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Celebrate the green with your beef cow herd

Despite snowflakes flying through the air as I write this, spring green up has started in many parts of the country or is soon to come. With St. Patrick’s Day and spring arriving, it’s time to Celebrate the Green! Part of celebrating the green is looking at having strategies in place to make this a “green” and profitable year in your farm business.

In the past few weeks I read an article and listened to a presentation in which the author/speaker spoke about “average” not being good enough anymore. In the article about the beef business (“The Curse of Being Average in the Beef Business” by Tom Brink) the author in the table below showed partial budget values from 2017 in which an “average” herd was only a break-even scenario.

What are some strategies to consider?

With spring calving well underway, in most herds plans for keeping calves healthy and cows ready to rebreed are critical for profitability in the cow/calf business. Tim Clark, in a recent blog, showed the importance of body condition on rebreeding success for cows. Strategic planning for profitability means identifying those challenges or “bottlenecks” in your operation that need to be addressed before they occur and action needs to be taken to prevent or improve upon those challenges. 

One such group that often needs extra attention is 1st calf heifers. Because they continue to grow after calving while producing milk to nurse a calf, the energy density of the diet needs to be significantly higher than with a mature cow that will typically consume more dry matter. Failure to meet these higher requirements will lead to lower body condition, lower breeding success and a longer breeding period. If this tends to be a bottleneck in your herd, consider the economic benefit of improving the weaned calf crop from 87% to 90% as illustrated in the table above. In a 100 cow herd, three extra weaned calves sold at the average sales price of $1.72/cwt for a 545 lb calf, equals an extra $2,800 gross income before supplementation costs are considered. We generally see a 2 or 3:1 payback on CRYSTALYX® supplementation with improved forage digestion leading to better body condition maintenance. A higher plane of nutrition typically supports additional milk production by the heifer, contributing to the added weaning weight. CRYSTALYX® Breed-Up® supplements are designed to be fed 30 days prior to calving and through the calving and early breeding season. The Breed-Up line provides a higher level of fortification and contain Bioplex® organic/chelated trace minerals which are better absorbed, stored and utilized by the animal. There are multiple CRYSTALYX Brand Supplements to match up with the forage quality being fed. Inclusion of the Bio-Mos® option in Breed-Up will further contribute to improved calf health in the newborn.

Reduced health problems of calves

A second area of production that leads to heavier weaning weights is reduced health problems of calves. Currently, there are situations for increased stress for calves from fall calving herds now being weaned or purchased at stock yards to go onto spring pastures. These stress situations reduce gains. Add to this spring weather variability and the stress of working cattle and you have a scenario that will challenge many programs. Focusing on nutrition that supports the calf’s immune system with highly available organic/chelated trace minerals like Bioplex, along with proper vitamin levels, has shown a reduction in morbidity and mortality through multiple studies. By helping to create an environment which stimulates appetite to encourage feed intake as well as supporting greater efficacy of vaccinations, a producer can expect improved calf health without the administration of more expensive antibiotics. CRYSTALYX research with Brigade® and Battalion® stress blocks consistently shows improvements in calf health, feed intake and improved gains, typically cutting morbidity and mortality in half when offered to starting cattle.

Plan to make this a profitable “green” year with inclusion of CRYSTALYX products that boost health, reproduction and calf gains. Your CRYSTALYX representative can help develop a supplementation program to address nutritional bottlenecks that impact your bottom line.


Bioplex® and Bio-Mos® are registered trademarks of Alltech.