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. Rain, wind and snow can take a toll on your supplementation program if you’re relying on dry minerals.

Compare CRYSTALYX® 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 CRYSTALYX® on a more regular basis as compared to conventional dry mineral.

Click the headlines below to read the full article

Are Your Cattle Getting Adequate Mineral Nutrition?

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.

CRYSTAL-PHOS® Outperforms Dry Mineral All Summer Long

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

CRYSTALYX® Outperforms Loose Dry Mineral

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®?


• 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.


• 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.

Dry Mineral Users Catch Wind of a Better Mineral Supplement: CRYSTAL-PHOS.®

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. 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.

• 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.

Dry Mineral Versus Crystal-Phos®: Test Results Are In

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.

Study Finds Deficiency of Important Trace Minerals May Be Widespread

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.

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.

CRYSTALYX® and the New VFD Rules

By now, more and more producers are learning about the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) that will bring about a change in regulating feed-through antibiotics.  There’s been a lot of recent popular press and blog chatter on this subject.  The intent of the rule, now finalized, isn’t really that different from when it was introduced and debated at the Food and Drug Administration in 2009.  The industry comment period has resulting in some changes related to documentation.   The final rules have been published this year (June), and have already taken affect for some drugs and more (the main ones concerned in cattle feeds) will go into effect on January 1, 2017.

The rationale behind this rule is the concern about the use of antibiotics in livestock feeds, and the potential for being a causative factor to antibiotic resistance in the human population.  Whether you agree with the rule or not, it is going to be the rule that producers, feed producers and veterinarians alike will need to follow.  I’d encourage all feed professionals, veterinarians and producers to study the rule and make a game plan in advance on how to comply and evaluate how the rule may affect your operation.

It’s important to note that this rule is not a ban on the use of antibiotics in feeds, and not all antibiotics will be covered under the rule.  Some labeling of how and for what the antibiotics can be used for will change.  For example feeding CTC for growth promotion will no longer be an approved label.   The antibiotics of concern are those that are “medically important for human use,” meaning antibiotics that can be fed to livestock that are also used in human medicine.  The most significant of these for beef cattle will be tetracyclines such as Chlortetracycline (CTC), Aureomycin and Sulfas.   Ionophores such as Rumensin® and Bovatec®, albeit chemically classified as antibiotics but not used in human medicine, are exempt.

So is CRYSTALYX® affected by this rule?

Directly? No.  CRYSTALYX® is not affected by this rule as the brand has no products that include antibiotics under the rule.  In fact, all but one CRYSTALYX® product to date are non-medicated and the one that is happens to be Iono-lyx® which contains Bovatec®.  You will not need a VFD to feed any CRYSTALYX® product.

Indirectly?  Yes:  CRYSTALYX® products and the nutritional benefits they provide will only become more important to the overall health and performance of livestock.  If our livestock were to rarely get sick or were not put at risk to being sick, there would be no need for antibiotics.  Zero risk may not be reality but better nutrition through proper supplementation can greatly enhance immunity and make vaccine programs more effective.

Get off to a right start with CRYSTALYX®

The most crucial times in livestock production systems would have to be the events involved in a starting phase.  Calves when born need colostrum in the first few hours for passive immunity.  Weaned and receiving calves always perform better and have less sickness if they start consuming feed quickly and get off to a “good start.”  Supplemental nutrition to a cow during pregnancy sets up how well the calf in utero will perform later in life.  This too could be viewed as a “starting point.”  Many CRYSTALYX® products such as Brigade® fed to weaned calves or a product like BGF-30™  used as a  supplement to gestating beef cows help provide the “right start.

Where Do We Go from Here?

Getting a VFD for certain antibiotics to prevent certain problems that have no approved label claim will not be possible.  An example of this would be using CTC to prevent pinkeye or foot rot.  Again, we will not see feed through antibiotics go away, they will just need to be fed under the guidance of a veterinarian with the producer, feed supplier, and veterinarian all keeping records and following rules of the VFD.  CRYSTALYX® has many tools that will only become more helpful in the future.  We will be working with our parent company, Alltech, and have manufactured several products to date containing BioPlex® trace minerals for better mineral absorption, Sel-Plex®, a selenium yeast product that can enhance selenium status and immunity, and Bio-Mos® for better gut health.  The best cure is prevention and CRYSTALYX® can help. Again, no VFD is required with CRYSTALYX®    

Looking ahead, this will only make us better livestock producers.  The goal is to utilize better nutrition and management as to be less dependent on antibiotics.  The European countries are already dealing with these types of rules and practices.  I trust our U.S. industry can handle it too, and only get better.  


Unexpected Lasting Effects of Drought

Thankfully, the drought conditions that most of the US was struggling with is turning itself back around, the western US being the exception of course. Forage is starting to come back and quality is improving, water sources are nearly back to normal. However, one thing that I know I’ve never thought about is what are the lingering effects of drought?

That thought came to me while listening to Dr. Jeff Hall, Utah State University Diagnostic Lab, at the recently held AFIA Liquid Feed Symposium. During his presentation on trends from trace mineral status testing in his lab, he mentioned that they see an increase in the severity of zinc deficiencies in the one to two years following a drought.

Why do we see an increase in zinc deficiencies following a drought? The simple answer is there are changes in the pH of the soil, which affects how plants take up nutrients. We already know that drought causes increased nitrates in crops and forages, now we can add concerns over trace minerals to the list. Additionally, drought is stressful on livestock. When cattle are stressed, their requirements for nutrients increase to help deal with the situation. Stressed cattle tend to eat less, therefore taking in fewer nutrients and deficiencies develop. 

Trace mineral deficiencies cause a number of subclinical problems before they ever show outward signs. As noted in the graph below, by the time clinical signs are seen, you’ve already given up immune function, growth and reproductive performance. Focusing on zinc, that includes poor response to vaccines, enzyme function, testicular health and hoof and skin health.

Combating potential deficiencies from forages can be best achieved through a two-fold approach. First, the best way to know what your cattle are getting from pasture is to have forages tested. Your county extension office or local NCRS office can assist you in proper pasture sampling; ask for results including sulfur, nitrates, zinc, copper, iron, manganese and molybdenum, if they aren’t already included. Sulfur, iron and molybdenum can inhibit absorption of zinc, copper and manganese at high levels.

The second approach is to offer a highly palatable, self-fed supplement at all times. When in a trace mineral deficient situation, cattlemen should consider selecting a supplement with a higher level of trace mineral supplementation (100% NRC or higher), in a ratio that doesn’t promote mineral antagonisms in the gut (Cu:Zn:Mn = 1:3:4).

CRYSTALYX® offers a wide variety of complete mineral and protein supplements to fit this situation. Protein supplements in the Balanced (BGF-20™, BGF-30™) and Premium (Breed-Up®) Lines offer 100% NRC or higher trace mineral levels. When protein is not limited, producers should consider Crystal-Phos® and Phos-Lyx®, for higher trace mineral supplementation in addition to phosphorus. Mineral-Lyx ® also provides fortified trace mineral levels and is ideal when phosphorus is not limiting.

For more information on the products mentioned above, please contact your local CRYSTALYX® dealer, visit our website CRYSTALYX®.com or call 800-727-2502.



Weaning Calves with Brigade® Stress Fighting Formula

Critical Timing for Trace Mineral Status

The old adage of “Timing Is Everything” is very true when it comes to weaning.  Often the timing of management interventions do not line up perfectly with the biology of the animal.  I have heard many people say weaning success is all about having the right weather.  If the weather changes to cold and wet right after weaning, most likely we will have more health issues.  Weather can be a big factor, but the real issue is the stress of weaning occurs at the lowest point of trace mineral status for our calves. 

Liver is the main mineral storage organ for cattle.  Mother Nature has a way of taking care of the next generation.  If the cow is well supplemented during pregnancy she will transfer trace minerals to the developing fetus and the calf will be born with liver levels of copper (Cu), zinc (Zn) and selenium (Se) that are in excess of the maternal liver levels.  However, these calf mineral stores are often depleted by the time weaning occurs. Figure 1 shows the Cu and Zn status of calves at birth, 56 days and weaning.

Adapted from Branum 1999.

Drawing Down The Reserve 

Mineral status declines as the calf pulls from these reserves for maintenance, growth and immune function.  Every time the calf has faced a challenge, be it weather, disease, vaccination or castration these reserves are expended.   Both Cu and Zn are critical for enzyme function related to growth, skin and hair development and mounting an immune response.  Copper is very critical in early life as a key enzyme co-factor in calves being able to breakdown internal brown fat to maintain core body temperature.  Newborn calves that are easily cold stressed is an indication of poor copper status of the calf and dam.  Selenium (Se) is critical for a strong immune system, energy metabolism and prevention of muscular dystrophy.

Building Up the Reserves Has Not Happened by Weaning

This is where the TIMING of the calf’s biology and management intervention do not match.  What has the diet of the calf been since birth?  Milk and grass!  Both are poor source of Cu, Zn and Se, which helps explain the continue decline in status from birth to weaning.   Selenium status was studied by Davis et al. (2005) using blood selenium of the calf.  As with Cu and Zn, the Se status of the newborn calf was adequate at birth, marginal by 30 days and low to deficient by weaning if the cows were receiving Se supplementation from injectable Se or a mineral with sodium selenite. 

At the most stressful time in the calf’s life, we remove them from their mother, place them in a new environment, introduce a new feeding situation and often co-mingle them with other calves all while they are at their lowest trace mineral status since birth.  Preventing clinical disease is a balance between challenge level and resistance level.  At weaning the challenges can be overwhelming and every effort must be made to keep the resistance level as high as possible.

Brigade® Stress Fighter is a unique formula that is highly fortified with chelated trace minerals, vitamins including B vitamins and electrolytes.  Formulation of the supplement and source of the trace minerals are very important.  At this stressful time, we want a nutrient dense formula with trace mineral sources that are highly available.  Consumption is relatively low so each and every lick really counts.  Another way to use CRYSTALYX® Self Fed Supplements as a management tool is to introduce the barrels to the calves a few weeks prior to weaning.  That way the CRYSTALYX® barrel can be one familiar thing for the calves in the weaning pen, much like a security blanket that our children will take when they go off to preschool.

You can find more information about Brigade® under the products tab at  Good luck this weaning season and if you’re using Brigade®, let the weather do what it will.



Salt isn’t Enough for Your Cattle When Optimizing Their Performance

Salt has had an elevated place throughout history. The phrase ‘worth his salt’ can be traced to ancient Rome where soldiers were sometimes paid in salt.  However precious salt is, it’s not enough when it comes to your cattle.

Nearly every cattle producer puts out salt, and some use a colored salt block. When you ask why, nine times out of ten the answer is ‘that’s what dad/grandpa did.’ Salt is very important to livestock and humans alike. It’s the only mineral that we and livestock crave; it’s an intake driver and limiter. However, only providing salt means cattle are missing out on several key nutrients for optimum performance.

We’ve talked a lot about the importance of macro and trace minerals on this blog. Clicking here will take you to all the blogs concerning minerals; clicking here will take you to all the blogs concerning health and/or immunity. Take some time to review them to brush up on the importance of magnesium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, selenium and vitamins. One topic that we haven’t covered as much is the difference in animal performance when you replace your plain salt with a complete mineral supplement.

In 2012, the Noble Foundation conducted a study to compare performance between stocker calves on ryegrass supplemented with plain salt and a second group supplemented with a complete mineral supplement (including salt and vitamins). The calves on the complete mineral outperformed the calves on the plain salt; average daily gains were 0.19 lbs. higher and total gain was 16 lbs. higher.  

Why such a marked difference in performance? Better supplementation. Providing both macro and trace minerals improves rumen efficiency, as well as providing essential components for enzymes and metabolic pathways in the animal. What this ultimately translates to is improved immune function, improved reproductive performance (cows and bulls) and improved rumen function (all noted in previous blogs referenced above).

CRYSTALYX® offers a number of supplements with a complete mineral and vitamin profile. Additionally, we have a product to fit nearly every production scenario, ensuring that your livestock get the proper mineral and vitamin supplementation they need to thrive. Need help selecting the correct barrel? Stop by your local CRYSTALYX® dealer for suggestions, visit our website CRYSTALYX®.com, or call us at 800-727-2502.


Wet Weather Increases Risk of Foot Rot

The incessant rains have made for a wet summer for many cattle producers across the US. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, cattle have to stand in water resulting in more cases of foot rot. Why should you care? Lame cows won’t eat enough and thus won’t make enough milk for calves. Lame calves won’t graze either, resulting in further reduced weight gains. Lame bulls will not travel to seek out females in heat, meaning more open cows at the end of breeding season. Overall, lameness can be very costly in the long run.

