most of a tough situation.
CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements has additional tools to keep your cows on track. The body condition score app (available for iPhone and Android platforms) puts your cow records in your hand, easily accessible at any time. Crystal Clear Economyx® allows you to track your costs and compare supplement forms against each other on one page. The Supplement Scheduler takes the guess work out of keeping barrels in front of your cows. Set up pastures, cow numbers and the exact barrel you use and receive a reminder via e-mail to put out more barrels.
To learn more about the producer tools available visit our website at www.crystalyx.com and select Producer Tools from the How It Works drop down above. To learn more about the Breed-Up® product line, see your local CRYSTALYX® dealer or visit our website at www.crystalyx.com and select Breeding/Calving from the By Condition/Situation drop down above. You will surely find an application to help manage your herd and overall nutrition program.
With the high price of nitrogen and today’s economy, let’s face it, pastures and hay fields don’t always get fertilized like they should. But other than harvesting fewer tons of forage, it doesn’t really matter that much, right? Or does it? What if you knew that lack of nitrogen fertilization directly correlated with Fescue Toxicity symptoms?
Copper and Fescue Toxicity
Fescue has long been associated with a syndrome known as fescue toxicosis (a.k.a. Fescue Foot or Summer Slump). An endophyte fungus within the fescue plant causes fescue toxicosis. Copper levels in the fescue plant, as well as in the animal, play a major role in the fescue toxicosis syndrome. The symptoms of copper deficiency closely follow those of fescue toxicity.
Research has shown that the presence or absence of the endophyte directly affects not only the copper level in fescue, but also the bioavailability of said copper.
Nitrogen Fertilization Related to Copper Levels
However, add to that that the level of nitrogen fertilization has been shown to be directly related to plant copper levels in fescue. In a study conducted in Virginia it was shown that copper concentration in both infected and non-infected fescue increases exponentially in accordance with increased nitrogen fertilization (See Figure 1). Note that endophyte-infected fescue maintains lower copper levels than non-infected fescue, but that both are equally affected by presence of nitrogen fertilization. Nitrogen is important in the plants’ ability to assimilate copper.
So what does all of this mean?
This is a case of “pay me now or pay me later”. If economics prevent you from properly applying fertilizer to fescue pastures or hay fields, know that the copper levels in these resulting forages (pasture or hay) will be especially low. Under these circumstances, supplementation with a highly fortified mineral supplement will be critical to maintain acceptable performance. Compounding a lack of fertilization with a lack of proper mineral supplementation can result in profound consequences for years to come including: unthrifty calves that do not grow well, open cows at preg check time and delayed breeding in replacement heifers and bulls, resulting in reduced lifetime productivity.
How Can I Provide Enough Copper for My Cattle?
The key in providing adequate copper is to provide access to a self-fed mineral supplement that contains sufficient copper. The amount that is sufficient will vary according to current mineral status of your cattle, soil mineral levels, season, breed of cattle, etc. Do not skimp on mineral supplementation during spring and summer months when forages are green.
In summary, copper deficiency is closely related to the development of fescue toxicity symptoms in endophyte-infected fescue. Lack of nitrogen fertilization exacerbates the copper issue as nitrogen is needed for the plant utilize copper in its own tissues. If fescue forages have not received recommended levels of nitrogen fertilization, it is especially critical that you provide a high quality mineral supplement containing adequate copper. CRYSTALYX® offers a variety of supplement blocks formulated specifically for fescue forages. Visit www.crystalyx.com to learn more.
Taken from Dennis, et. al. Influence of Neotyphodium coenophialum on Copper Concentration in Tall Fescue. J. Anim. Sci. 1998. 76:2687-2693
We’re excited to begin communicating with customers on the Block Blog! Our goal is to share timely information and to provide information to help you manage your livestock operation.
On these pages you’ll find information on nutrition related topics, strategies for improving animal performances and efficiencies, and methods for increasing profitability.
One of our primary areas of interest is supplementation that will help you get more from your forages and pastures – resources you already have. We’ll focus on ways to help optimize your returns on land, time, labor and capital to keep you competitive in a changing livestock industry.
We have made significant investments in Research and Development. Some of our blog topics may include these findings that support our recommendations. Others may simply offer a better understanding of a topic from a nutritional point of view.
Seven members of our technical staff, identified below, will contribute to this blog. Our technical team works closely with producers, our sales team, dealers and distributors in providing nutritional solutions over a wide variety of product applications, geographies, forage types and production systems.
These bloggers are located throughout the U.S., so you can be confident that we can assist you with your nutritional needs regardless of where you live. You’re invited to submit questions or comment on blog posts at any time.
Jackie Nix, MS
Education: BS Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA; MS Clemson Univ., Clemson, SC
Past livestock industry work experience: Cooperative Extension agent, eastern North Carolina 1994-2000
A description of yourself and your work interest: Jackie is a native of eastern Ohio. Upon finishing up her education she worked for 6 years with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service as a county agent where she developed an expertise in goat production. Now Jackie offers technical support for CRYSTALYX® products with a special emphasis on educational support. She also has quality assurance duties.
What motivates me: I am a proud member of the animal science industry. I am not only committed to my role in producing the safest, most economical human food in the world, but also in defending agriculture and telling the agriculture story to those with non-agriculture backgrounds.
