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Filling in the gaps: Meeting cattle nutritional needs while keeping costs down

In the world of self-fed block supplementation, there have not been many new block forms introduced over the past few decades. While overall nutritional profiles have gone through some significant evolutions during that period of time, the types of blocks available in the marketplace have not changed much — so it was with a great deal of excitement that, in the fall of 2018, Ridley Block Operations introduced a new block form unique to the industry: the CrystalBlox™ compressed low-moisture block (CLMB). This patented hybrid, a combination of the lower-cost compressed form with the predictable intake of a low-moisture block, created something new and different.

The development of the CrystalBlox CLMB was several years in the making, with many trials conducted to make a configuration in which cattle could consume two different block forms in the tub at approximately the same rate and at the desired intake. After much trial and error, a block consisting of a star-shaped low-moisture section in the middle, surrounded by the compressed section on the outside of the tub, satisfied those intended goals.

Nutritionally, CrystalBlox provides cattle with similar benefits to the traditional CRYSTALYX® block, including improved forage digestibility thanks to the protein and carbohydrates provided to rumen microbes, plus a full complement of minerals and vitamins to support overall animal health and vigor. What sets it apart from the traditional CRYSTALYX block is the inclusion of the compressed portion, allowing for a higher intake of nutrients when circumstances dictate doing so. CrystalBlox is different from other compressed blocks thanks to the low-moisture portion that controls overconsumption of the block, which can lead to increased feed costs. Since controlling costs is essential in today’s economic environment, CrystalBlox can be an excellent option for meeting nutritional needs while keeping costs down compared to a traditional compressed block.


Since there may be a few questions as to the purpose and management of CrystalBlox, when CRYSTALYX has been such a valuable self-fed supplement over the years, let me provide a FAQ section below.

Q: I have had such great success with CRYSTALYX in the past; why should I consider switching to CrystalBlox?

CrystalBlox is not meant to replace CRYSTALYX blocks in situations where they have already proven successful, but we have identified situations in which a higher level of intake was needed than what the typical ¾-lb. CRYSTALYX block could deliver. CrystalBlox are meant to be used when a group of cattle need additional protein and energy supplementation, such as when the hay or crop residue quality is very low, when the body condition of the group is less than desired or during a drought, when forage availability is limited, as many areas of the country are currently experiencing.

Q: What is the typical intake for CrystalBlox?

With a stocking rate of about 20–30 adult cattle per block, the typical intake will average around 0.75–1.5 lbs. per head. However, a higher stocking rate, such as 40 head per block, will lower the average intake, while a stocking rate of 10–15 head per block will raise the average daily intake. The block can be managed to accommodate the desired intake for the group. Included below is an example from an on-farm demonstration with cows during our research period in which changing the container-to-cow ratio altered the average intake per head:

As with any type of block, intake can vary due to conditions such as forage quality and availability, pasture size, placement of the blocks and stage of production.

Q: Can I get CrystalBlox in a BioBarrel®?

No. Due to the pressure involved in the manufacturing of the compressed part of the block, the BioBarrel cannot withstand that process, so all CrystalBlox products come in plastic tubs.

Q: What product options are available?

Two formulations are currently available: a 30% protein option with 15% as NPN and a 20% all-natural protein formula. Both are included in our Blueprint® lineup of products, meaning that the trace minerals are provided in a 100% Bioplex® organic (chelated) form for optimal absorption, offering the benefits we have seen with other Blueprint products, including higher conception rates, shorter breeding periods, improved immune response against microbial diseases and improved growth. Targeting beef and dairy replacement heifers, first-lactation females or any of your breeding groups on the farm with this higher-standard package of trace mineral nutrition can certainly contribute to improved breeding performance.

Q: Do I need to feed salt along with CrystalBlox, as I do with CRYSTALYX?

No, CrystalBlox contains salt as part of its mineral package.

With the increasing demand around the country for CrystalBlox, we have plans to expand our production capacity in the near future. We look forward to expanding this option to CRYSTALYX dealers and, ultimately, cattle producers as a new tool for “filling in the gaps” of a nutritional program. Please visit your local dealer or the CRYSTALYX website for additional information.