Why Does Wet Weather Cause More Foot Rot?

Foot rot is caused by anaerobic bacteria that cannot penetrate intact healthy hoof tissue. However, when cattle continually stand in water and mud, their hooves soften, just like your fingernails after a long bath. Softened hooves are less impervious to punctures and abrasions, thus giving the foot rot bacterium a route into the hoof. Therefore we see more foot rot in herds exposed to long periods of wet weather.

Signs of Foot Rot

Foot rot is first characterized by swelling between the toes. Eventually the skin splits open to reveal necrotic, foul-smelling tissue. The affected foot will be warm to the touch. Cattle often run a temperature and appear lethargic. The initial reddening of the skin is sometimes known as foot scald. If left untreated, the infection may progress up the foot into the joints, tendons and bone. If this occurs, the animal rarely recovers.

Other conditions causing lameness are often misdiagnosed as foot rot. These include: sole ulcers and abscesses, sole abrasions, cuts, punctures and laminitis. Cattle grazing endophyte-infected fescue pastures that have developed fescue toxicity experience a loss of blood circulation to the feet causing lameness, and are sometimes misdiagnosed as having foot rot. For these reasons, it is important to examine the affected animal(s) closely to confirm that the problem is in fact foot rot.


Contagious foot rot is mainly spread by infected animals. The bacterium travels from the infected animal to the soil to non-infected animals. These bacteria can survive in the soil from 1 to 10 months and even longer within the hoof tissues. Problems are usually introduced into a “clean” herd by purchase of an infected animal, mixing “clean” animals with infected animals or by using a facility (such as sale barn) after infected animals. Humans can also spread the disease on their boots or vehicles.


Do not purchase animals from herds that show signs of lameness. Always quarantine new animals (from any source) before introducing them into your herd. If you observe signs of lameness, clean and examine the foot to establish that you are dealing with foot rot. In mild cases topical application of zinc sulfate solutions or other acceptable treatments may be all that is necessary. In severe cases antibiotics may be in order. Consult your local veterinarian for more information about diagnosis and treatment. Cattle that display chronic foot rot symptoms should be culled, as they will act as a reservoir for the foot rot organisms for the entire herd.

Management practices that help reduce hoof damage can help to reduce the incidence of foot rot in your herd. Maintain good drainage in and around watering and feeding areas. You may also think about placing concrete pads in these areas to reduce the amount of mud. Do not utilize sharp gravel in travel lanes. Proper mineral nutrition, especially zinc and copper, can also help to improve hoof integrity and strength and reduce the incidences of foot rot.

Role of Zinc and Copper in Hoof Integrity

Zinc is a critical nutrient involved maintaining hoof tissues, including, but not limited to, stimulating growth, production of keratin (the part that makes the hoof hard), improved wound healing and improved cellular integrity. Zinc-deficient cattle exhibit increased claw and hoof disorders as well as skin disorders and poor wound healing. Improved zinc nutrition has been proven to improve hoof health in deficient animals.

Copper is required for healthy claw horn tissue as well as antioxidant activity. Copper deficiency decreases the structural strength of hoof tissue. Copper deficiency also results in decreased immunity, infertility and decreased growth.  

Natural deficiencies in most soils as well as high levels of antagonists make proper supplementation of zinc and copper extremely important for all cattle. Cattle producers who have observed lameness in their cattle should consider use of one of the CRYSTALYX® Breed-Up® supplements. 

CRYSTALYX® Breed-Up® supplements help combat existing deficiencies by delivering 200% of NRC-recommended levels of copper and zinc, including highly available, organic forms of copper, zinc, manganese and cobalt. This combination helps cows build adequate body stores needed not only for hoof health, but also for optimum growth, calf development, lactation and rebreeding.

 In summary, foot rot increases during prolonged wet weather. There are many management practices that you can employ to reduce the incidences of foot rot on your farm. Included among these is proper supplementation of zinc and copper. Many cattle show deficiency symptoms including: discolored hair coats, slow to shed out of winter coats, depressed immunity, decreased conception rates, increased days open, as well as hoof problems. If your cattle experience any of these symptoms, you should consider use of one of the CRYSTALYX® Breed-Up® line supplements. Ask for CRYSTALYX® by name at your local dealer, or visit to learn more about these and other CRYSTALYX® supplement products for cattle.

Vitamin E, Selenium, and Immune Function

Picking back up on the topic of trace minerals and immune function (review the blog about zinc here and copper here), I’d like to continue the discussion, but focusing on selenium and vitamin E.

First, a little legal copy. The FDA regualtes the amount of selenium that can be supplemented to beef cattle on a per head per day basis. While this level may or may not meet the animals’ needs, we are legally obligated to stay at or below 3 mg per head daily, in a self fed supplement, 0.3 ppm in the total diet. Why you wonder? Selenium is the most toxic of all the trace minerals and excesses are not readily excreted from the body. It can also pose a human health risk as selenium can be stored in muscle and milk.

It’s a safe bet that most producers are familiar with selenium’s influence on reproductive (retained placentas) and muscle (white muscle disease) health. However, what might surprise you is that selenium and vitmain E have very similar functions in the body. So much so that a deficiency of one can be offset by sufficent levels of the other. However, this synergy doesn’t mean that we should over supplement one and under supplement the other.

Like copper, selenium is a key component of an antioxidant enzyme (passive immunity, happens in the background). The enzyme is responsible for breaking down the by-products created during the process of killing pathogens. These by-products are toxic to the immune cells that kill the pathogens as well as other healthy cells. Without the enzyme, the ability of the killer immune cells to function properly is reduced.

Vitamin E has similar functions to seleium (antioxidant) and also functions in the formation of structural components of membranes. Vitamin E is not stored in the body in large concentrations and animal can become deficient when faced with multiple immune challenges. Determining a requirement for vitamin E is difficult due to interrelationships with 5 dietary factors, including selenium. It’s estimated to be between 4.5 to 27 IU per pound of dry matter intake.

CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements offer a wide range of products that include complete trace mineral packages to help support optimal immune function. The Breed-Up® product line includes an elevated trace mineral package (200% NRC recommendations), with chelated/organic trace minerals, to give your cows and calves an extra advantage. If supplemental protein is not needed, Crystal-Phos® and Phos-Lyx® both have elevated levels of trace minerals along with supplemental chelate/organic forms of trace minerals. Not sure what you need? Visit our website,, for more product information, contact your local CRYSTALYX® dealer, or give us a call 800-727-2502.

The Cow-Calf Calendar is Turning from Spring to Summer

For most spring calving herd producers, cows are out on pasture with their calves at side meeting their nutritional needs through grazing.  Little input is required other than a good fence and some supplemental vitamin/mineral nutrition.  Nutritionally it is a very significant time in the cow’s production cycle as they are at a critical point for maintaining a yearly calving interval.  The goal is to have cows bred within roughly 80 days of when they calved in order to maintain this yearly interval which can provide a uniform set of calves to merchandize in the fall or winter months. 

It is tempting to push cows out on grass and for the most part, let them fend for themselves.  However, in order to take full advantage of the current cattle economics, a “low” input approach should not necessarily mean that “no” input is the way to go.  Additional pounds of calf continue to be forecasted as extremely valuable at sale time this fall.  You can negatively impact current year’s production as well as future years production by cutting corners. 

A good mineral/vitamin program can help meet nutritional needs of the cow given the variability that exists in forage quality and quantity over the grazing season.  Because cows need to be bred early to stay on a yearly calving program that allows calves the most days to put on weight, supplements early in the season are critical.  As the grazing season progresses and moisture conditions and grazing pressure varies, access to these supplements helps ensure that adequate nutrients are provided for optimal milk production and calf growth.  The bottom line is that in order to achieve the calf gains and reproductive goals needed for success, mineral/vitamin supplements should be offered when grazing at all times to meet current and future requirements.

As you are providing a summer supplement another area that can add pounds to your calves is the incorporation of fly control into your supplement program.  There are a number of fly larval growth regulator products or larvacides available that can be incorporated into a self-fed program regardless if it is with a dry loose mineral or a low-moisture block like CRYSTALYX®.   By managing fly pressure in your herd you can realize extra calf weight from reduced stress and maintaining grazing time that will more than pay for the fly control program and in many cases, pay for your mineral/vitamin supplement in its entirety.

Consider this a reminder for you to keep the mineral/vitamin supplements out and in front of your herd through the grazing season to allow optimal production and provide the opportunity for your genetics to express themselves in calf growth and cow reproductive performance.  Visit with your local CRYSTALYX® dealer for options that include fly control that will work for you and your grazing program.  Don’t forget that CRYSTALYX® products minimize your labor, time and equipment requirements while providing the most weather resistant delivery in the market.  It’s a great way for you to deliver the nutrition on pasture that will provide substantial returns at weaning!


Beware of Summer Slump

Tall fescue has long been associated with a syndrome known as Summer Slump (a.k.a. Fescue Foot or Fescue Toxicosis). An endophyte fungus within the fescue plant produces alkaloids that cause adverse symptoms including: decreased weight gains, weight loss, decreased feed intake, reduced milk production, higher body temperature, increased respiration rates, rough hair coat, unthrifty appearance, loss of blood flow to extremities, excessive salivation and poor reproductive performance. Symptoms seem to be worst during hot summer months. Table 1 illustrates the differences in weight gain in steers on both high- and low-endophyte fescue diets.


Dealing with Summer Slump

There are several management options available to cattle producers to help lessen the symptoms of Summer Slump:
How Can I Help My Cattle Avoid Fescue Toxicity Symptoms?


Replacement of Infected Fescue Pastures

When attempting replacement, take a "spray-and smother" approach. First spray the infected field with an effective herbicide, second seed a cover crop to smother the field, then reseed with the desired new forage crop. The smother crop should be a fast growing annual forage (millet or sudangrass in the summer, or wheat, rye or oats for fall). It is usually a good idea to renovate small portions of the farm at a time.

Rotating cattle to non-fescue pastures during the hottest periods of the year helps to combat Summer Slump.

Rotation to Non-Fescue Pastures

Rotating cattle off of fescue pastures during hot summer months increases animal performance for several reasons. First, because fescue is a cool-season forage it stops growing during hot summer months. Rotating cattle off fescue onto growing, warm-season pastures simply gives them more to eat. Secondly, high temperatures seem to intensify the negative effects of the endophyte toxins. Moving cattle to non-infected pastures eliminates this interaction. Cattle need to stay off infected-fescue pastures for the entire summer to gain benefits. Taking cattle off for only a few weeks at a time will not greatly reduce summer slump symptoms.


Interseeding infected fescue pastures with legumes helps dilute the total toxins ingested as well as increasing the overall nutritional content in the pasture. These legumes must be managed to allow reseeding each year. And even with special management, many need to be manually reseeded periodically. It is also important to fertilize for the legume (limiting the amount of nitrogen) in order to allow the legumes to thrive.

Mineral Supplementation

Research has shown that copper levels are lower in endophyte-infected fescue vs. endophyte-free fescue when grown under identical conditions. These differences are most pronounced late in the growing season (See Table 2). These findings support observations of decreased copper status in cattle grazing infected fescue. In research conducted in Virginia, cattle grazing endophyte-infected fescue exhibited decreased copper status as opposed to cattle grazing endophyte-free fescue. However, the magnitude of this decrease was greater than the difference between the forages. This demonstrates that the endophyte not only decreases the total amount of copper present in the fescue, but also, negatively affects bioavailability of copper for the animal. This makes sense when you consider that the typical symptoms for fescue toxicosis closely resemble those for copper deficiency. These symptoms include rough, discolored hair coats; winter coats that are slow to shed out; decreased conception rates; increased days open; hoof problems; and depressed immunity. For all of these reasons, lowered copper status plays a large part in the fescue toxicosis syndrome. Proper supplementation with a high copper supplement can help alleviate some of the fescue toxicity symptoms.

Mineral supplementation, especially copper and zinc, can help offset some of the deficiencies caused by fescue forages that contribute to Summer Slump.

Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet that will allow you to avoid the negative effects of the fescue endophyte in all situations. However, by using a combination of the management techniques mentioned above in conjunction with a good mineral/vitamin supplementation program you can reduce the negative impacts of summer slump on your cattle herd. CRYSTALYX® Fescue-Phos®  and CRYSTALYX® Fescue-Lyx®  low moisture mineral supplements provide the high quality minerals and vitamins needed by cattle on fescue forages.