Teri Walsh, MS
Education: BS in Animal Science, MS in Animal Science Ruminant Nutrition, South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD
Past livestock industry work experience: Southern University Agricultural Research and Outreach Center, Baton Rouge, LA, Research Associate 2003-2007
A description of yourself and your work interest: Teri is a native of western Iowa. Following her graduate program at SDSU, she worked for 4 years at the Southern University Ag Center with emphasis on small ruminants and small farmers. Today Teri’s interests center on ruminant nutrition (large and small), technical support for producers as well as working with our plants to ensure safe, dependable and consistent products.
What motivates me: I’m motivated by a love for raising livestock. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to grow up on a livestock operation in small town Iowa. Now I’m in a position to work with producers across the country to find a product that will enhance their livestock’s performance and profitability. It’s great to be able to give back to and work in an industry that’s near and dear to me.
Jon Albro, MS
Education: B.S. Animal Science; University of Nebraska-Lincoln; M.S. Ruminant Nutrition; Oregon State University-Corvallis
Past livestock industry work experience: Dairy Research Assistant – University of Idaho; 1992-1993. PM Ag Products, Sales & Marketing Positions – Pacific Northwest, California, Texas, and Corporate Office in Illinois; 1993-1997. Ridley Block Operations - Account Manager; 1997-present.
A description of yourself and your work interest: I have been involved in the Feed business for 18 years and have had great experiences all across the United States and Canada. My educational experience involved supplement strategies to improve forage utilization in beef cattle, and that same discipline has carried into my Feed Industry experience. Supporting the sales and marketing of free-choice block supplements has been my main career focus working with Ridley Block Operations.
What motivates me: Customers in the livestock business and the feed business it supports are my career motivators. Not many people in North America devote so much time and effort to their business as do those in the livestock industry. It’s truly a way of life. I have lived and worked in rural America and the animal agriculture industry my entire life. I enjoy the process of our business; manufacturing and selling, but the most rewarding of all is to see our customers succeed in part by our efforts.
Tim Clark, MS
Education: MS in Dairy Science/Ruminant Nutrition at University of Kentucky, Lexington KY
Past livestock industry work experience: Doboy Feeds, New Richmond, WI, Lead Nutritionist; Clark Dairy, Battle Creek, IA, owner; Gray Hawk Dairy, McKee, KY, herdsman and employee manager
A description of yourself and your work interest: Tim grew up on a dairy and beef farm in Kentucky. His Masters research focused on mineral metabolism, specifically the role of copper in immune function and reproduction of ruminants. He spent 10 years in dairy production managing and then owning a dairy prior to entering the feed industry. His roles in the feed industry have focused on technical and sales support for nutritionists and sales consultants as they develop programs that help beef and dairy producers improve profitability.
What motivates me: I look forward to the challenge of helping our customers expand the products, programs and services they offer that generate higher returns for their beef and dairy producers. My focus is improving income over feed cost through greater forage utilization and improving animal health thus enhancing efficiency by producing more pounds with fewer inputs.
Mark Robbins, MS
Nutritionist, Research and Nutrition Services Manager
Education: South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD. Both BS, Animal Science ‘84 and MS, Ruminant Nutrition ‘94
Past livestock industry work experience: Manager for 8 years at the SDSU Research Feedlot, Brookings SD. Research and Nutrition Services Manager for 16 years with Ridley Block Operations.
A description of yourself and your work interest: Mark was born and raised on a grain and livestock farm in Eastern South Dakota. Early on in his career his interests were with feedlot nutrition and management. For the past 16 years with Ridley, his focus has been with cow-calf and grazing animal nutrition, specifically with self-fed supplements. Today, Mark lives in Northeast Wyoming, and offices in Whitewood, SD.
What motivates me: I am motivated by the knowledge that there is an easier and often better way to supplement grazing animals. Let’s embrace new technology to make our lives better. There was a time when all you had to do, to get ahead, was work hard. Today you also need to work “smart”.
Dan Dhuyvetter, MS, Ph.D.
Ruminant Nutritionist, Director of Marketing, R&D and Nutrition Services
Education: BS: North Dakota State University, MS: Montana State University, Ph.D.: New Mexico State University
Past livestock industry work experience: NDSU Extension Service as an Asst. County Extension Agent, County Extension Agent, Area Grazing and Livestock Specialist and State Beef Cow-Calf Nutritionist. Beef Cow-calf Nutritionist with Farmland Industries. Southern Operations Manager with Ridley Block Operations.
A description of yourself and your work interest: Dan is a native of North Dakota where he spent 12 years in the Extension service with county, area and state-wide appointments before entering the Feed Industry. His interests have been focused on grazing ruminants and his Ph. D. research looked specifically at the effects of nutrition on reproduction in beef cows. Today Dan is involved with the process of developing CRYSTALYX® products, introducing them to the marketplace and then maintaining their consistency and performance in the field.
What motivates me: I am continually looking for ways to create value for our customers. In particular I want to help cow-calf producers and stocker operators improve their efficiencies by providing free-choice supplement solutions that help get more from their forages. Greater, livestock performance, greater production efficiencies, greater returns.
