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My hay is too expensive: How can I afford supplement?

I often hear cattlemen say, “With the cost of hay so high, I cannot afford to also buy a supplement.” If a supplement makes sense in your operation with lower priced forage, it only makes more “cents” with higher priced forage.

When we buy a supplement, most of us want to know what sort of payback we get from it. Supplements replace nutrients that are either missing or only available in lower than desired quantities in the base diet/forage. Supplements can also provide performance enhancing additives that are not available naturally. Supplements can provide a third return—their ability to modify the grazing distribution of the herd in a pasture. This is best accomplished by self-fed supplements that are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

These three benefits “pay” you back for the cost of the supplements, generally with increased gain, better health/reproductive performance, or more efficient production overall. The payback can vary from supplement to supplement and situation to situation. 

Providing supplemental crude protein to low quality forages will boost the digestibility (release of energy). It is not uncommon for supplemental crude protein to increase the digestibility of a low quality forage by 10 percent. This gives you 10 percent more energy from every ton of forage or, theoretically, you could feed 10 percent less of the forage and achieve the same performance. Either way, you have 10 percent more forage energy than if you chose not to feed a supplement. Ten percent of $150/ton forage will always be worth more than 10 percent of $50/ton forage.

If you have two trucks and only have room to put one in a shed ahead of an oncoming hailstorm, which do you choose? The new truck worth $50,000 or the old one worth $15,000? Just as your reward today for saving a single 600 pound calf that gets sick at weaning is worth over $950 versus around $680 three years ago, your payback for using a supplement on $150 forage is far greater than on $50 forage.

CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements, available to your herd 24/7, are an excellent way to increase the payback from your forage, no matter the forage cost. Just remember that your payback increases as your forage cost increases.