Cattle on fescue pastures that exhibit rough, discolored hair coats (red tinge on black hair or loss of pigment around the eyes); winter coats that are slow to shed; decreased conception rates; increased days open; hoof problems and/or depressed immunity should consider use of one of the CRYSTALYX® Breed-Up® supplements to help combat existing deficiencies. All deliver 200% of NRC-recommended levels of copper and zinc, including highly available, organic forms of copper, zinc, manganese and cobalt. This combination helps cows build adequate body stores needed for optimum growth, calf development, lactation and rebreeding.

When it comes to low moisture blocks, CRYSTALYX® is the industry standard. Visit to learn more about these products or call your local CRYSTALYX® representative.



CRYSTALYX® Categories and Programs, an Overview of the 2014-2015 Season

Late in the summer of 2014, CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements came with a new launch, or better described, a new approach of product programs.  There really wasn’t any new product, except for one; rather a reformulation of a few and a “categorical” look at different programs.  We call this our Economy, Balanced and Premium categories.  There were a few blogs written in the latter half of 2014 that mentioned these product categories so I won’t elaborate on the details of each.

Most of the CRYSTALYX® products available fit into the “Balanced” category. These are products like BGF-30™, and similar products that provided 100% of the trace minerals and vitamins at typical intakes.  And, as would be expected, a high percentage of the volume sold is in this category.

Programs within Categories or Sub-Categories

  • Forage Utilization Programs
  • Mineral Programs
  • Health and Performance Programs

When we speak of CRYSTALYX® programs, I like to further classify products more or less for what they need to do or how they supplement a nutritional program.    One of the main application for CRYSTALYX® is to improve utilization of low quality forages.  Every product in the CRYSTALYX® offering will do this to a certain extent and those at 20% and higher protein are the best choices for low quality forages.

Another sub category would be using CRYSTALYX® as a summer mineral programs.  Over the past several years, producers have been more accepting to using low moisture blocks as free-choice mineral programs.  The reasons are simple, CRYSTALYX® mineral blocks are palatable so intake is assured, plus there is virtually no waste and no special equipment, i.e., mineral feeders.  CRYSTALYX® mineral products are an excellent way to deliver key vitamins and minerals plus some additives.  Both Rabon® and Altosid® (IGR) feed through fly control products can be delivered via CRYSTALYX® mineral supplements too.  The success of these fly control program depends on proper intake and again, CRYSTALYX® can assure that.

Using CRYSTALYX® products that include additives like Bio-Mos®, Tasco® or specific mineral forms can improve health challenges and performance.   Others products like Brigade®, and most of our dairy products serve to help enhance feed intake.  These can provide for shortcomings in individual animal feeding and behavior patterns, and overcome stress that would normally lead to impaired health and reduced performance.

Sales Trends for Premium Products

In the last few years, it’s been refreshing to sell and help promote more awareness for higher valued products, or those within the “Premium” category.  The CRYSTALYX® Breed-Up® line has been sold with a lot of success and great performance reviews from customers.  Better nutrition pays and the additional money spent for the balanced and premium product versus economy is insignificant in comparison to the value received for better performance.

Overall, CRYSTALYX® is designed to have products that truly fit into programs.  Those who sell CRYSTALYX® are very good at fitting the right product into the right situation.  Many products can serve dual purposes or overlap in application; which may be good in many situations simply because not all dealers can inventory all products.  Still, options are available but most CRYSTALYX® dealers are good at inventorying the right products for their specific geography and time of year.  The future looks bright in the beef cattle markets, which would give reason to say that the premium products should be in good demand and fit the best nutritional programs available. 


Have a great and safe summer.  Visit your local dealer or for more information on CRYSTALYX® programs.


Breeding Programs and CRYSTALYX®

The success of the CRYSTALYX® Breed-Up® family of products has been significant, and for a lot of reasons.  One reason is that the Breed-Up® line provides twice the required trace minerals and vitamins for beef cattle at typical intake levels, and this makes sense to provide during the last trimester of pregnancy, and in early lactation when a cow’s nutrient requirements are the highest.   Continuing a high plane of nutrition is important up to and “through the breeding season.” But just when is the breeding season through?  Is it once the animal is bred; is it 45 days, 60 days?  Nutrition post breeding is just as critical, if not more depending on management, types of feedstuffs/forages and/or grazing systems.

Often times conception rates in a beef herd may be just fine but pregnancy rates are not.  What’s the difference and why could the former be good and the later not be?    A common management practice, especially for replacement females, is to dry lot animals during the winter, and have them on a  good plane of nutrition to gain adequately reaching 55-65% +  of their mature weight by breeding time. It’s what happens after breeding and conception that could be affecting overall pregnancy rates.

Chasing Green Grass

In many estrus synchronization and artificial insemination programs, the timing of breeding coincides with pasture turnout onto lush green grass.  Turning cattle out to grass at the time of breeding is an abrupt change in the diet and management system.  Lush green forages are high in protein but overall nutrient intake can be lower (50% of maintenance requirements or less by some estimates).  Lush grass is primarily water, and cattle for a period of time simply don’t consume enough dry matter and have a very high passage rate – thus the term “washy feed” (don’t  get caught behind a cow on this type of grass when she coughs?).  So, there may be a period of time or acclimation period where cattle are in a negative energy balance when they first hit lush green grass.  This can cause fertility issues in “just bred” animals.

During early embryonic development, the growing conceptus (fetus) is very much dependent upon uterine secretions for nutrition before becoming attached to the uterine wall via the placenta.  An abrupt change in diet (from typical dry lot ration to pasture) mentioned above can alter many metabolic functions, not only in digestion but in overall homeostasis, hormonal changes, etc. In beef cattle these insults or abrupt changes can compromise embryonic survival thus lowering overall pregnancy rates or result in cattle breeding “late” on the next cycle.   Many of the mechanisms involved and how nutrition plays a role are unclear but there is much data to support the need for a positive energy balance in pre and post breeding success. 

Where can CRYSTALYX® Help?  CRYSTALYX® Omega-Lyx®  

A common testament we see and hear from successful CRYSTALYX® programs is that of improved reproductive efficiency.  It’s the number one benchmark many herds rely on to measure success. I have had a lot of producers from around the country tell me that when they use CRYSTALYX® Breed-Up® products, or similar products like Crystal-Phos® or Brigade®, they have better performance with intensive breeding programs like embryo transfer and A.I.  It’s hard to pinpoint one specific nutritional factor but several areas of production and nutrition will affect reproductive efficiency that CRYSTALYX® plays a role; body condition score, mineral delivery, forage utilization, etc.

With the above topic of post breeding nutrition, lush grass and breeding challenges therein, we have seen more interest in the CRYSTALYX® product Omega-Lyx®.  Omega-Lyx® has 12% fat and a similar level of trace minerals and vitamins found in the Breed-Up® products.  Feeding this product at breeding and then at green grass turnout could help by providing more energy (from primarily the higher fat level and source of Omega Fatty Acids) and organic trace minerals.  Furthermore, Omega-Lyx® is palatable and cattle will consume it readily once turned out to new pastures.  Green Grass is a tough competitor to free-choice supplements, meaning cattle would rather “chase the green.” Much of this can be improved with a CRYSTALYX® program.

Other Considerations

The above application with CRYSTALYX® Omega-Lyx® may help with intensive breeding programs, especially with replacement heifers.  Mature cows however are not immune to the same problem but if grass tetany is a concern, especially with older heavier milking cows, CRYSTALYX® has several products with added magnesium that should be considered first.

CRYSTALYX® has numerous applications for a variety of situations.  Using the Breed-Up® Products and/or Omega-Lyx® post breeding may help overcome some of the nutritional challenges on fresh pasture and result in better breeding efficiency.




CRYSTALYX® - The Game Changer

This may show that I watch a little too much reality TV, or, as a Friend calls it, “Far from reality TV”, but, I many times hear the phrase “this is a game changer”. People mining for gold in Alaska, may bring some new equipment or technology into play, and they proudly state, “This, is a game changer”, hoping to strike it rich.

In the beef production industry, we have many potential game changing decisions every year.  While we also have many decisions that are much less impacting to the bottom line, the game changers should be made with good research or information, and an analysis of the cost/benefit relationship.  Sometimes the smaller ones take entirely too much of our time, for no more impact than they have.  Choosing your genetics, calving dates, and when and how you sell your calves, all fall into the game changer category.  You make those decisions a couple times a year, and then you live with it.  Your herd nutrition program can certainly be a game changer.  You are probably making nutrition decisions every month, and those decisions impact your herd with every bite they take, every day.   

When it comes to nutrition, here are just some of the game changers you should consider:

  1. Are you using a supplement when nutrients are deficient in the animal’s diet?  It is nearly impossible for nature to provide 100% of the needed nutrients to your herd, in any given month of the year.  Many of these deficiencies are very easy to correct with a self-fed supplement, often times for just nickels and dimes a day.
  2. Will you include a source of organic trace minerals in the supplement?  If you have antagonists (like iron, molybdenum or sulfates) in your soil or water, organic sources of trace minerals may be necessary to get proper absorption of the needed quantities of trace minerals.  Much of today’s highly selected genetics will not express their full genetic potential, unless you provide a Premium level of nutrition.
  3. Will you take steps to control flies in your herd this summer?  Calves will probably be worth somewhere around $2.50 a pound this fall.  Flies could rob you of $25 to $50 worth of weaning weight.  Flies can reduce weight gain in yearlings by as much as 50 pounds, and that could be close to $100 per animal.  Adding fly control to your mineral program will probably cost less than $5 per animal for the summer.  One last thought on fly control options, if you had trouble with pinkeye last year, you may want to consider a fly control option, such as Rabon®, that will target face flies in addition to just horn flies.
  4. We are at that time of the year where a deficiency of available magnesium in some lush spring forages will cause cows to die from grass tetany.  Remember that a cow’s magnesium requirement will essentially double once she calves and begins lactating.  Your better milking cows will be more at risk than those with lower milk production.  Cattle cannot store magnesium, so you need to take steps to ensure a daily supply of magnesium, when grass tetany is a concern. 

Items #1, #2 and #3 are additive over time, and will hit your bottom line on sale day. Item #4 will result in dead cows and requires immediate attention.  Providing a self-fed supplement with extra magnesium is an easy precaution, if you have had trouble with grass tetany in the past.  Magnesium oxide is unpalatable, and molasses based supplements make a great carrier to get that needed magnesium oxide into your herd.

CRYSTALYX® Brand supplements are an excellent way to provide consistent controlled intake of magnesium and other necessary nutrients that can be unpalatable.  CRYSTALYX® self-fed supplements, are available to your herd 24/7, and they minimize your investment in time, labor and equipment. Including CRYSTALYX® in your nutrition program is one of the easiest ways you can tilt the beef production game in your favor.   


An Easy Benchmark to Remember for Cow-calf Producers

I recently read an internet article written by Kris Ringwall from North Dakota State University that appeared on the Drovers Cattle Network, March 30th e-newsletter.  In the article Dr. Ringwall, who oversees the CHAPS beef cow-calf record system with the University, talks about a reproductive measurement that is easy to remember and so critical to defining the profitability of a cow-calf operation.  The number is “60%” and it is the percentage of cows that need to have calved in the first 21 day period of the calving season.  This benchmark was established using cow herds enrolled in the ND Beef Cattle Improvement Associations database and herd records spanning 2009 to 2013. 

Most of us realize that it is difficult sometimes to use one number for such a hard and fast rule.   Especially knowing that we cannot simply justify any and all expenses that we wish to hit the 60% mark, if we are to remain profitable.  But what the years of records have shown is that achieving a profitable herd takes a minimum of 60% of calves born in the first 21 days.  Any less than that and you need to be looking at your herd health, nutrition and/or genetics programs to find out why.

So what are the opportunities for producers when they see that they are higher or lower than the benchmark?  For those that come in with a greater than 60% calving in the 1st 21 days of the calving season you simply need to evaluate the inputs and expenses that got you to this level.  Is the investment worth the reward?  With the prices that calves are worth today and the additional number of days that those calves have to grow and put on weight, the answer may be different than when calves were worth just $1.00 a pound a few years earlier.   Providing resources to ensure an early calving herd will pay back much more today than in the past.

The real issue is for those herds where you are not hitting the 60% mark.  You really need to evaluate why you are not able to reach the benchmark.  Are their health or nutrition reasons why your calving is more spread out?  Were there issues with sub-fertile bulls getting cows settled in a timely manner?  Have you stretched your genetics to a point where cows need a higher plane of nutrition than your herd did in earlier years?  Maybe selected for higher milking traits?  Have you cut a few corners on any part of your supplementation program after calving through the breeding season?  As you can see, there may be many areas that you need to investigate before you can find what major factors limit reaching the 60% goal. 