Lately, the question of the merits of injectable mineral supplementation has come up. Sometimes producers get conflicting information from their veterinarian vs. their feed supplier which can be very confusing. Let me take this opportunity to shed some light on this issue.
Some mistakenly think that injectable supplements can take the place of daily oral supplementation; however, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Most injectable supplements will only increase serum levels of the target minerals for a period of hours to days. They will have varying efficacy in increasing body stores of the target minerals and even these results will be relatively short-lived. Injectable organic minerals can have variable efficacy vs. orally delivered organic minerals too. Because the turnover rates of most minerals targeted for supplementation are moderately high, injectable supplements would need to be administered on a frequent, regular basis to be effective. The obvious disadvantages to this would be the added labor and animal stress related to running them through a chute to be injected. Additionally, each needle prick gives rise to possible needle site lesions and associated discounts from packers. Another point to consider is that injectable supplements do not provide essential macro-nutrients like phosphorus, magnesium, protein, etc. So for these reasons, it is essential to provide daily access to quality oral mineral supplementation.
So where do injectable mineral supplements fit? I see the greatest application for cattle that are already being worked in chutes that could benefit from additional supplementation (receiving cattle, sick pen, breeding, etc.). These would be of greatest benefit to cattle whose appetites are depressed due to stress and/or illness that would be least likely to ingest minerals via traditional supplementation methods (barrels, blocks, loose mineral, complete feed, etc.). Injectable mineral supplements could increase serum minerals levels until their appetites increase and they are eating proper amounts of feed supplements again.
Another misconception is that if one uses injectable mineral supplements that one can back off on the fortification levels in oral supplementation and still attain the same production levels. Remember, the effects of injectable supplements are short-lived. Unless you plan to inject these animals every week, you still need to maintain fortification levels in your current oral mineral supplementation program to maintain production.
CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements offer a wide variety of highly palatable, self-fed mineral supplements. Mineral supplementation comes in a variety of fortification levels to meet differing production needs. These are also coupled with a variety of protein, energy and medication options to provide “all-in-one” supplement options. Contact us at www.crystalyx.com for more information or to speak to a nutritionist for more specific questions.
When was the last time, you knew ahead of time, that your car would run into the ditch, in a blizzard? Or maybe, you absolutely knew that the Tornado warning on the radio was for a tornado that was headed directly at your home? I’m guessing these events have never occurred with certainty. That is why you may pack a survival kit in your car every winter, or why you head for the basement or some other tornado shelter, when you hear the warnings. If possible, many of us purchase insurance to protect against such unknown events. You make certain choices in life, to be prepared, just in case…….
When was the last time that you knew in February, that your newborn calves would break with scours, during a late March blizzard? When was the last time you knew in March, that Summer would bring another drought? Or, that the plentiful green grass you were counting on to put lost condition on your cows, would not be there this year. You can make certain choices in life, to be prepared, just in case…….
Is your cow herd prepared for what Mother Nature throws at them every Spring? Are they prepared for what Mother Nature may throw at them this Spring and Summer?
You may ask, “How do I prepare for the unknown threat or risk ?”
The answer is below in the Safety Pyramid of reducing hazards. Figure 1, illustrates that there could be 115,000 possible hazards, in one year, at a particular company. These unsafe acts likely lead to 11,500 close calls. These close calls translate into 1,150 recordable injuries, 115 of which are lost time injuries. On average, 115 lost time injuries can lead to 4 fatalities. Obviously the company would like to avoid the lost time injuries and fatalities, but they cannot simply zero in on them, as they cannot possibly see them before they happen. Sound familiar ?
What all companies do with a safety program, is target the 115,000 unsafe acts, as those ultimately lead to lost time injuries and fatalities. You work with the entire workforce, versus just the ones that may have a lost time accident or fatality.
You can apply this to your cow herd too. Look at figure 2. If you have a herd of 100 cows to be bred this Spring/Summer, you could likely have 1,000 threats to the entire herd, due to sub-optimum nutrition. That is just 10 situations per cow, that may cause her not to breed back in 1 of 3 cycles. Because of these fertility threats, perhaps half the cows do not settle in the first cycle, and half of those, miss the 2nd cycle. If half of those do not get bred after 3 breeding cycles, 12% of your herd is open. Later that summer, if nutrition is still sub-optimum, you could have 3 cows abort. Suddenly, you have 15% of your herd open. Today, that could be worth $15,000 when you sell your calves.
Again, you cannot specifically just target those 12 cows that will be open in September no more than you can identify the 3 that will abort. You have to prepare all cows for the 1,000 threats. CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements are an easy way to affordably provide protein, trace minerals, vitamins and phosphorus in a supplement block that’s available 24/7, while minimizing your investment in time, labor and equipment. Use CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements as insurance to maximize the breed-up on your cow herd.
We have just gotten by the holidays and some of the Southern States and Purebred breeders are starting their calving for the new year. Others may be waiting a few months before spring calving starts or they may even wait for pastures to green up before calving begins. It is a critical time to make sure your cows are consuming their vitamin and mineral supplements to help cows enter calving on a high plane of nutrition, including their vitamin and mineral status.
