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Don’t be penny wise, but pound foolish

Recently, I spoke with a cattle producer who, due to economic circumstances, decided to save some money by going from a complete, balanced, mineral supplement program to offering plain, white salt. Unfortunately, his cost savings plan unwittingly resulted in severe foot rot issues in his herd. His cattle had abscesses requiring veterinary treatment.  He wanted my help in choosing a supplement to help fix the problem.  Now, he’s going to have to purchase an even more highly fortified (and more expensive) supplement than what he’d used originally in order to try to replenish his cow’s depleted mineral reserves.  That doesn’t take into account his vet bills or lost production. Add to that, the fact that it will take at least a year for the hooves to grow out, so problems are likely to continue for months. Unfortunately, in his case, he saved a penny only to spend a dollar later. This is an extreme case, but it points out the value of a solid mineral supplement program and the train wreck that results when animals don’t get what they need.

Let’s do a little math exercise to illustrate the value of mineral supplementation. As an example, take 100 head of cattle supplemented for a year on salt.  The supplement cost per head per day for salt is roughly 1¢; therefore, the cost to supplement 100 head for a year will be $365.  Compare that with supplementing 100 head on CRYSTALYX® Crystal-Phos® supplement for a year. The cost per head per day of Crystal-Phos® is roughly 16¢. Additionally, Crystal-Phos® contains no added salt, so we need to add an additional 1¢ per head daily for salt to arrive at a total supplement cost of 17¢ per head per day. Our annual cost for 100 head will be $6,205.  At first glance, that looks like a lot of money, and it is.  But let’s talk about what you get for your money.

First off, research shows that we can expect an extra 0.25 lb in ADG when feeding a complete mineral supplement vs. white salt. In this example, let’s assume that 100 cows give birth to 100 calves. An extra 0.25 lb ADG on 100 calves in a 6 month period comes to an extra 45 lbs per calf or 4,500 lbs for the herd. With recent prices hovering around $1.80/lb for 5 CWTs you can see that the return of $8,100 more than pays for the cost of supplementation on its own!

But let’s not forget about the other benefits of proper mineral supplementation that are harder to quantify in dollar amounts, such as improved immune response, improved reproductive performance and improved hoof health. Research has shown that cattle with proper mineral supplementation respond better to vaccinations since minerals are key in antibody formation. Additionally, cows in good body condition that receive proper mineral supplementation are going to come in heat earlier, get pregnant earlier, stay pregnant and result in a tighter calving period. Bulls in good body condition with proper mineral supplementation are not only more fertile, but also more likely to travel to breed cows due to better hoof health. Speaking of hoof health, adequate copper and zinc are critical for healthy, hard hooves that are less likely to incur injury. Because the footrot bacterium needs an open wound to gain entrance into the hoof, harder hooves mean less footrot.  While it is hard to assign a specific dollar amount to these benefits, we can all agree that they contribute to a better bottom line.

In summary, the old adage of “you can pay me now, or pay me later” is truer now than ever.  Don’t try to save a penny only to have to pay a dollar later to correct the mistake. Mineral supplements are like insurance. You think you don’t need it-- until you do. Think very carefully about long term effects before cutting out a vital component of your nutritional program. Better yet, think of mineral supplementation as an investment rather than a cost. CRYSTALYX® offers a wide variety of high quality supplements that will deliver essential minerals and vitamins to cattle in an ultra-convenient delivery system. Visit www.crystalyx.com or like us on Facebook to learn more about how CRYSTALYX® can work for you.