Nutritionally, CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements have a number of products that can make sure you stay on track with minimal input to forage based diets.  CRYSTALYX® Breed-Up® products are specifically designed to make certain that reproductive requirements are met.  These are especially helpful for higher performance purebred herds or operations that focus on estrus synchronization programs using artificial insemination.  As you enter the spring/summer breeding period, a good solid mineral delivery becomes extremely important to make sure you don’t let any cows skip another cycle and leave you short of the 60% benchmark.  Uniform intake of CRYSTALYX® mineral products have been research supported to provide supplemental vitamin and mineral intake across the entire herd.

As you look back at your numbers this spring, simply add up the number of cows that calved in the first 3 weeks of the calving season and make sure you are on track for achieving 60% or greater.  It’s easy math, and as Dr. Ringwall suggests, don’t let “excuses” keep you from doing what’s needed to meet the 60% goal.


Calving Season is All the Time on Dairy Farms

Spring is just busier and more crowded! 

Managing the Spring rush is associated with calving season on beef cattle operations with spring calving herds.  Many dairy farms will notice a seasonal increase in calving during the spring as well.  Grazing dairies will calve in the spring to match the nutrient demand with the available forage.  Traditional confinement operations often see an increase in spring calving for two reasons.  Many operations do not calve first calf heifers in the coldest winter months. Increased spring calving of mature cows is often a result of heat stress.  Cows that fail to conceive due to the heat of July and August will often become pregnant in September.  These cows will enter the dry cow pens starting in March with subsequent calving in April through June.  The net result is often an overcrowded situation in the dry cow, pre-fresh and fresh pens.  Overcrowding in these pens leads to increased fresh cow problems after calving, most notably ketosis and uterine infections.

Dairy Cow Body Condition Score Implication

Ketosis is an energy availability issue which is related to overall dry matter and energy intake.  Managing body condition score (BCS) of the animals is critical.  The dairy cow BCS system uses a 1-5 scale where as beef BCS uses a 1-9 scale.  Cows that conceive later than desired can be over conditioned due to the extended time on the lactation diet.   Excessive BCS can be a risk factor for ketosis due to fact that high BCS cows and heifers will eat less than cows and heifers with a BCS of 3-3.5. 

Cow Social Factors

First calf dairy heifers are often 200-400 lbs. lighter and eat 20-25% less than mature cows.  Often the first time a heifer competes with a mature cow at the feed bunk is during this critical period around the time of calving.  This added social stress contributes to reduced feed intake for heifers.  The ideal stocking rate for pre-fresh and fresh pens is 90% or 9 animals for every 10 stalls.  We never build calving barns big enough.  The pens may be big enough for the “normal” month, but not for heavy calving events in the spring.  Regardless of parity, when the pre-fresh and fresh pens are over-crowded DMI will decline, energy intake will decline and ketosis risk significantly increases.

Limitation of AVERAGE DMI in balancing pre-fresh and post fresh diets

Above we discussed how DMI is 20-25% less for heifers compared to mature cows.  Mature dry cows will consume between 28-32 lbs. of dry matter.  Pre-partum first calf heifers will consume 20-25 lbs. of dry matter.  In a mixed group of mature cows and first calf heifer, what is the correct DMI to balance the diet?  Adding to the challenge of selecting a correct average DMI is the fact that cows consume less as they approach calving.  Researchers at The University of British Columbia conducted one of the most detailed trials on 101 cows documenting individual DMI and the relationship of DMI to uterine infections.  The data showed that DMI began to decline -7 days prior to calving for all animals and was most severe for animals that developed metritis.  The change was most dramatic on days -1 and day +1 relative to calving.  This raises the question, “Did they get sick because they ate less or did they eat less because they were sick?”.  The answer is yes and yes.  Metritis is a bacterial infection of the uterus and can only occur after calving.  Eating less prior to calving was a risk factor for metritis and metritis decreased DMI after calving.  Table 1 shows the change in DMI and milk production on Day 21.

CRYSTALYX® Self-Fed Supplements as a TMR Safety Net™ in Pre-fresh and fresh pen diets.

CRYSTALYX® Self-Fed Supplements offer a variety of low moisture blocks that help in delivering key trace minerals and vitamins regardless of the intake of the TMR.  The barrels are easy to use and provide additional confidence that each cow is receiving the nutrition she needs.  We could over fortify the TMR by balancing at the lowest possible intake; however, this can be expensive and not very practical.  CRYSTALYX® Self-Fed Supplements such as Dry Cow™ Formula, Close Up™ Formula and Transition Stress™ Formula offer the convenience of multiple products to fit most feeding and housing situations.  

CRYSTALYX® After Calving - Breed-Up® Products Continued Use

Nutritionist and feed professionals like to talk a lot about pre-calving nutrition, and stress the fact that a cow’s nutrient requirements climb in the last trimester of pregnancy.  This is true and good body condition matters at this time in the reproductive cycle.  Still, we may get a little too caught up in this message and overlook the period between calving and breeding; the post-partum interval.  In the past several years, we’ve seen a great deal of success in using the CRYSTALYX® Breed-Up® products starting 1-2 months prior to calving.  Calves hit the ground healthier and more vigorously, cows clean well and all is good for cow calf, and cowboy’s alike.

Meeting pre calving nutritional requirements is critical but, in fact, the highest energy and protein demand for a cow are 1-2 months after calving.  The cow needs to recover from parturition, is lactating heavily, and the estrus cycle needs to return to normal soon enough to maintain a narrow calving window.  Customers often ask me, “What CRYSTALYX® product do I use closer to grass turnout or prior to and during the breeding season?”  This is probably the most important time for the Breed-Up® products continued use.  Often times, producers feed much higher quality forages during and after calving or are on green grass (or will be soon).  It is still important to ensure energy, vitamin, and mineral needs are met, even with these higher quality forages.  CRYSTALYX® Breed-Up® products have good options for these programs as shown in the table below.

Green grass in the spring can pose the threat of grass tetany, a magnesium deficiency. Often we see producers sacrifice portions of a mineral program (trace minerals and vitamins) in order to feed a high magnesium supplement that’s just lower cost.  This may help with the magnesium issue but is a step backwards if we forget about the trace mineral and vitamin needs.  Using CRYSTALYX® to provide the magnesium is an effective method.  It’s palatable and an easy fit if CRYSTALYX® has been used up until this point already.  If the Breed-Up® products such as Breed-Up® 20 and 28 have been fed up until grass turnout, it makes sense to continue on the same level of nutrition, albeit now one with higher magnesium. The Breed-Up® Line has a product that is called Breed-Up® 17 Mag containing 4% magnesium. This product when consumed at ½ to ¾ of a pound supplies similar amounts of supplemental magnesium as a 12% magnesium mineral fed at 3-4 ounces.

If and when Grass Tetany is not a risk, an easy continuation of the Breed-Up® Program is the Breed-Up® Max product.  Another option while grazing, is to provide fly control with either Rabon® Oral Larvacide.  In this case, CRYSTALYX® products such as ROLYX® Pro-Mag can be offered and all CRYSTALYX® fly control products do provide organic trace minerals.


In summary, be sure to take good care of the cows and calves after calving.  CRYSTALYX® Breed-Up® programs are very successful in providing supplemental protein, energy, vitamins and minerals and all provide Zinpro Availa®4  which are organic trace minerals of copper, zinc, cobalt and manganese.  Again the CRYSTALYX® Breed-Up® programs are for pre and post calving alike.


Rabon® is a registered trademark of Bayer Animal Health

Availa®4 is a registered trademark of Zinpro Corporation






10 Ways CRYSTALYX® Can Help Manage Your Cow Herd this Spring

We often get questions from producers about how they can get the most from their investment in nutritional  supplements.  CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements have a number of products with different applications across your herd that target specific production challenges.  CRYSTALYX® technologies that have been research tested, come with the brand and are key in providing cost savings or improved returns.  I have listed below 10 specific opportunities where CRYSTALYX® can help you with managing your herd this spring.


  1. CRYSTALYX® protein supplementation of marginal quality forages or bridging the nutritional gap from stored forages to actively growing pastures is often needed as cow nutrient needs rise going into calving and lactation.
  2. Reduced time, equipment  and labor spent on supplement feeding with the predictable self-fed delivery of CRYSTALYX® is a great way to reduce unnecessary costs and  time required for feeding.
  3. Decrease the disruption of cow-calf pairs in addition to less soil disturbance from wet/thawing conditions of Spring with fewer delivery trips to the pasture when using CRYSTALYX®.
  4. Highly Bioavailable key Minerals and Vitamins for rebreeding come all wrapped up in one package with CRYSTALYX® protein supplements.  Spring calving herds should use CRYSTALYX® Breed-Up® products that are specifically fortified for getting cows bred early.   
  5. Decreased supplement container handling with the durable and degradable single trip BioBarrel® with WeatherAll® Technology that stands up in all spring weather conditions.
  6. Highly palatable delivery of Magnesium supplementation for consistent daily consumption helps prevent Grass Tetany on lush growing pastures.
  7. Predictable and convenient delivery of fly control with feed through larvacides or insect growth regulators in either protein or mineral/vitamin supplements.
  8. Growing replacement heifers are ideal candidates for Iono-lyx® with Bovatec® to help them achieve their target body weight at breeding while managed on pasture.
  9. CRYSTALYX® with average quality forage can help maintain mature bulls until turn out at breeding for a simple, low-input bull nutrition management program.
  10. Use the power of CRYSTALYX® to help you manage your pasture forages by placing the barrels where you want cattle to graze and spend time.  It is an often overlooked benefit of CRYSTALYX® that can help you increase forage utilization and spread your resources further.



Challenges of Grazing Cornstalks in Mid-Winter - Don't Let Cows Go Backwards

We CRYSTALYX® Bloggers have written several articles about cattle grazing cornstalks and other crop residues.  In Nebraska, I often refer to cornstalk residue as our “winter pasture”.   In most years, this is a very abundant and relatively inexpensive feed resource and of decent quality.  Much information has been written and studied by university extension services in a multitude of states about the effects of cornstalk grazing on cow performance, subsequent grain yield,  the need (or not) of protein supplementation etc. 

One topic not always discussed with grazing cornstalks is that of the climate.  In different parts of the country like the Dakotas, cornstalk grazing is normally, but not always, limited to a narrow window of time just after harvest and before deep winter snow covers the residue until spring.   In Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado and other states, snow cover can be a factor but in most years it is not.   Cattle can graze cornstalks very effectively when there is snow cover, at least for a period of time.   Cows can paw and push through snow even up to 12” deep getting to leaf and husk material.  Prolonged deep snow cover, resulting in potential drifting and freeze/ thaw conditions is where concern begins. 

 Nutrient quality of the residue doesn’t change much due to freeze/thaw conditions.  However as snow becomes packed, more ice forms at night and muddy conditions occur during the daytime hours while temperatures are above freezing.  These conditions add to the trampling effect by cows making less residue (feed) available, and the higher quality fractions of the residue (waste grain, leaf, and husk) are trampled the most.  In addition, residue quality will decrease with increased stocking rate and with the number of days on a field as cattle select the higher quality residue first.  If cattle were grazing a field for a couple weeks prior to a large snow event, the negative effects of snow cover will be noticed faster and be more severe.

In October of 2012 I wrote a blog on cornstalk grazing related to stocking rate, cattle performance, cost, etc...  I mentioned in that article that there is data that suggests protein supplementation may not be necessary on cornstalks.  I cautioned the reader that these situations would be in more “perfect world conditions” such as early season grazing with cows already in adequate Body Condition, or with cows in mid gestation with low nutrient requirements and in good weather conditions.  In addition, mineral and vitamin supplementation should never be sacrificed.   With thin or stressed cows, supplementation with CRYSTALYX® would be warranted and in studies where supplement was offered, Body Condition was enhanced.   Why take a chance not to improve the cow?

If you consider the fall and winter of 2014-2015, we’ve had less than the perfect world situation. Thus far in some areas we’ve had cold weather and considerable snow cover.   This has added environmental stress to cows, increasing maintenance requirements which taxes body condition.  Supplementation of CRYSTALYX® has been and should be warranted going forward if grazing cornstalks continue.  

In some cases, producers have been forced to reduce grazing days on cornstalks and move cattle off of fields and have had to provide supplemental feed (hay) while still allowing cows to graze what they could.  Either way, close attention needs to be paid to cow body condition.  The CRYSTALYX® Body Condition Score App available for smart phones is a great tool to have in these situations.  It can help keep track of subtle changes over time that wouldn’t normally be seen from day to day evaluation of cows.

The take home message is that grazing crop residues is a great advantage in the beef business but like in all agriculture production, Mother Nature sets the rules. With good cattle economics today, I would say supplementation with CRYSTALYX®, even if borderline in need is a good investment and pays back now more than ever.  It also helps us prepare for Mother Nature when she does throw curve balls into our management systems.    Preparation, adaptation and adjustments are ongoing in cow nutrition and many different CRYSTALYX®   programs can help.