We can break down the type of minerals into Macro and Micro, or sometimes called “Trace” minerals. Macro minerals such as Phosphorus, Calcium, Sulfur, Magnesium and Potassium are regulated in a different manner than are Trace minerals such as Copper, Zinc, Manganese or Selenium. For the most part Macro minerals are controlled homoeostatically whereby the body looks to maintain them at an equilibrium or balance in a normal physiological state.
Trace minerals on the other hand have been described by R. J. Van Saun, 2007, from the Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences at Penn State Univ., to be controlled through movements in “pools” within the body. What this means is that trace minerals are often associated as a component in one of several types of pools. They can be associated with metalloenzymes or a biochemical function pool, transported by carrier proteins as part of a transport pool, or stored as a metal complex, referred to as storage pools. The body will try to maintain the necessary levels of activity or biological processes that these pools support depending upon the nutritional status of the animal.
When diets are properly fortified, excess trace minerals will be stored and can help maintain these pools for optimum biological functions. When diets are deficient, or mineral antagonists are present in the diet, trace mineral stores from the liver will be mobilized to help maintain the biological and biochemical pool activities they support. This will take place until nutritional status increases or trace mineral excretion is reduced so that mineral retention is improved.
By looking at trace mineral status in this manner we can describe mineral deficiency in 4 phases:
1) Depletion – loss of mineral in storage
2) Deficiency – loss of mineral in the transport pool
3) Dysfunction – compromise of the function pool
4) Disease -- clinical signs associated with reduced function of a metalloenzyme
Subclinical disease occurs in the Dysfunction and Disease phases. These can be observed as reduced growth rates, or reproductive efficiency, compromised immune function or other decreases in production performance or health status. This is why nutrition prior to calving is critical in producing healthy calves in addition to cows cycling on time and breeding early in the breeding season.
If we look at a few key nutrients it further supports the need to stay on top of your mineral and vitamin supplementation all the way through the winter. It has been found in several studies that maternal liver trace mineral concentrations are lower than fetal liver trace mineral levels. These fetal liver trace mineral concentrations have been reported in some cases to be more than twice that of their dams. It is interesting that there must be some mechanism for the dam to preferentially allow for greater storage in the fetus than in her own liver.
It is interesting to note that milk does not provide adequate supplies of Copper, Iron, Zinc or Selenium to meet calf requirements. Newborn calves will rely on liver stores until their diet can help meet requirements. This may take weeks or months before any significant contribution can come from the diet in beef calves raised on pastures. This is not the case for fat soluble vitamins such as Vitamin A and E. These vitamins are primarily supplied via the colostrum upon calving. This makes nutrition prior to and after calving extremely important for the cow herd. Important prior to calving because key trace minerals are stored in the liver of the fetus and equally important after calving as key vitamins and selenium that are delivered via the colostrum.
As you can see, if you want to minimize calf health challenges, maximize reproductive efficiencies and optimize calf growth, don’t let your mineral and vitamin nutrition fall short prior to calving. Deficiencies prior to calving can easily decrease the Trace mineral pools that help make sure fetal liver stores will help them in the first few months of life. Don’t let your mineral feeders go empty if you’re using a dry granular mineral program. CRYSTALYX® also offers mineral formulations or the Breed-Up product line that is specifically fortified for cows prior to calving up to breeding.
As we are finishing harvest, it is a good time to consider what needs to be done this Fall to keeping your beef cow herd profitable. The economic impact of using information from this “To Do” list is more critical this year due to the higher forage and feeding cost caused by the drought.
Pregnancy Check Cows
Estimates of $500 to $550 per year to maintain a beef cow are common. If a cow is not producing a calf, she is a liability and non-productive asset. Cull cow prices are best early in the fall and then decline into the winter. This is a year where you will benefit by early culling by getting a better price and limiting the amount of feed invested in cull cows.
Not only take a physical count of hay supplies but take some samples of the different cuttings to group your hay by nutrient content and quality. Work with a nutritionist to get representative samples of the hay and use the results to determent what cattle will be fed the different hays and how to best supplement that group.
Body Condition Score Cows
Due to declining pasture quality with the drought there may be some cows and especially first calf heifers that may be too thin and are at risk for lower pregnancy rates next spring. Cows with a BCS of 4 or less will have pregnancy rates in the 70% range compared to over 90% for cows with BCS of 5 or greater. The Crystalyx® Beef Cow Body Condition Score App is an excellent tool to generate a pictorial history of cow BCS to help you best manage your herd and feed resources.
Group Cows According to BCS
This may be a year where having multiple beef cow feeding groups will result in better allocation of limited forage resource and better animal performance through targeted supplementation strategies. Grazing corn stalks is an excellent way to extend the grazing season for cows in good body condition. Protein content of crop residue is low and feeding a self-fed supplement like Crystalyx® BFG™ 30 is an excellent way to provide additional protein and improve digestibility for a low cost per head per day feeding program.
Cows or heifers that are thinner than desired may require some higher quality forage or supplemental energy and protein from higher intake sources. Often a mineral type supplement such as Mineral-Lyx® or Crystal-Phos® can be used to deliver mineral and vitamins.
