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How much does a pound of supplement earn?

A pound doesn’t seem like a lot, but it is actually worth more today than it ever has been in the history of the cattle industry. Although we operate in terms of 1,200- to 1,500-lb. cows, tons of hay and acres of pasture, the little things really make the difference — and are sometimes the critical factor behind profits or losses at the end of the year.

One question I get asked repeatedly is: “How does a pound of Crystalyx make a difference to my cows’ nutrition?” In previous blogs, we have discussed the importance of protein supplementation to improve performance in cattle consuming low- or moderate-quality forages. In this blog, I’ll go a few steps further and apply that concept to today’s markets and cattle values to demonstrate how a little bit of the right stuff can add to the profit column on your balance sheet.

Beginning with our forage supplies, we all know that our grazed and stored forages aren’t always the quality we wish they were. In a perfect world, we could just sell that poorer-quality feed and buy something better — but in the vast majority of the situations, “you’ve got what you’ve got,” as they say, and it’s going to get fed to the cows regardless. In the end, most of us have to make the best of home-raised forages to stay in business, and it’ll still foster an acceptable performance from our herds.



Supplementation strategies can help make up the difference, but cost, efficiency and time/labor can put a crimp on some of the options. I often ask producers, “If you could simply get more out of your hay and cover your bases on minerals while only needing to feed your cows once a week, would that make sense?” Most admit that scenario sounds like a pretty good deal — and this is where Crystalyx self-fed supplements shine.

Studies have shown that a typical daily intake of ¾ to 1 lb. of a Crystalyx protein supplement can increase fiber digestion by 10–15% when cattle are consuming marginal-quality forages. This is a nice result, but that improvement in fiber digestion also drives the cow’s dry matter intake, which results in a higher level of total energy consumed and metabolized by that cow. These differences may seem small on their own, but when combined, they could tip the scales toward gaining weight or maintaining weight, for instance, or could be the difference of a body condition score (BCS) of 4 vs. a BCS of 5 come calving time.

Intake and digestibility study: Forage only vs. Forage + Crystalyx BGF 30


No supplement


Dry matter intake (lb.) of forage (5.7% CP)



Supplement (lb.)



Total dry matter intake (lb.)



NDF D = digestibility (%)



(KSU 1997)


These critical BCS levels at calving have been recognized as the “tipping point” of reproductive success in the following breeding season. Cows that successfully breed back earlier also have calves that are a bit older and heavier at weaning. For example, a cow that calves in the first 21 days of the breeding season as opposed to the second 21 days will wean a calf that is 42 lbs. heavier (considering an ADG of 2 lbs./day). That equates to around $100–120 per head at the current market prices.

Research also shows that improving the BCS at calving from a 4 to a 5 improves pregnancy rates by 25% and calving intervals by 24 days. Given the current market prices — of 500-lb. calves at $2.50/lb. — if 30% of a 100-head cow herd is at a BCS of 5 as opposed to a BCS of 4 at calving, a producer can easily realize a 2:1 return on investment (ROI) on their supplementation program for the entire herd over the course of a 120-day feeding season. That ROI signifies the potential of catching up the skinny cows while also enhancing the performance of the cows who are already in good condition. Additionally, cows with an improved BCS have been shown to produce higher-quality colostrum and calves with stronger immune systems that can fight off the challenges associated with difficult weather conditions.




CALF ADG (lbs.)

CALF WW (lbs.)






















I’ll take it one step further on the health and management side of things. It’s no secret that we tend to pay better attention to calves born in the first month or so of calving season, simply due to time constraints and fatigue on the part of the producer. In my personal experience, as a result, the cows that calve later get less attention, and the care for those calves is often a little more lax, resulting in higher mortality rates and a reduced health status. Again, this is just an observation I’ve made based on talking with multiple producers throughout my territory, but it’s something to think about.

Back to Crystalyx! Coupling Crystalyx protein supplements with technologically advanced Blueprint minerals can give your nutrition program an even bigger boost. Crystalyx Blueprint solutions include only 100% organic trace minerals to ensure maximum performance from the minerals and bioavailability for the animal, helping producers capitalize on continued genetic investments in their herds.

It’s the little things that matter in today’s cattle business, and setting your cows up for optimal spring calving and rebreeding success in the fall and winter is more important now than ever before. Achieving efficient protein and mineral supplementation with Crystalyx and Crystalyx Blueprint solutions can help ensure that your calves are both healthy and profitable at birth and that your cycling cows are fertile at the start of the breeding season. In today’s world, a pound of Crystalyx supplement earns much more than it costs!