The above picture showing cornstalk residue still available in field where cows have grazed during significant snow cover and melt.  Note that some residue is trapped in ice and potential for more trampling in mud.


We Don't Make Your Cow Herd,... We Make Your Cow Herd Better.


Remember that old advertisement that stated, “We don’t make a lot of the products you buy,… We make a lot of the products you buy, better?” It was actually trademarked for a time, by BASF Corporation.  I have always thought that it applied very well to how CRYSTALYX® works.  I might change it just a little, to state that, “We don’t make a lot of your assets,… We make a lot of your assets, better.”   

Below are ten of the assets that you may own, or purchase from time to time, that CRYSTALYX® can “make better” or improve:

  1. Cows - CRYSTALYX® can increase weight gain on your cows in the fall.  In the Spring and Summer, CRYSTALYX® can improve your reproduction rate by getting more cows bred earlier and by increasing the overall conception rate.
  2. Cow’s colostrum - CRYSTALYX® can improve the quality of your cow’s colostrum, thus supporting healthier claves.  You can also use a CRYSTALYX® product with Bio-Mos® to further protect newborn calves.
  3. Replacement heifers - CRYSTALYX® Iono-Lyx® is an excellent product to increase the weight gain in your replacement heifers.  Iono-Lyx® provides both Bovatec® and protein in a self-fed block supplement, that is ideal for replacement heifers in the late Summer, Fall, and Winter months.
  4. Yearlings – as with replacement heifers, CRYSTALYX® Iono-Lyx® is an excellent product to increase weight gain and increased total end weight in yearlings.
  5. Weaned calves – many customers would not dream of weaning calves without having a few CRYSTALYX® Brigade® barrels in the weaning pen.  Several research demonstrations that we have conducted since 1999, have always shown that Brigade® will give you, 1.) Fewer treats/pulls, 2.) Lower death loss, 3.) Higher feed/ration intake, 4.) Improved feed efficiency and 5) Increased calf average daily gain.  Healthier calves just perform better, and Brigade® helps reduce stress at weaning time.
  6. Vaccines – similar to how Brigade® works in #5 above, many Veterinarians will stress that a good vaccination program starts with proper nutrition.  Specifically, trace mineral and vitamin nutrition.  Whether it is with weaned calves, or mature animals, CRYSTALYX® Balanced and Premium products provide 100% to 200% of NRC for trace minerals and vitamins.
  7. AI programs and purchased semen – Many successful AI programs include the use of organic trace minerals.  CRYSTALYX® Breed-Up® products provide 200% of NRC for trace minerals and vitamins, and also include Zinpro® Availa®-4 organic trace minerals.
  8. Purchased forages – Our research has shown that you can increase the digestibility of low quality forages by 10% with CRYSTALYX® protein supplements.  That is like getting 10% more hay than what the scale ticket says you just bought.  Plus, as with all CRYSTALYX® protein supplements, you get supplemental minerals and vitamins along with that forage stretching protein.
  9. Pastures – As with purchased forages above, CRYSTALYX® protein supplements will improve the digestibility of the forage in your pastures. However, in a pasture, there is an even greater benefit of using CRYSTALYX®.  This is the ability of CRYSTALYX® to attract your herd to underutilized grazing areas within a pasture. Eight years of grazing distribution research conducted at Montana State University at Havre, MT, shows that cattle repeatedly follow the placement of CRYSTALYX® barrels into underutilized grazing areas.  This allows your herd to harvest that otherwise underutilized asset.  In dry years, this is probably the greatest benefit CRYSTALYX® can give you.

10. Fences & Water developments – Similar to how CRYSTALYX® can attract your herd to underutilized grazing areas, CRYSTALYX® also can help you get the most from existing fences and water developments.  Perhaps you do not need to add a cross fence in a pasture to help focus grazing at one end or the other.  Same goes for additional watering locations within a pasture.  Perhaps you can get your herd to utilize a section of a pasture by just placing the CRYSTALYX® barrels in that area.  Some of the research we conducted showed that it was not unusual to get cattle to travel a mile or more from their water source, to the proximity of the CRYSTALYX® barrels. 

There, you have a list of ten items that we do not make, but, we can make better with CRYSTALYX®.  I believe we could certainly come up with ten more, and the 11th one would have to be time and labor.  Maybe I should have listed it first?  Just remember that CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements are available to your herd 24/7, and are an excellent way to increase the utilization of your forage, and many other assets, with minimal input for time, labor, equipment and delivery cost.  


Zinc and Vaccines

Vaccines are an important part of the annual ‘to do’ list of any livestock operation. However, with the ever increasing list of cattle vaccines available, the cost to vaccinate can range from $3/hd up to $9/hd, not including labor. When you consider how much of an investment vaccines are, can you take the chance that they won’t be effective?

Trace mineral deficiencies can reduce the effectiveness of vaccination programs by reducing the ability of the animal’s immune system to respond to the antigens. Deficiencies related to immune function mean lost dollars, not only from poor performance, but also from vaccines that were ineffective due to suppressed immune function. A number of trace minerals are important for optimal immune function; however, this article will focus on zinc.

Zinc plays a big role in the body; hoof and skin health, testicular development and overall performance to name a few. Drilling a little deeper, zinc is an important component of key enzymes involved in nucleic acid, protein and carbohydrate metabolism. Additionally zinc is essential for proper thymus function, a gland important for T-cell (immune system protector cells) formation. Deficiencies have a number of effects on the immune system:

  • Decreased response to antigens
  • Reduced number of immunoglobulin(antibodies produced by the body against specific pathogens) plaque-forming cells in the spleen
  • Interferes with T-cell helper function (immune system protector cell that identifies antigens and tells the body how to fight them)

Basically, zinc deficient animals have a decreased ability to respond to pathogenic challenges as the main pathways to counteract infections are impaired. A number of studies have shown the benefits of supplementing zinc (inorganic and chelated forms) to improve the response to a pathogenic challenge and to vaccines.

  • Dairy cattle supplemented chelated zinc showed an increased antibody titer levels to Foot and Mouth Disease vaccine 21 days post vaccination.
  • Zinc supplemented new born calves showed increased immunoglobulin response to antigen challenges at days 35 and 65 of supplementation.
  • Stressed feedlot steers supplemented with chelated zinc showed increased antibody titers to the BHV-1 vaccine compared to non-supplemented steers.

Now you have a tool to add more power to your vaccination program - proper trace mineral supplementation. CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements offer a wide range of products that include complete trace mineral packages to help support optimal immune function. The Breed-Up® product line includes an elevated traceral package (200% NRC recommendations), with chelated trace minerals, to give your cows and calves an extra advantage. If supplemental protein is not needed, Crystal-Phos® and Phos-Lyx® both have elevated levels of trace minerals along with chelates. Not sure what you need? Visit our website,, for more product information, contact your local CRYSTALYX® dealer or give us a call 800-727-2502.




A Look Back on 2014 and Forward to 2015 in Beef Cow-Calf Business

This is certainly a year that all of us in the cow-calf business would like to soak up and see it never end:  A great time to be in the business for sure.  Whether you may be opting to pay down a little debt, maybe make one of those once in a life-time purchases, expand your herd a little, or add to the savings pot for an unforeseen occurrence down the road, it is nice to know there is a bit more discretionary income to deal with this year when compared to many in the past.  But that was 2014 and it is basically all but in the history books at this point.  Now onto 2015!

Before we look forward, I would like to thank all of you for your business and support of the CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements product line.  We appreciate your trust in our products and please know that as we look forward to 2015 and beyond, we will do all that we can to make sure CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements continue to provide value to you and your operation wherever you run livestock in North America.

So we basically have switched our November for December and our December for November, in terms of weather across much of the US.  I know I was feeling much more in the Christmas spirit at Thanksgiving given the temperature and snow cover in the Northern part of the US back in November.  As one looks at the extended forecast however, it appears that winter is back and temperatures are becoming more typical for this time of year.  My thermometer was reading 6 below zero when heading into work this morning before sun up, which convinces me that we still have plenty of winter ahead of us.

I realize that many of you have been using our CRYSTALYX® Body Condition score App to monitor your herd’s nutrition program by how well cows have been holding their body stores going from fall to winter.  If you haven’t, simply go to your Android or IPhone app store and download them.  Incidentally, it was recently voted one of the “must have” apps in Farmer Magazine.  It’s an easy way of measuring cow body condition at any point in time and then comparing differences during the year.  Make it a New Year’s resolution to track if not all, a few sentinel cows within your herd to make sure your forage and supplement programs are optimizing reproductive success that will maximize your income.  Just look at your calf check from this past year and remember that 2015 may not be far from that if you can keep your cows bred up and your calves healthy and growing.

Most of the Spring calving cow herds at this time of the year are either late in mid-gestation or somewhere in late-gestation with calving soon to start.  Make sure you have tested your stored forages in order to make prudent supplement selections going into this critical physiological stage of the cows life.  Unpredictable winter weather conditions can make this tricky if you are not prepared with some emergency forage reserves.  Protein nutrition is critical when using low and medium quality forages to ensure the rumen environment is set to efficiently ferment fiber and extract as much energy from these forages as possible to meet all of the requirements of both the cow and fetus.

In addition to supplying protein with CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements you also get a strong mineral and vitamin package in every lick, not to mention the fact that  CRYSTALYX® eliminates your “need to feed” every day.  Just think of the expenses you save in labor, equipment and delivery by placing supplement every 10 to 14 days versus every day, every other day or even weekly.  Providing proper nutrition at the right time to your cow herd efficiently, while minimizing costs and freeing up your time…  What a great way to start off 2015!

Calving will soon be here.  Prepare your cows well and make sure they are in great shape to provide you not only healthy calves this year, but the ability to breed on time for setting up next year’s crop as well!  May 2015 be a prosperous year for you and your family!


CRYSTALYX® IONO-LYX® for Low Cost Replacement Heifer Development

Raising replacement heifers has been studied a lot.  As times and cattle have changed, so have some of the systems used to develop replacement heifers.  A better focus on low cost development and selection for fertility and longevity makes economic sense.  Traditional development programs recommend breeding heifers at 60-65% of their mature body weight as most heifers should have reached puberty by the time they reach this weight.  More recently it’s been well documented that conception rates of 85% or greater can be achieved with heifers being bred at 50-60% of their mature weight.  Perhaps heifers are reaching puberty earlier or at a lower percent of their mature weight today due to improved genetics, and larger mature cow size vs 20 years ago.


Nutrition and rate of gain at breeding is likely more valuable than pushing for better gains prior to breeding.  This allows for some basic or modest nutrition programs for wintering heifers that will be bred next spring or summer.  Overall, it’s wise not to push heifers too hard or get them too fat.  It’s not necessary, it is costly and you will have a poorer set of heifers in the long run or young cows that fail to rebreed.  Gain performance of replacement heifers through fall and winter need not be too worrisome. Most gain recommendations are relatively modest at 1 to 1.5 lbs. per day.  If mature cow size is 1300 lbs. on average, your replacement heifer is only going to be in the 700 lb. range at breeding and she probably weaned close to 550 lbs. or more.  Some compensatory gain during the breeding season is a good thing and should occur on good pasture.

Some publications I read mention feeding commodities to heifers that are being backgrounded on crop residues or other low quality forages.  Protein supplementation is warranted in these situations to best utilize forage and feeding co-products like dried distillers grains (DDGS) often look attractive, especially when evaluating cost per pound of nutrient.  DDGS are a good source of protein, energy and phosphorous.   However, even with a relatively low cost of $135 a ton, a CRYSTALYX® program can be more economical than many commodity programs and get the performance desired. 

The CRYSTALYX® product, IONO-LYX® B300 is a 28% protein supplement that includes vitamins, minerals, and Bovatec®.  Bovatec® is an ionophore that improves feed efficiency, rate of gain, and has been shown to decrease the age of puberty in beef heifers.  IONO-LYX® works well to supply the nutrients necessary for heifers in a fall and winter program, especially one utilizing lower quality forages.

The Math and Delivery Cost

Feeding 2 lbs. (not including shrink) of a commodity at $135/ton would cost $0.14 per head, or would it?  What else needs to be done with that commodity after it’s bought?   It has to be stored and then delivered to the animal. Delivery costs are the real killer in feeding commodities and are grossly underestimated.  Don’t kid yourself; tractors, feeders, fuel, labor, pickups, shrink, and depreciation cost money.    Commodities work great as feed ingredients and energy supplements in total mixed rations, but fed free choice on range is a hard sell for me.