Review Production Records
Evaluate cow performance compared to the rest of the herd? Evaluate your records to answer 3 questions;
1 How many pounds of calf did she produce for me this year?
2 What part of the calving season did she calve in?
3 How is this year compared to past years? This last question may reveal that she is falling later and later into the calving season and becoming less productive.
This Fall “To Do” list will provide you with the information you need to make informed decisions about your feeding program, supplement needs and culling decisions. The profit potential for the cow calf sector has probably never been better! Keeping profitable cows in your herd will make it easier to reach your financial goals now and into the future.
We are still a long way off from knowing the final effects of the most widespread drought in the United States in more than 50 years. Given current market volatility and fears of feed shortages, it only makes sense to do everything in your power to make the most of available feedstuffs. Below are a list of tips that can help you make the most efficient use of available feed.
1. Reduce the amount of wasted forages.
You can do this by utilizing more efficient methods to feed hay (for instance use of a hay ring instead of a free-standing round bale). Another method to reduce waste is use of CRYSTALYX® brand supplements to draw livestock into underutilized areas of pasture to assure maximum grazing coverage. Additionally, studies have shown that use of CRYSTALYX® brand supplements helps rumen microbes more efficiently utilize available forages.
2. Treat all animals for parasites.
Now is the time to get aggressive in ridding your animals of both internal and external parasites. Deworm, treat for coccidia and maintain adequate fly and tick control (see Figure 1). You want to make sure that available forages, feeds and supplements go toward supporting your livestock, not parasites.
3. Have all hay forage tested.
This relatively inexpensive tool will allow you to better allocate available hay to the animals that need it the most. By knowing the nutritional value of available hay, you will be able to make more informed buying decisions when it comes to purchase of supplemental feedstuffs. Contact your local Cooperative Extension agent or feed store employee for more information about forage testing services.
4. Cull unproductive animals.
If she didn’t give you a calf/kid/lamb this year, now is not the time to give her “one more chance”. Don’t carry livestock that don’t fit into your genetic parameters. Better to use available feed resources to support superior genetics than to keep mediocre breeding animals.
5. Use high quality mineral supplements to fill gaps created by commodity feedstuffs.
Tight feed markets are going to increase use of “opportunity feeds”. These are the commodity items that you’ve probably not used in the past but are tempted to use now based on availability, price or both. One of the downsides of utilizing these types of feedstuffs is that while they may contain very high levels of one or more nutrients (i.e. protein), they lack other key nutrients (i.e. trace minerals) and are not balanced. Without the benefit of a high quality supplement, like one of the CRYSTALYX® Breed-Up® supplements, to offset potential imbalances, production is likely to suffer in the long run. Fall and winter are critical times in the production cycle, as most livestock are pregnant. Proper mineral and vitamin nutrition directly affects the developing calf/kid/lamb as well as the dam’s ability to rebreed in a timely manner.
Figure 1. Each horn fly feeds on the host 10 to 38 times per day. Excessive horn fly infestations tax cattle already stressed by heat and limited feed resources and result in lowered milk production, reduced growth and lowered reproductive efficiency.
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.
I’ve been fortunate over the years to work with a lot of good sales people and producers in the field of Animal Nutrition and have learned a great deal from the many professionals in our industry. Whether you are a rancher, farmer, feed professional or involved at any other level of food production in the U.S., you’ve had to learn basic fundamentals of your business and practice them to be successful. Below I’ve listed what I consider to be three fundamental reasons CRYSTALYX® is successful, and made reference to some past research. Much of these areas have been discussed in more detail in past blogs here on www.crystalyx.com.
CRYSTALYX® Fundamental Number 1: Forage utilization
The word supplement means to improve, help, or make better. This is what CRYSTALYX® does for forage, especially low quality forages. What 0.75 pounds of CRYSTALYX® does to stimulate fiber digestibility, increase rate of passage, and improve rumen microbial activity and turnover is classic in terms of what protein supplementation does for utilization of low quality forages. This is supplement strategy. The benefits are greater intake of the forage fraction of the diet; which means more energy intake all because of a little protein supplement. Nutritionists call this Positive Associative Effects. A Cowman calls it better feed efficiency and the cow herself will call it maintaining Body Condition. One CRYSTALYX® study conducted at Kansas State Univ. in 1997 measured a 19% increase in dry matter intake which translated to a 26% increase in digestible energy intake of steers on low quality forage (< 6% Crude Protein and >70% neutral detergent fiber). Again, in cow language, this is more energy from low quality forages. With the ongoing drought, high forage cost and a limited supply, every stem of fiber is important.
Crystalyx Fundamental Number 2: Predictable Intake for the ideal delivery mechanism of self-fed supplements
Have you ever heard the adage, “A supplement is only as good as it is consumed?” CRYSTALYX® being a molasses based supplement is very palatable and cattle will seek it out and consume it consistently on a daily basis. Research has proven it’s a great tool to use in attracting cattle to underutilized rangeland/pastureland (when placed farther from water or in difficult terrain) and that cattle prefer CRYSTALYX® over salt and dry mineral when given the choice. Consistent intake makes CRYSTALYX® an attractive supplement in managing costs, and in offering supplemental additives such as feed through fly control compounds (Altosid® or Rabon® Oral Larvacide) or the Ionophore Bovatec® for improved feed efficiency. In addition to consistent intake, CRYSTALYX® is fed with virtually no waste and very low time and labor inputs.
