On the Blog

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.