The table below illustrates the real cost and was calculated using the Crystal Clear Economyx® program (see  Delivery cost assumptions are fairly modest for 50 head of heifers being fed for 100 days.  Labor is estimated at $12.00 per hour, tractor cost at $30 per hour for a ½ hr. of use, and shrink at 15%.  One could make arguments in these costs as being too much or too little.  For example, the tractor cost would be highly variable in my opinion depending on the tractor itself and the time spent feeding.  Shrink can also be variable but The University of Nebraska has research indicating 16% shrink for wet distillers grains and 40% for dried being fed on the ground.  Overall the table below shows the true costs of feeding the distillers at $0.58 per head per day.  In addition, this figure has no mineral cost factored in.  That would add at least another $.10 per day totaling nearly $0.70 per head per day.

The Cost of CRYSTALYX® Iono-lyx® based on $1200 per ton and 2/3 lb. per day of intake[1] is approx. $0.42 per head per day. The CRYSTALYX® program is more economical and has very little delivery cost because it’s only placed every 2 weeks or so.   In addition, CRYSTALYX® is providing fortification of trace minerals, vitamins, and Bovatec®; you don’t get this in a commodity.

Overall the CRYSTALYX® program performs, is a complete supplement, and can save time and money; about $0.10 per heifer per day in this example.  Even if we didn’t factor shrink and delivery cost for the DDGS and added in mineral costs, the two programs would be nearly identical in cost.  So what value do you put on your time and equipment and what’s easier for you?

Most commodities are excellent ingredients; they are just expensive to feed, especially to smaller groups like we normally see in replacement heifer systems.  Put CRYSTALYX® ION-LYX® B300 to work for you in your low cost heifer development program.  It works!

[1] Cost of CRYSTALYX®IONO-LYX® B300 will vary from region to region and typical consumption with heifers can range from less than ½ lb. to just over ¾ lb. per head per day.


Insurance or Fertilizer?

Having just returned from the Cattle Fax Outlook seminar last week, I would say the message for cow-calf producers was that 2014 and 2015 could be looked back upon as our most profitable years in the cow-calf business.  That is not to say that 2016 forward will not be profitable, quite the contrary, but, as the cow herd (and calves marketed) begins to truly increase in 2016, there is certainly the opportunity for the old economic law of supply and demand to kick in.   Of course, demand can always increase and change some of those projections.  I believe we all know that developing countries have a greatly increasing desire for, and ability to purchase, animal protein.   We usually think this market is most all pork and poultry, but there were certainly indications that beef will benefit from this increased need for protein.   Suffice it to say, we have a number of very profitable years ahead in the cow-calf business.

If we look at the Cattle Fax average price/CWT for a 550 pound steer for 2013, we see it is $167.94.  That would be a value per head of $923.  For the first 11 months of 2014, that steer is averaging $245.08/CWT, for a value of $1,348.  While that is the average for the year, prices over the last 5 months have averaged closer to $268, putting us close to $1,500 per calf.  Many calves are weaned at well over 600 pounds and individual calf prices approaching $1,700 are common.  So, it is not surprising that cow herds around the country are increasing in an attempt to take advantage of the soaring returns on calves over the next few years.

We saw similar changes take place with corn acreage a few years ago, when corn exceeded $7 per bushel.  Many acres of CRP and pasture land were planted to corn, just to get a few more bushels to market, at that historic price.  Now, as farmers were paying $280 a bag for seed corn, $3.50 a gallon for diesel, and investing the price of a very nice home in a tractor or combine, how many of them, do you suppose, just put the seed in the ground, and turned their back on those fields until they started up the combine in the Fall?  I would say few, if any.  Pesticides and fertilizers were also part of their program for the crop year.  Those that could, certainly applied irrigation water with a premeditated plan.  Few, if any, would ever dream of investing those dollars with those potential returns, and not take steps to increase the chances of a better crop, most often with judicious application of fertilizer.

Growing corn and growing beef have many similarities.  What steps have you taken since your seeds were planted last summer for your spring calving herd?  Did you implement a plan to control pests?  Did you purchase hay or move cattle between pastures to ensure an adequate forage supply each week?  Did you precondition or fenceline wean calves, in order to send a more valuable product to your customers?  What steps did you take before those seeds were planted last spring and summer?  Did you conduct a breeding soundness exam on your bulls?  Has your herd been on a supplement program pre-calving through breeding?  Are you sure your cows had proper nutrition the first six months of gestation (not just the last three)?

We have many times heard that a good nutrition program is like insurance.  For example, feeding a product with MOS (mannan-oligosaccharide) prior to calving, would seem like “insurance”.  However, car insurance does not make you a better driver, nor does it prevent accidents, just as homeowner’s insurance does not prevent Christmas Tree fires.  Insurance helps fix the problem AFTER it has occurred.  A good nutrition program is more like fertilizer.  It does not wait for a problem to begin, it fills in nature’s nutrient gaps, and steers your herd on a more profitable course BEFORE any accidents or fires can start.  A good year round nutrition program like CRYSTALYX® will give your cows better colostrum.  It will help get your cows cycling sooner, so more calves are born in that first 21 day cycle.  And, from what we have learned about fetal programming, we can see that we do not want to nutritionally neglect our cows at any time during gestation.  So, what would a year round nutrition program cost?  Eight months of a CRYSTALYX® protein supplement will cost about $93/ cow.  Four months of a CRYSTALYX® mineral supplement would cost about another $21/cow.  That ends up being about 7.5% of what will likely be the sale price of calves over the next several years.  And remember, this is not insurance that costs you 7.5%, but “fertilizer”, that helps you send more pounds to market each year.

You buy insurance, and hope you never need it.  Do not make that same mental play when you buy CRYSTALYX®.  CRYSTALYX® will help replace nutrients that are lacking in nature, and give you a bigger, healthier crop.            


Exercise Programs Compared to Grazing Management Systems for Beef and Dairy Cattle

Intensive High Impact Workouts Verses Consistent and Strategic Activity

There are at least two times during the year that most people will think about exercise; around the New Year for making resolutions and in the summer when headed to the lake or beach. Personally, I prefer a comfortably paced walk compared to running a 5K and much prefer being active outside as compared to going to a gym.  A reason people may give up on an exercise programs is the intensity and cost while convenience is really the main objection.  We all can benefit from being in better shape by doing some exercise.  That said; it does not have to involve packing up, driving to the gym, going hard for an hour every day.  Don’t fall into the mindset that “I don’t have the time, energy or money to get in better shape”.

You may be wondering “where is this Block Blog going?”  There are a variety of exercise program, some high intensity, some more focused on specific areas and some that can be extremely time consuming and expensive.  If you think about a grazing program you will see that similar observations can be made.  Don’t fall into the mindset that “I cannot intensively rotational graze, so to heck with managing my pastures.”

Intensive rotational grazing works but to be successful there must be an initial investment in cattle watering capability and a fencing system.   Often the time commitment for moving fence and/or cattle is the biggest deterrent.  Will we be able to move the cattle every day or every third day?  There is a reason it is called Intensive.  A fellow Block Blogger has a saying that we hear on occasion that fits well here. “It is just Time and Money”.  Time is a valuable limited resource.

Your pasture, your cattle and your feed budget will benefit by getting the best utilization of your grass as possible.  Strategic placement of the CRYSTALYX® self-fed supplements can be an economical means to get better pasture utilization.  Cattle like the product and will seek it out.  Depending on the cattle stocking rate and expected intake, new product will need to be placed in the pasture on a very predictable basis.  Changing the location of the barrels will draw cattle to that particular section of the pasture.  Our research has shown that CRYSTALYX® will increase the amount of time cattle spend within a certain radius of the supplement.  By changing the location of the barrels in relationship to the water source we can modify the animal behavior.  Graze them up to the barrels and back to water.  Given the specific characteristics and geography of your pasture you can develop “strip grazing patterns” as the cattle move from supplement to the water source.  Even though it is low cost (no added fencing) and low time investment (no physically moving fence/cattle) you will be getting better pasture utilization which sounds like a consistent and strategic grazing program to me. 

Let’s continue the comparison to getting more exercise.  If we increase our activity level we will gain other benefits such as maybe losing some weight and possibly some stress relief.  With a grazing program that utilizing CRYSTALYX® self-fed supplements we can get more days to graze, provide valuable trace mineral and vitamins to our cattle while improving the forage digestibility as we get later into the grazing season and forage quality declines.  Explore the website to learn more about the grazing research.  Under the Proven Results tab you can select Grazing Management and get more detailed information.  Effective grazing management does not have to be high intensity and expensive.  Hey, you may even have time to enjoy some summer activity while CRYSTALYX® is working for you.



Strike While The Iron Is Hot!

Back in November of 2013, I wrote a blog about how numbers change every day.  We are still setting records for cattle prices 7 months later.  I saw a video on YouTube where some 425# calves brought $301/cwt on a video auction.  August feeder cattle have been over $200/cwt for more than a week now.   The cattle markets are hot, and we best take advantage of them!  Or as the old cliché says, “Strike while the iron is hot!”

Looking at these climbing prices for calves and feeder cattle always makes me think of the return on your investment, for the products we sell.  An ionophore in your summer mineral program for yearlings has a very attractive return.  Research we conducted in Oklahoma with pressed blocks showed that the mineral program alone increased gains by about 10%.  It also showed that the ionophore (in this case Rumensin®) increased gains by another 10%.  If your yearlings are gaining 2 pounds/hd/d and they are worth $2 a pound, the mineral program with an ionophore could add 0.4 lb/hd/d or 80 cents a day.  The cost of that program in a pressed block is around 15 cents a day, a return of over 5 to 1 on your investment. Over a 120 day summer grazing season, you can be looking at an additional return of $70 per head.

If we look at the CRYSTALYX® Iono-Lyx® (Bovatec®) program, you can see similar responses on summer grass, for a cost of about 36 cents a day. Here, on that same 120 day summer grazing season, you can be looking at an additional return of $50 per head.  An additional advantage with Iono-Lyx® is that, as grass matures and protein content drops, you can see even more improvement in gains due to its 28% protein content.  Iono-Lyx® is designed to give you optimum self-fed mineral, Bovatec® and protein supplementation all in one blue barrel. 

So when the rains stop coming at the end of July or August, you know it is the perfect time to roll out the blue barrels to capitalize on 3 time tested nutritional advantages that will work for you. 

  1. Macro and trace mineral supplementation
  2. The number 1 grazing Ionophore = Bovatec®,
  3. Supplemental crude protein, when your grass protein content declines.  

CRYSTALYX® Brand self-fed supplements are an excellent way to maximize your returns from a summer grazing program.  They are available 24/7, and they minimize your investment in time, labor and equipment.  Roll out the Blue Barrels while the markets are hot, and set back and let the additional quarters and half dollars pile up on every head, every day.



Making the Most of Summer Pastures: Minerals

Everyone wants to make the most of summer. In the upper Midwest, we waste no time getting outside to soak up as much sun as possible to get us through the other 7-8 months. It’s no different for the cow-calf operators; the pastures are green, calves are growing like weeds and the next generation is just taking hold. It’s a picture Norman Rockwell would be proud of; however it’s what you don’t see that disturbs the beauty of this scene…mineral deficiencies.

Mineral deficiencies, macro and trace, are common among grazing animals. More often than not, the deficiencies are mild and cattle don’t show any outward signs. Rather you’ll notice animals that are not as thrifty as others and they don’t perform at the same level. Some producers would just shrug this off, saying that cow always looks like that; the others are just fine. However; not addressing the mineral deficiencies can be costly.

The most common mineral deficiencies in grazing cattle are phosphorus, copper, zinc and selenium. These deficiencies can be the result of a number of factors: nutrients lacking in the soil, antagonists, growth rate of the forages, endophyte infected fescue and plant maturity. Mineral deficiencies don’t just happen; it’s a slow decrease over time. The graph below illustrates how mineral deficiencies affect the animal as the severity of the deficiency increases.  By the time your cows are showing obvious signs of a mineral deficiency, see the picture below, they’ve already sacrificed immune function and reproductive and growth performance in the interest of self-preservation.

Discolored hair coats are a visual indication of copper deficiency.

Fortunately, these deficiencies can be prevented and even resolved (with time).

1)      Properly fertilizing pastures can help improve phosphorus levels in the plants. Soil testing can be advantageous and ensure that you are putting the right mix on your pastures. Check with your local extension service or NRCS office for tips on soil testing as well as where to send samples.

2)      Keeping the pasture in the growth stage of maturity gives your cows an advantage as well. As the pastures mature and go to seed, more of the plant structure is changed to lignin. As this happens, there is less ‘room’ for nutrients in the plant cells and what is there is less available in the rumen.