Fundamental No. 3 -- Herd health and Productivity
More recent research and production applications with weaning/receiving beef cattle and in dairy production have shown the health benefits of CRYSTALYX®. When animals are stressed they don’t eat as well putting them at risk for immune suppression, disease and poor performance. It has been well noted that when CRYSTALYX® Brigade® for beef cattle or Transition Stress Formula™ for dry and fresh dairy cows has been fed, a positive intake of the basal diet dry matter occurs. CRYSTALYX® does not replace anything in the basal diet but it will provide important nutrients during stress periods and can help stimulate appetite. It only makes sense that when cattle consume feed better there is less sickness, less death loss, and more efficient performance.
These are some of the fundamental features and benefits of CRYSTALYX® programs. With better forage utilization, consistent intake, and positive health benefits, CRYSTALYX® performs. Its reputation and success would not have lasted over 30 years if it didn’t. Mother Nature always has challenges for beef producers and 2012 is obviously no different. Put CRYSTALYX® to work in your herd and help manage the fundamentals of your business.
When in a drought situation, thoughts turn immediately to pastures. However water quality can drop off just as quickly during extended periods of hot, dry weather. Water is often the forgotten nutrient. We take it for granted that if there’s water available in the pen or pasture, that the livestock are set.
Following hot, dry, still days, you’ll see ponds, stock dams and a few water tanks with a layer of scum or be completely green in color. This scum/green color is blue-green algae, photosynthetic bacteria also known as cyanobacteria. As the water temperature rises, the cyanobacteria will bloom, causing the noticeable changes. Drought conditions increase the likelihood of a bloom. This year couples low water levels with high temperatures making ideal conditions for cyanobacteria.
photo from: http://ks.water.usgu.gov/studies/qw/cyanobacteria.
Cyanobacterial blooms are harmful to livestock. As the cyanobacteria grow, they store toxins, which are released in the water when they die. There are 2 types of toxins that are associated with blooms, neurotoxin and hepatotoxin. Neurotoxin poisoning is fast acting (15-20 min) and ultimately ends in death. Hepatotoxin (liver) poisoning is much slower acting (a few hours to a day) and is survivable, but the animals will be chronic poor doers. Unfortunately dead animals are often the first sign that there is a problem with cyanobacteria.
However, the toxins are only half of the problem. This scummy, green water tastes and smells bad, which could cause livestock to avoid water altogether. If this is the only water source, livestock are then facing dehydration. When water intake drops off, so does dry matter intake and it’s a downhill slide with all production.
photo from: http://wacf.com.
Fortunately there is a silver lining. There are several practices to prevent cyanobacteria; aeration, aquatic dyes, copper sulfate, straw mats and barley straw to name a few. Contact your local Cooperative Extension Service office for advice on the best prevention plan for your operation.
Nutritionists, along with producers, are always on the lookout for the next big thing to really improve livestock performance. In the case of nutritionists, we’re looking for products that pack a bigger nutritional punch per pound. Organic trace minerals are one of those advances that do bring a little more to the table. But what is an organic trace mineral?
Organic trace mineral refers to a mineral that is bound to a carbon-base molecule; think back to chemistry class, organic versus inorganic. Trace minerals by themselves are inorganic by definition. Binding them to a carbon-based molecule makes them organic. This classification has nothing to do with the USDA definition of organic.
Organic trace minerals have been available since the 1970’s. There are a handful of companies who make and market organic trace minerals. The difference between them is to what the trace mineral is bound. The trace mineral could be bound to an amino acid complex, a protein, a large sugar or a specific amino acid (all carbon-based molecules). There is some debate as to which type of bound trace mineral is the most bioavailable (readily absorbed), but that’s a topic for another time.
Why feed an organic trace mineral? Availability. If we consider traditional trace mineral sources, such as copper sulfate or zinc sulfate, to be 100% available to the animal, then an organic trace mineral is 105%+ available. The fact that the organic trace mineral is bound to a carbon-based molecule makes all the difference. Think of it in terms of tickets to a game. If you buy your ticket ahead of time, you can walk right up to the gate and move through. The gut, like the ticket taker, is picky about what it lets pass through, having a trace mineral bound to something like an amino acid, sugar, etc. allows the trace mineral to move right through.
The flip side of this is having to buy your ticket at the game. You will still get in, but you’ll just have to wait in a few lines first. Sulfate and oxide trace mineral sources cannot move across the gut wall as they are. They have to have a carrier (ticket) to escort them through. There are lots of places for them to bind to a carrier, however, trace minerals often share the same carrier and so there is more waiting.
The advantage of including organic trace minerals is most often seen in stressed calves and breeding cattle (cows and bulls). When cattle are stressed, regardless of the cause or when high production demands are needed, adequate trace mineral nutrition is vital. Copper and zinc are essential for immune response, as illness is often followed by stress. In breeding cattle, copper and zinc are essential for reproductive performance and are also important for hoof health.
CRYSTALYX® offers 18 products with organic trace minerals for dairy cattle, beef cattle, horses, sheep and goats. Whether you choose a mineral or protein block, your livestock will benefit from the proven reliable intake and palatability that CRYSTALYX® is known for with the added nutritional benefit of organic trace minerals. For more information on any CRYSTALYX® product, see the search options above or contact your CRYSTALYX® representative.
