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How Does CRYSTALYX® Pencil Out for Herd Health?

At the end of the day, most cattle producers get paid by how many pounds go across the scales, whether it is a weaned calf, yearling, live fat or hot carcass. Sitting in a sale barn a couple of weeks ago, I thought it was pretty clear that some good producers took a pretty big hit on cattle that were “sort-offs” from their main group. Yes, a few sorted due to the color of their hides, but mostly it was because of a blue eye, sore foot, hanging head or droopy ears. Some producers merchandising that day had as many as 30% of their calves sell separately from their main group due to one of these issues, and with a little pencil work, I calculated that it ended up costing them in the thousands of dollars.

Why were these calves not doctored? Most likely due to lack of facilities in the pasture, or time, or labor, or they just simply missed it. These reasons are often just a fact of life and will not soon be changed. Still, these were problems that could largely have been prevented. Maybe not 100%, but a significant reduction could have been achieved through some nutritional attention that would have required minimal labor and little expense per head.

A strong herd health program can prevent many health issues. The technology in today’s vaccines is amazing and can be a huge step toward profitability for producers who invest in those programs, but the vaccines are only as effective as the immune system they are protecting. All too often I hear producers speak of struggling with pinkeye in the pasture or respiratory issues at weaning, even though they have spent a hefty price on a vaccine program. Digging deeper, I have found that the vaccine investment came at the expense of their mineral supplementation program, with little to no consideration of the calf crop on the ground. A highly functioning immune system is reliant on an adequate supply of vitamins and minerals. Deficiencies or excessive levels of even one specific trace mineral can limit the availability of others or cause negative interactions, rendering subpar performance in growth, fertility and immune function. Bottom line, a highly available mineral supplement delivering the correct levels to cows and calves in a consistent manner can significantly aid in promoting optimal health and performance in your herd.

Although macro minerals like calcium, phosphorus and magnesium are highly important, their deficiency is typically rare in today’s supplemented diets. Trace minerals, namely selenium, zinc, copper, manganese and cobalt, are the minerals that help drive improved immune function. Depending on your geographical location, there may be some slight differences in the naturally occurring levels of these trace minerals in forage supplies, but for the most part they are all deficient in grazing diets, requiring supplementation.

Promoting good health with minerals begins prior to birth, with the gestating cow. Pregnant cows in excellent mineral status lactate high-quality colostrum to their newborn calves, resulting in a strong start to life. These calves are born with all the tools to promote newborn vigor and cope with the environmental challenges that lie ahead.  

Selenium supplementation is a good place to start with the pre-calving cow. It is most often thought of as a way to prevent retained placentas and ensure lively newborn calves, but it affects so much more within the immune system. Adequate selenium status also allows the immune system to respond to challenges quickly, and even more so when it is in the form of selenium yeast (Beck et al., 2005). Studies show this supplementation to help lower rates of bovine respiratory disease (BRD) in highly stressed incoming feedlot cattle (Hall et al., 2013) and to reduce the incidence of mastitis in dairy cows (Weiss et al., 1990).

Once the calf is a few months old and begins its grazing career, that’s when the need for supplementation becomes more important. Environmental challenges like heat, cold, humidity, mud and insects all combine to take a toll on young animals prior to weaning. Zinc is very important to the immune system, as it affects not only the responsiveness and strength of the immune system but also the integrity of the first lines of defense: hair, skin and hoof health. A healthy exterior of defense, combined with quick internal immune response and performance, can play a significant role in stopping problems in their tracks. Due to their increased bioavailability, organic forms of zinc have been proven to improve resistance to costly BRD and foot rot in multiple research settings (Nunnery et al., 2007).

Copper is one of the most recognized trace minerals we first consider in mineral supplementation, and rightfully so. Copper plays a major role in immune response and the function of enzymes for energy and antioxidant metabolism. Copper levels in cattle are difficult to get a handle on, as they are easily negatively impacted by excessive levels of common minerals such as sulfur, iron and manganese, which may naturally be present in high levels in water or forages. Inorganic forms can multiply these problems due to their poor bioavailability. Since balance of mineral levels is extremely important, this is a serious issue.

Cobalt is not a trace mineral at the top of our watchlist as producers; however, research studies have demonstrated improved survival rates and parasite resistance in calves and lambs that received adequate cobalt levels in their diets.

All the previous demonstrations of trace mineral importance really do not matter if the minerals aren’t consumed and absorbed correctly. Crystalyx® has been proven to deliver minerals and vitamins daily at the correct levels and in a highly palatable form for every animal in the pasture. The inclusion of Bioplex® organic trace minerals in Crystalyx ensures maximum bioavailability, meaning that the cattle get everything they can from the mineral, and you get more return from your investment. Crystalyx® Blueprint® products contain 100% organic trace minerals, meaning that they are the most available to the animal and there is less going to waste and confounding other minerals internally. Crystalyx Blueprint is quickly becoming the choice of discriminating producers who want to maximize fertility, health and genetic potential.  

Throughout the year, there really is no point in the production cycle where producers can skimp on the quality or delivery method of these essential minerals. They will always be needed. Consider:

  • A dry third-trimester cow with calf in utero developing crucial body systems
  • A high-producing lactating cow with a newborn calf experiencing environmental challenges
  • A cow in the breeding pasture requiring optimal fertility while nursing a calf
  • A second-trimester cow with a soon-to-be-weaned calf that will experience high stress

Preventative health measures start with consistent, effective mineral supplementation for the cow and the calf. The combination of effective mineral supplementation and preventive herd health management can prevent health problems, promote growth performance, maximize fertility, and yield more valuable pounds on payday. Crystalyx delivers every day the right amount and the right nutrition — and it always pays in pounds when you put the pencil to it.