3)      The obvious prevention measure is to provide a highly palatable, self-fed mineral supplement year round. The mineral supplement should contain 4-8% phosphorus in a year-round program when cattle on are low phosphorus pastures or being fed stored forages. Zinc and copper should be in at least a 3:1 ratio, as balance is important for proper absorption for both trace minerals.

CRYSTALYX® brand supplements offer a number of properly balanced, highly palatable, self-fed supplements to fit nearly every summer grazing situation. CRYSTALYX® CRYSTAL-PHOS®, Phos-Lyx®, Fescue-Phos®, Mineral-lyx®, and Breed-Up® MAX deliver phosphorus, copper, zinc and selenium to keep your cows (calves and bulls) performing at their best while on summer pasture. CRYSTAL-PHOS®, Phos-Lyx®, Fescue-Phos® and Breed-Up® MAX have the added benefits of organic trace minerals from Zinpro®.  These are formulated to help ensure high reproductive rates within your herd and are especially applicable around the breeding season and with herds with high reproductive demands.  To learn more about using CRYSTALYX® brand supplements for your summer grazing, visit our website,, or contact your local CRYSTALYX® dealer.


Zinpro® is a registered trademark of the Zinpro Corporation



Summer Reminders for Managing Your Cow Herd

We have made it to June and for many spring calving herds we have, or soon will, be turning the bulls in to start the breeding season.  Although we are on the early side of summer, many will be asking in a couple of months, “just where did the summer go?”  It happens every year.  So to help make sure we stay on top of our summer cow management tasks I have a few reminders below to keep your herd producing those valuable calves that will reward your efforts.


  1. Check your bulls:  Make sure you are observing them interacting with cows, finding cows in heat and that they have no physical injuries or lack of desire preventing them from servicing the herd.  Any sort of deficiency in your bull power will mean fewer and/or later calves next calving season and you can’t fix it then.  You have to be on top of it now.  It is especially critical in small pastures where you may only have one bull for the entire group of cows. 
  2. Don’t let the mineral run out:  Whether you are providing loose mineral from a bag, or have moved to supplying vitamins & mineral with low moisture blocks like CRYSTALYX®, it is critical to make sure there is product available at all times, especially going into the breeding season.  A quick note on using low moisture blocks for summer mineral delivery: our research has shown a substantial improvement in the number of cows actually coming to the mineral supplement when CRYSTALYX® was used compared to loose minerals under extensive grazing conditions.  We are convinced the palatability of low-moisture blocks helps attract cattle to the supplement and provides a much more uniform consumption across the entire herd.  If you haven’t tried it, I would invite you to consider using it this summer to see how you get along with a low moisture block delivery.
  3. Manage your fly control program:  A feed through program using IGR or Rabon® can help control flies and provide for greater calf gains during the summer months.  If you have been on a feed through program from the start of the summer you will want to simply make sure the supplement is available at all times.  If you are starting a feed through program after the flies are out, you will want to provide the supplement containing either IGR or Rabon® and then use a knock-down spray treatment to take care of the adult flies that are already on the cattle.  It will take one or two treatments initially to take care of these existing adult flies as the feed through products then eliminate any future flies from developing in the manure of treated cattle.  Once again, CRYSTALYX® has several products that can deliver, fly control as a protein or as a mineral/vitamin supplement in one convenient, consistently consumed, weather resistant and waste proof product.
  4. Monitor your pastures for forage quality and quantity:  Depending upon the types of forages that you are grazing know when to move cattle to a new pasture in order to maintain the productivity of your forage resources from year to year.  Forage types, grazing systems and variability in annual growing conditions make this impossible to provide a “one size fits all” recommendation that has any credibility.  The main thing is to be actively involved in monitoring your pastures and beef cow condition throughout the summer to be proactive with your decisions rather than reactive.  Most cases of “catch-up” in both range and cow condition prove to be costly.
  5. Monitor your cow body condition:  While grazing practices and forages vary widely across North America, recommendations on Cow Body Condition are much more consistent when evaluating nutritional effects on Reproduction.  This is an area where we have developed an App for your smart phone that can help easily monitor cows within your herd from season to season.  Simply take photos of some of the cows within your herd and score them using comparative example photos.  You then have a stored photo that you can compare with at any point in time going forward.  Talk about a history of a cow.  It can be documented as many times as you want to take photos.  Evaluating condition scores can be very helpful if your pastures start drying out early or as you enter the fall.  Use it to measure the overall nutrition program that your forages are providing for your herd. 


These are just a few key areas that producers should be closely monitoring during the summer months.  They are areas that can impact your returns not only this year, but next year’s calf crop or future pasture health and productivity as well.  We all know how good the calf prices have been in recent years and the current situation is probably near, if not at the peak.  All of these reminders can help you cash in on the added weight gain with healthy, growthy calves as well as cows that breed on time and go into the fall/winter in great shape.  The key is to be proactive.


Rabon® is a registered trademark of Bayer Animal Health.



What Does the Name Mean?

Have you ever wondered who gets paid to think up names for cars, or any new product?  You know, great names like Charger, Road Runner, Chevelle, Mustang, Cougar, and Corvette. Those names had some meaning behind them, and hopefully it translated quickly, when you heard someone mention them. 

We in the feed industry like to think we are pretty handy at naming products as well.  I may be a little biased, but I think names like CRYSTALYX® and SWEETLIX® do a pretty good job of explaining a little of what the product is, for someone that may not be totally familiar with them.  I would also like to think names like Buffer-lyx®, BioBarrel®, Breed-Up®, Crystal-Phos®, ROLYX® and WeatherAll® also help to explain just what it is you are investing in, without any smoke and mirrors. When it is all said and done (and, if we get it done correctly), we want the product name to immediately translate into a visual representation of the product in your mind.

And then we have product, or more likely, additive names from some of our competitors.  I will not name any here, but suffice it to say they are catchy, they often break rules of English spelling (we even did that once with Crystal Clear Economyx®) and they promote a perception of something ground breaking, a little mysterious and news worthy.  Now, I’m not talking about every brand or trademarked name that our competitors have, but rather just the few that appear to be mostly hype, and have little, if any, research behind them.  The scenario often plays out like this: We get a call or an e-mail asking, “What competitor Y’s new additive ‘Serpent-Lube’ is?”  After some digging and even calls to the competitor, we often still do not know what the additive really is, or what it really can do.  And then in some cases, it is just a new name for an old additive that is really nothing new, but it sure sounds new.  There seems to be a belief that a flashy name will give the perception of ground-breaking innovation, when there really isn’t much.

I would like to think that there are many of us who can answer your questions about any of the products we make, and especially the products to which we have given trademarks and brand names.  To quote from Teri Walsh’s blog just last week:

"CRYSTALYX® has 6 trained nutritionists on staff, ready to help. We each have areas of specialty (not just beef cattle). This depth of knowledge (practical and formal) means we are able to find solutions for every production scenario. We know our products. We know that there’s no ‘one-size-fits all answer’ when it comes to supplementing your cattle. By asking you a few questions about your operation, we can suggest products that will work for your specific situation."

I firmly believe that the branded and trademarked products we have, are among the best in the industry, and we have the people, knowledge and research to back them, when you have questions about them.

CRYSTALYX® Breed-Up®, Crystal-Phos®, and ROLYX® supplements are an easy way to affordably provide organic/chelated trace minerals, vitamins, phosphorus, magnesium, and/or fly control in your summer mineral program.  All this, in a weather proof supplement block, that’s available 24/7, while minimizing your investment in time, labor and equipment.  And, as I have said before, take all that a step further, and try those products with two of our greatest innovations, the WeatherAll® BioBarrel®.


Prepare Now For Heat Stress


Dairy and Beef Feedlot Considerations

Weather has an enormous impact on our industry; everything from precipitation concerns to temperature extremes affecting our crops and livestock.    This past winter was one for the record books, now it is time to prepare for warmer temperatures and reduce the impact of heat stress on your dairy and feedlot cattle.  We now have a better understanding of the impact that brief periods of low rumen pH can have on animal performance.  Periods of low rumen pH can result in reduced rumen function, death of rumen bacteria and systemic endotoxemia.

There are many modifications we can make to the housing environment to lessen the impact of heat stress.  Now is the time to check your water supply, fans, sprinklers and the condition of your shades. However I want address some nutritional modifications with this blog.  Dairy cattle and beef feeder cattle are more susceptible to heat stress today than cattle were just 10 years ago due to being at higher level of performance and changes in housing conditions.

We have high performance animals that produce a great deal of heat on a normal day.    Regardless of the size of the dairy, we must milk the cows.  The holding pen and milking parlor can be one of the hottest and humid places on earth.  Imagine an entire pro football team packed in a school bus after a pre-season half-a-day work out in August………times 10.     It can take dairy cows hours to cool down after a trip through the holding pen and milking parlor. 

Our diets are designed to match the performance potential of our animals; highly fermentable, high energy diets. Periods of heat stress will result in fewer, but larger meals consumed during the cooler times of the day.  Cattle will be more aggressive at sorting the ration.  The result is increased risk of periods of reduced rumen pH, often referred to as sub-acute rumen acidosis (SARA). The severity of SARA is dictated by how low and how long the rumen pH is depressed.  A common nutritional recommendation is to increase the amount of buffers in the ration.  However, how beneficial are buffers in the ration if the cattle are going several hours without eating the ration?  In addition, when cows eat fewer meals during the day the amount of starch (a high fermentable carbohydrate) consumed in a single meal may over whelm the buffering capacity of the ration.  Offering a self-fed buffer supplement is a tool that many producers utilize during periods of heat stress.  CRYSTALYX® BufferLyx® and CRYSTALYX® Meta-bolyx® are low moisture block formulas that have the advantages of less waste, higher palatability and more consistent predictable intake as compared to free choice buffers like sodium bicarbonate and magnesium oxide. 

Research has shown these formulas to be effective at minimizing the severity and duration of depressed rumen pH in a SARA challenge.  See Figure 1.  The SARA challenge model developed by Dr. Gary Oetzel of the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine simulates conditions where intake has been limited to 50% of normal and cattle were allowed full access to the ration and given additional grain.

Figure 1.  BufferLyx® Treatment Had Higher Rumen pH and Quicker Recovery Time.

Field observations and third party research trials have shown milk and performance responses that are very impressive; +4 to +9 pounds of milk and +0.25 lb./hd/day ADG in hard fed Holstein steers.  Honestly hard to believe!  Subsequent research using this SARA model has helped explain why and how minimizing the periods of low rumen pH can result in this improved performance.

The rumen is a large fermentation vat containing billions of bacteria and protozoa.  Many of these bacteria are gram negative bacteria that have a lipopolysaccharide (LPS) component to their cell wall.  LPS is a potent toxin that causes fever, reduced immune function and changes in insulin sensitivity which will impact energy metabolism.  LPS is the endotoxin responsible for the severe swelling, pain and fever associated with E. coli mastitis and E. coli diarrhea.  Rumen bacteria are very sensitive to pH and will rupture and die when the pH is too low.  This causes a release of the LPS into the rumen.  When large numbers of bacteria are killed during heat stress induced SARA the LPS released will cause localized inflammation and the LPS enters the blood stream.    Subsequent research by Khafipour et al. using the SARA model found that LPS levels were greatly elevated in the rumen fluid and in the blood of animals experiencing a single SARA event.    

Adapted from Khafipour et al. JDS 2009

The impact of low rumen pH worsens with each subsequent SARA event and it takes a long time for these animals to recover from just a single SARA event.  The damage and inflammation caused by the LPS release has long term implications on the rumen’s ability to recover and regenerate new tissue.  This explains the common observation that after the third or fourth event of summer heat stress the herd crashing in milk production. 

Dohme et al. conducted a study where the SARA challenge was repeated every 10 days for 3 times in total.  Monitoring the amount of time spent below rumen pH of 5.8 and 5.5 was how this trial ranked the severity of the acidosis.  The research concluded that cows will experience increasing severity and duration of low rumen pH with each additional challenge as indicated in the graph.   Fiber digesting bacteria are killed below rumen pH of 5.8 and rumen function is altered when rumen pH is below 5.5 for extended periods. 

Look at Challenge Period 3 in the graph below and notice the time under the dotted line (pH 5.8).   The rumen pH for cows in the SARA challenge was below pH 5.8 for 13.9 hours/day compared to 4.7 hours for control cows.  SARA challenge cows experienced rumen pH below 5.5 for 9.5 hours/day compared to 1.8 hours/day for control cows.  These finding can help explain why it appears the herd crashes.  Not every animal in a herd is impacted to the same extent by heat stress.  In reality the herd crash has been building as more and more individuals in the herd are having a 3rd or 4th sub-acute acidosis event.