Vitamin D is often known as the “sunshine vitamin” because it is synthesized in response to exposure to sunlight. There are two major natural sources of vitamin D, cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) and ergocalciferol (vitamin D2). Vitamin D3 is synthesized in the skin of many herbivores and omnivores upon exposure to UV light from sunlight. Vitamin D2 is not found in green forages, but is formed when the dying leaves are exposed to sunlight. Thus, sun cured hay is a good dietary source of vitamin D2. Livestock utilize vitamin D3 much more efficiently than vitamin D2.
What Does Vitamin D Do?
Vitamin D is a precursor to a steroid hormone, calcitrol, which primarily functions to control the calcium and phosphorus balance in the body. Calcitrol helps determine the amount of calcium and/or phosphorus deposited or depleted from the bones as well as the plasma levels of both minerals. Vitamin D has also been reported to be involved in magnesium absorption.
Vitamin D deficiency results in rickets. Less severe symptoms include decreased appetite, reduced growth rate, stiff gait, labored breathing, weakness and tetany. Since vitamin D is so crucial in the utilization of calcium and phosphorus, deficiency often mimics deficiency of these two minerals.
Vitamin D Requirements
Most livestock do not have a nutritional requirement for vitamin D as long as they have access to adequate sunlight. Vitamin D becomes an important issue in the absence of sufficient UV radiation from sunlight. Radiation that reaches the earth contains only a small part of the UV range that promotes formation of vitamin D. This UV radiation is more potent in the tropics than towards the poles; more potent in summer vs. winter; more potent at noon vs. morning or evening and more potent at higher elevations. The best time for vitamin D production is between 10 am and 2 pm.
However, natural vitamin D production can be limited by several factors. These include confinement, seasonal periods of low light (more pronounced in Northern latitudes during winter months), extended cloud cover, and limited exposure of skin to sunlight (for example, sheep with full fleece or horses with blankets) and even coat and skin color (irradiation is less effective on dark-pigmented skin).
Lack of UV exposure can be compensated for with adequate amounts of sun-cured hay. However; like vitamins A and E, unless vitamin D is stabilized it is destroyed by oxidation. This oxidative destruction is accelerated by heat, moisture and trace minerals.
Why Supplement Vitamin D?
Given the critical role of vitamin D in calcium and phosphorus metabolism, it is not worth the risk of relying solely on naturally derived sources of vitamin D. Dietary supplementation of vitamin D acts to prevent devastating production losses. Just like you pay for auto insurance every month even though you will go through the majority of your life not getting into an accident, supplementing vitamin D, even though it may not be needed a majority of the time, will prevent catastrophic losses during the periods when vitamin D is lacking.
Dietary supplementation will be most critical in confined livestock (think dairy cattle or stalled horses and show animals) or those covered with barriers to skin exposure to UV light (think full fleece on sheep or horses covered in blankets). Special consideration should be given to added vitamin D levels in feeds and supplements for these groups. The second group most susceptible to deficiency would be grazing livestock in Northern latitudes during winter months. Livestock have limited capacity to store vitamin D and the short daylight hours will limit exposure to sufficient UV light.
Up until recently, the cost of adding vitamin D was minimal. Vitamin D was often used as a means to enhance the look of a product tag due to its relative low cost. However, given that the vitamin markets have taken a sharp upturn, you may notice that the vitamin D levels of some of your favorite supplements may have fallen. In most cases this should not be a concern (unless you have livestock in the susceptible situations listed above). As stated earlier, many had been “over formulating” for vitamin D for years due to its low cost.
If you have any questions regarding vitamin D levels in your current supplement program, contact the Ridley Block Operations nutritional staff at 1-800-869-7219. You can also learn more about the wide variety of supplement options available at www.crystalyx.com .
Jackie Nix is an animal nutritionist with Ridley Block Operations. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once the bulls have been turned out and your herd has settled into their summer grazing routine, it’s easy to overlook some of the more obvious management clues when monitoring your cow herd. Although beef cows can be very forgiving at times, it is much more difficult to catch-up if you avoid timely management corrections. Below are a few summer time management reminders to help you stay on top of your herd and maintain performance that ensures profitable returns.
1. Forage availability: Do your cows have an unlimited supply of forage available for grazing? Depending upon your grazing system, in most situations a good benchmark is to adhere to the rule of “graze half – leave half.” If your pastures are beginning to look like a parking lot, you are probably affecting two things; cow and calf performance in addition to future pasture productivity! Be sure to make timely decisions in moving cattle to new pastures once depleted and/or introduce supplementation programs that maximize forage utilization. The southern U.S. is currently in a severe drought and forage availability will dictate stocking rates, culling rates and supplement programs that are used to best manage the cow herd.
2. Forage quality: As temperatures increase and summer moisture conditions diminish, grasses mature more quickly along with a reduction in forage quality. Protein supplementation is especially helpful when these conditions exist to help maintain both cow and calf performance. The additional protein should be a good source of ruminally degradable protein in order to maximize microbial fermentation. The goal is to maximize fiber digestibility that extracts the full energy potential of forage diet. This is where a little protein can go a long way in maintaining cow weight and body condition.
