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How beef cow-calf producers can reduce impact on the environment

Sustainable is an expressive term that has gained momentum when describing desired food production systems.  It attempts to pull together all facets of what goes into food production and provide guidance to what is good for consumers, producers profitability, environment, livestock in the case of meat animal production, employees and communities.  No small task when you consider these different parts of the food system.  You can probably see without too much difficulty, that a priority in one area, could easily have a conflicting or negative effect in another area.

Driving this move to sustainability has been larger food companies.  At one time, it was assumed that we needed to drive costs out of every part of the food chain in order to provide products at a competitive price.  If we use beef cattle for example, commodity prices that were received by producers did not allow much room for creating or capturing additional value over and above what the markets typically were based on, like raw pounds of calf. A commodity for all intents and purposes is a term used for unspecialized products that are sold at or near their actual cost of production because of their wide availability.

In more recent years, when food companies have interviewed their customers, they have begun to find out that consumers are becoming more interested in a wider list of concerns other than just price of their food.  We could spend several blogs trying to rationalize what consumers really want and what drives their motivations, but their concerns are many and will vary over time, age demographic and a host of other influences including a little media influence sprinkled in.

Let’s just take concerns with the environment and focus on that particular area where we might be able to help producers lessen their impact.  I would ask you to think about more recent years and when driving either through the countryside or within your pastures what can you think of that was not there years ago and now seems to show up across the landscape?  What I am referring to is the number and assortment of empty plastic supplement containers that seem to proliferate across the landscape.  This became very evident to me this past year, prior to the typical spring green-up.  Because pastures were still dormant the rainbow of colors were easy to spot and included, blues, yellows, reds, blacks, orange and all shades in between.  They were strewn about the pastures and caught in stock tanks and dams, winds forced them into fence lines and shelter belts and the spring run-off had deposited many in stream beds, in some cases now where near the originating pasture.


Plastic Containers Litter the Countryside

Plastic Containers Litter the Countryside


So, what can the call to action be for eliminating this type of environmental insult within your cow-calf operation?  We know that a forage program is designed especially for ruminant animals to convert indigestible fiber from your pastures, into meat animal protein like steaks, roasts and hamburgers.  A supplement program like CRYSTALYX® can help improve the utilization of your pastures and provide more food with less impact on the pasture land.  Some self-fed supplements are only available in plastic tubs.  These tubs present issues with timely retrieval to remove them from pastures and then dispose of them once supplement has been consumed.  We all know that having a couple of empty plastic containers can find use around the farmstead or ranch headquarters.  Having more than that, quickly becomes a problem with disposal.

With CRYSTALYX® you have two choices.  First, you can purchase supplements in a steel barrel with an option to bring back empty barrels to one of our manufacturing or reconditioning plants for credit.  This helps remove the container from the environment and provides us the ability to reuse containers.  Depending upon your location in the US, sometimes the distance for returning to our plants becomes too far to make it worthwhile for reconditioning the barrels.  No need to worry, the 2nd choice and with our fastest growing CRYSTALYX® sales come in the biodegradable BioBarrel® container.  It is what some have called, “The Container of The Future”.


CRYSTALYX<sup>®</sup> BioBarrel<sup>®</sup> The Container of the Future

CRYSTALYX® BioBarrel® The Container of the Future


The BioBarrel® is currently made from cereal straw, wood fiber and soy starch.  These ingredients are molded into a container which holds 200 lb. of CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplement product.  As cattle consume the product, the container disappears.  When all the product is consumed the BioBarrel® degrades into the environment with no trace that it was ever there.  Several improvements have been made to the container since it was first introduced to the market in 2006 that have added container strength, durability and persistence, particularly in wet environments.

As you evaluate what steps you can take to help bring your cow-calf operation into a more sustainable light.  Think about one small step that you can take with your supplement feeding program that can help minimize your impact on the environment.  CRYSTALYX® delivered in the BioBarrel® container is one way to start you on your journey.