Adapted from Dohme et al. JDS 2008

SARA cost the dairy and beef feed lot industry billions of dollars in lost performance.  Heat stress is a contributing risk factor for SARA.  Heat stress abatement with modifications to the housing environment will help keep the animals cool, but do not forget nutritional modifications.  Research has shown that 1 brief period of low rumen pH makes animals susceptible to more severe acidosis risk with the next challenge.  SARA not only impacts rumen function but can contribute to systemic endotoxemia which will impact health and reproduction. CRYSTALYX® BufferLyx® and Meta-bolyx® offer a convenient self-fed buffer supplement that helps reduce the severity of SARA risk by improving the buffer status of the animals regardless of ration intake.



Self-Fed Mineral Supplementation - Try it the CRYSTALYX® Way


One of my early feed career mentors, Mick Lovelace, was famous for teaching me and several colleagues I still work with today the value of mineral supplementation.  It wasn’t the importance of mineral nutrition that Mick taught but rather the importance of consistent and predictable intake with self-fed supplements.  One of his favorite sayings was, “there’s two ways to supplement cattle, our way or the wrong way.”   While this is definitely a biased statement and overlooking  lots of good products, the take home message he was conveying was that a mineral program, no matter how good it looks on paper, isn’t worth anything if intake is improper or management is lacking.

I’m following up on some points in Mark Robbins’ blog last week.  He mentioned how versatile CRYSTALYX® was as a summer mineral program and mentioned several good attributes or “Multi-Tasks” of the product.  I’ll take it a step further and again point out what a great mineral program CRYSTALYX® can be.   CRYSTALYX® has about 7 different products that are true mineral supplements, meaning they aren’t formulated to deliver supplemental protein, rather they are 1:1 or 2:1 mineral supplements that deliver most all the macro and micro minerals required for beef cattle, and in some cases twice the level for performance.    What really makes CRYSTALYX® work well as a mineral supplement is its delivery; consistent intake by a large percentage of the herd.  It is a block supplement so people often don’t think of it as a mineral as they would a loose form of mineral, yet it is.

Like my early career mentor, I too am biased and not afraid to show it in this article.  Feeding mineral in the CRYSTALYX® form allows many multi-tasks as Mr. Robbins pointed out but also much more.


  1. It’s the ultimate weatherized mineral.  CRYSTALYX® is solid. It does not “cake up” when wet.  It will not wash away, blow away, or become unpalatable or leach when wet.  I applaud our industry for the advancements made in loose mineral weatherization, and much of it within my own organization, but no loose mineral can boast the weatherability of CRYSTALYX®.
  2. CRYSTALYX® minerals are user friendly.  The barrels are easily portable and can be offered in various sizes (250, and 125 lb. steel, 200 lb. plastic, and of course the 200lb BioBarrel®).  The larger sizes can minimize the number of trips made to a pasture hauling mineral and there are no sacks to dispose of, salt to mix for intake manipulation, etc.  Again, I’m not trying to bad mouth a good, well managed loose mineral program but I often time see loose mineral programs suffer due to empty feeders, not enough feeders placed , poor intake and palatability issues,  too much or too little salt, weather, management errors, etc.
  3. Cattle like CRYSTALYX® mineral supplements and by a large percentage of the herd will consume them on a regular basis.  Research conducted over 10 years ago in Montana illustrates this well (see chart below).  Consistent intake of mineral really means better assimilation and efficient use there of vs. erratic intake.  Think of feedlot or dairy cattle dry feed intakes. Consistency is a good thing.  Too often, the reality of mineral supplementation are periods of excessive intake which will lower the overall bioavailability followed or preceded by very little intake and only half or two thirds of the herd consuming most all of the mineral – meaning one third to one half really aren’t consuming mineral at all.


Overall, CRYSTALYX® can be your mineral program at any time of the year.   Now is a good time to evaluate your upcoming summer program and see which CRYSTALYX® mineral program can work. During the summer of 2013, we conducted several evaluations with Hubbard Feeds of our newest CRYSTALYX® mineral supplement, Breed Up Max.  Supplement intake averaged approximately 3 ounces per day (typical of mineral programs either loose or block form) and performance was excellent – view testimonial here.

 I encourage all producers to consider a CRYSTALYX® mineral program, especially if you’ve had other programs where cattle simply would not eat mineral consistently or have had weather or management challenges. I would also encourage all those who sell CRYSTALYX® to be assured that CRYSTALYX® mineral programs are unique, successful, economical and easy to manage.  Use them to your customers’ advantage to help be a leader in mineral nutrition.    Afterall, there is more than one way to supplement mineral; I won’t be quite as bold as Mick and say ours is the only right way, but I will argue that CRYSTALYX® mineral programs are often times the best way. 


A CRYSTALYX® Summer Mineral Program

I once wrote a blog asking if your supplement could multi-task.  While the intent of this blog is similar, it will be much more product specific, for the summer ahead.  See if you can figure out which product I’m talking about in the paragraphs ahead.

A few weeks ago I mentioned that we had updated our line of CRYSTALYX® fly control blocks to include organic trace minerals.  Given that much of the fly control season overlaps with the breeding season, this allows us to accomplish two tasks at once.  You can control flies, and also supplement your herd with a premium mineral package containing organic trace minerals.

You benefit from the reduced labor, time and equipment investment that any self-fed supplement gives you.  Why not take that a step farther, and eliminate the need to go back and pick up empty barrels, by using the new WeatherAll® BioBarrel® this summer?  Our patent pending addition of a food grade edible wax to the outsides of the BioBarrel® has greatly increased its resistance to moisture, thus increasing its “Weatherability”.  This is especially appealing in areas of higher rainfall.

Another task we can accomplish with CRYSTALYX® (this would be task #4 if you are counting) is the planned distribution of cattle grazing, without the need for fences or herding.  Bear with me here, while I plagiarize directly from a CRYSTALYX® label: “Place containers in areas that achieve desired supplement intake. Once acceptable intake levels have been achieved, the containers may be moved to underutilized pasture areas to improve grazing distribution and forage utilization.”  While you will want to start naive cattle on CRYSTALYX® near water, after 2-3 weeks, you can move the barrels to areas of your pasture where grass utilization is not as high as you like.  This has the added benefit of reducing grazing pressure on riparian areas.  Any of you that graze public lands like US Forest Service leases, National Grasslands or BLM pastures may be able use this “task” to increase the number of days you are allowed to graze a particular pasture.

The fifth task I would ask you to consider accomplishing with your chosen summer mineral program, has to do with face flies.  You are likely aware that CRYSTALYX® has both IGR/Altosid® and Rabon® Oral Larvicide (ROLYX®) fly control formulas.   And, you probably know that they both control the horn fly.  However, it is often forgotten that, of these two, only Rabon® is labeled to also control face flies.  Face flies are the main culprit in spreading bacterial organisms, like Moraxella bovis, which are the main cause of pinkeye in cattle.  In all, Rabon® Oral Larvicide is labeled to control horn flies, face flies, house flies and stable flies in the manure of treated animals.

It is often assumed that Rabon® Oral Larvicide is more expensive to use than Altosid®.  However, as you can see in the chart below, the way we have formulated CRYSTALYX® ROLYX® products for a lower intake than Altosid® products, the cost per head per day is similar for our mineral formulations and actually significantly cheaper for the protein formulation.

So, if you choose to use CRYSTALYX® ROLYX® MAX (containing Rabon®) in the WeatherAll® BioBarrel®, as your summer mineral program, you will be using 5 registered trademarks, and 3 patents! Now that’s exciting!  But seriously, and more importantly, you will also be accomplishing 5 tasks at one time:


  1. A summer mineral program utilizing organic trace minerals
  2. Control of horn flies
  3. Reduced labor, time and equipment costs with the WeatherAll® BioBarrel®
  4. Managing cattle grazing distribution with strategic placement of CRYSTALYX®
  5. Control of face flies


If you happen to need fly control in times where grass tetany is a concern, you may want to consider ROLYX® Pro-Mag, which is also a protein and magnesium supplement.

As the summer wears on, you need to continue to use fly control measures until the first killing frost.  By that time you may also need a protein supplement, and ROLYX® Pro-Mag can handle that for you as well.  That would be task 6 & 7. 

When it comes to multi-tasking, no other supplement comes close to accomplishing what CRYSTALYX® can do for you!



'Tis the Season... For Grass Tetany

Regardless of your address, we can all agree that it’s been a long winter. Even though we’re officially in spring, it doesn’t look or feel like it in southern Minnesota. The long range forecasts are calling for cooler than average temperatures in most areas with average precipitation. The combination of cool weather and rain is perfect for cool season pastures to take off. While the green pastures are a welcome sight, they can potentially cause grass tetany.

Grass tetany is a metabolic disease brought on by low magnesium in the body and the diet. This occurs most often when cattle are grazing lush, fast growing grass or cereal grain pastures (legumes don’t pose a threat as they may contain twice the magnesium as grasses in the same soil). Mature, lactating cows are more susceptible to grass tetany as they are less able to mobilize magnesium from the bones, where magnesium is stored. Grass tetany symptoms progress rapidly; look for cattle grazing away from the herd, irritability, muscle twitching in the flank, wide-eyed and staring, staggering, collapse, and thrashing. If left untreated the animals eventually fall into a coma and die.

Treating a cow with grass tetany requires a call to the vet and it’s not always successful. Preventing grass tetany requires having a very palatable self-fed supplement with adequate magnesium available at all times when grazing low magnesium pastures. However, while magnesium oxide is a good source of magnesium, it is unpalatable at high inclusion levels. The tricky part is keeping your cattle consuming the supplement to get the benefit of the magnesium.

Magnesium oxide is bitter and bitter is an inherent intake killer (bitter plants tend to be toxic). Cattle can also taste sweet and salty, which are intake drivers. To maintain intakes on a high magnesium product, we take a page from Mary Poppins, add ‘a spoonful of sugar.’ The high palatability and proven intakes of CRYSTALYX® self-fed supplements ensure that cattle grazing high risk pastures are receiving the magnesium they need. CRYSTALYX® Super-Mag™ (also available with Bio-Mos®) is specially formulated to meet your cows’ magnesium requirements on high risk pastures that we typically see under cool wet spring conditions. Other CRYSTALYX® self-fed supplements with magnesium levels to aid in the prevention of grass tetany include Hi Mag Tasco®-lyx™, Hi Mag Fescue-Lyx®, Breed UP® 17 Mag and ROLYX® Pro-Mag. To learn more about these products, visit our website, click on Proven Results and select Grass Tetany, or visit your nearest CRYSTALYX® dealer.

Bio-Mos® is a registered trademark of Alltech
Tasco® is a registered trademark of Acadian Agri-Tech™


Preventing Disease via Nutrition is Going to be More Important than Ever


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 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


Can I Feed CRYSTALYX® Cattle Supplements to Horses?

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 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.


Fall Deworming Even More Important After A Wet Summer!

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.

The Lifecycle

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 )

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



Don't Forget the Phosphorus

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 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


Cows in Dry Lot, it’s not a new concept - Where does CRYSTALYX® Fit?

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.


Drought Affects More Than You Can See

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 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 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.


If You Don’t Fertilize Fescue Pastures, Pay Special Attention to Mineral Supplementation

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  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


Getting Minerals Into Your Cow Herd; Provide Your Cows the Nutrients That They Need…

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.



Injectable vs. Oral Mineral Supplements

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 for more information or to speak to a nutritionist for more specific questions.



Be Prepared

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.    



Time to Check Your Cow Herd’s Mid-Winter Mineral Program

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. 



Beef Cow Herd “To Do” List for Fall


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.

Forage Inventory

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. 


Common Sense Tips For Stretching Your Feed Dollars


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.



CRYSTALYX® Fundamentals


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


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.  


Water Quality Falls During Drought


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:

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:

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.




What is an Organic Trace Mineral?


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.


Why is Vitamin D added to Mineral Mixes and Feeds

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 .


Jackie Nix is an animal nutritionist with Ridley Block Operations. You can contact her at


Summer Checklist for your Beef Cow Herd

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!

Top Ten reasons to Supplement Beef Cattle on Pasture:

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.


Species: Cow/Calf | Stocker


Species: Cow/Calf | Stocker


Species: Cow/Calf | Stocker


Species: Cow/Calf | Stocker


Species: Cow/Calf | Stocker | Dairy


Species: Feedlot


Species: Cow/Calf | Stocker | Bison


Species: Cow/Calf | Stocker


Species: Cow/Calf | Stocker | Dairy | Equine


Species: Cow/Calf | Stocker


Species: Sheep


Species: Goat | Sheep


Species: Equine


Species: Goat