3. Mineral and vitamin supplement access: Make sure your herd has access to a free-choice mineral and vitamin supplement while on pasture. Many areas of the U.S. or different seasons of the year, lend themselves to nutrient deficiencies that can limit cow herd reproductive efficiencies or negatively impact cow/calf health or performance. Some examples can include:
- Copper deficiencies or antagonisms that reduce trace mineral utilization
- Low Magnesium levels in lush spring pastures or forages high in potassium content that interfere with Magnesium utilization can lead to grass Tetany
- Endophyte infected fescue pastures
- Selenium deficient soils
- Low phosphorus forages
- Water sources that are high in sulfates which can interfere with trace mineral absorption
- Other nutrient imbalances or antagonisms from soil, water or forages
4. Don’t neglect your mineral/vitamin feeders: It is extremely easy to let free-choice mineral feeders go empty for extended periods of time. This causes highly erratic intakes in vitamin and mineral consumption as cattle go without and then over consume when finally given access to fresh mineral. Consistent mineral absorption is better achieved when consumption is also consistent. Large amounts of mineral are wasted via excretion when excessive mineral intakes occur. Make sure free-choice supplements are meeting intake expectations and are available at all times to limit waste and maximize animal performance on pasture.
5. Feed-through fly control: An easy and effective way to manage flies and improve calf weaning weights on pasture is with a feed-through larvacide or insect growth regulator. Although the specific fly species that are controlled will vary depending upon the product, the principle in delivery is the same for each type. Animals need consistent delivery of either larvacide or insect growth regulator to keep adult fly populations in check. This can only be accomplished if the free-choice product that contains these additives is consumed early in the fly season and then consistently provided throughout the fly season without interruption. It is closely related to the previous discussion on free-choice vitamins and minerals as these are used most often as their method of delivery. It is also a great opportunity to use a highly palatable product like CRYSTALYX® low-moisture block supplements because of their ability to provide consistent uniform daily intakes. If you plan to invest in a feed-through fly control program, be sure to manage intakes for optimal performance.
6. Provide a balanced nutrition program: A balanced nutrition program is a key part of maintaining herd health and productivity. While pastures provide much of the dietary requirements for the cow herd certain environmental, seasonal or geographical factors can lend themselves to unique health, performance or reproductive challenges. Most cattlemen will agree that treating cattle on pasture is a labor intense activity that should be avoided whenever possible. Some common health issues where prevention is surely preferable over treatment include: Frothy Bloat, Grass Tetany, Pink Eye or Foot Rot to name a few. Genetic and reproductive goals also influence nutritional program inputs as to the level of supplemental nutrition required to meet the production demands specific to your cow herd. Shorting your herd in nutrient inputs opens the door for these health issues to creep in and chip away at your profitability.
Frequently check your cow herd and pasture conditions to be sure they are meeting your production goals. It is much easier and almost always much more economical to make small, timely adjustments than to wait too long and shift from a preventive mode to a treatment or rescue situation. Long-term profitability is at the top of the list for herd goals and small investments that maintain productivity usually pay dividends at weaning!
1. Forages may be deficient in nutrients that can limit animal performance whether it be cow reproductive efficiencies, calf health, and growth or stocker gains.
2. Stocker cattle and replacement heifers can easily gain up to 10% more on grass if provided a feed additive such as Rumensin®, Bovatec® or GainPro®. There are a number of free-choice delivery methods available that have FDA approval for use in stocker cattle and replacement heifers.
3. A variety of free-choice supplements provide EPA approved delivery of feed-through fly control larvacides or insect growth regulators that can help reduce losses in particular with the presence of horn flies. Some compounds have additional fly specie approval including, stable flies, house flies and face flies.
4. Recent cattle market prices in combination with high grain prices have increased the urgency to get as much gain on forage-based programs as possible prior to cattle arriving in the feed yard. Supplements can greatly assist stocker operators in achieving aggressive weight gain to optimize pasture resources.
5. Free-choice supplement may be strategically located in pastures to help improve forage utilization by getting the most out of your land and forage resources.
6. Early in the growing season, Grass Tetany conditions can result in sudden death losses in mature lactating beef cows. Providing consistent delivery of a readily available Magnesium supplement can help prevent losses from Grass Tetany.
7. Drought conditions, late in the growing season and especially with stockpiled winter pasture, protein content of the forages will most often drop below animal requirements and performance will be reduced. Small additions of protein supplement will improve forage digestibility and prevent animal performance losses.
8. Mineral and vitamin supplementation on pasture is critical for maximizing animal performance and providing nutrients required for maintaining animal health.
9. Organic or chelated forms of trace minerals can be beneficial where there are extreme deficiencies or levels of antagonizing minerals that interfere with the use of trace minerals required for optimum animal performance. Organic forms of Copper and Zinc in a mineral supplement will help overcome mineral antagonists that can be present in certain regions of the country or water sources.
10. High-producing purebred herds will require additional supplemental inputs to ensure that they perform to their genetic potential and maximize reproductive efficiencies. Herds with greater than commercial market value are much more of an investment to protect and ensure that they have every opportunity to pass on their traits whenever possible.