With the current COVID-19 pandemic, there is more of a focus on the health and well-being of the population — especially high-risk groups. As we move into fall, there is also concern about the flu adding complications to COVID-19. Fortunately, the things we do to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19 also apply to controlling the flu. Nutrition is important for both people and cattle to maintain a strong immune system and stay healthy or recover if we or the cattle get sick. Stress plays a role in health risks as well, and at CRYSTALYX®, we have several product options that can help you better manage stress in the beef production cycle by providing supplemental nutrients during those times.
Weaning and receiving is the most stressful time for calves, and calving is the most stressful time for mature cows. These are also the highest-risk times for you to have sick, weak, poorly-doing or dead animals. In this blog, we will highlight key nutrients and how specific CRYSTALYX products work to reduce stress and illness.
Critical nutrients for maintaining health
Calves at weaning and receiving may be dehydrated from the social change, from time walking the pen and vocalizing, or from a longer-than-desired time at the stockyard and in transit on the truck. Cows may go several hours without water at calving, depending on how long the calving process lasts and how quickly the calf gets up to nurse. Being a little dehydrated is a risk factor for a suppressed immune system and can impact rumen function. The first line of defense is the skin and the lining of the digestive tract. At the cellular level, dehydration is like a tire or balloon that is partially inflated and kind of squishy. When the cells of the skin or digestive tract are not fully hydrated, they can allow bacteria and viruses to more easily invade, because those cells are no longer tightly packed together.
Energy is a collective term and may be better defined as a combination of metabolic energy reserves that are stored as glucose, glycogen and fat, plus the continued feed intake to maintain rumen fermentation. We humans often complain of having no energy and no appetite when we are sick; it is no different for cattle. Cattle will get ketotic when they are off feed and breaking down body fat. These ketones will disrupt the insulin response, which causes the cattle to experience a decreased appetite.
While on the subject of energy level, the macro minerals calcium, phosphorus and magnesium are necessary for energy metabolism, nervous system function and support for a strong immune system.
TRACE MINERALS AND VITAMINS
Trace minerals and vitamins are critical to maintaining immune function. This point cannot be stressed enough, which is why they are often mentioned in these blogs. We need a high trace mineral status to support the immune system that defends against the pathogens that cattle are constantly exposed to and for the cattle’s ability to respond to vaccinations. These nutrients need to be provided daily, as there is very little storage of vitamins, and the body reserve of trace minerals can be challenged at these stressful times. By weaning time, calves have utilized the trace mineral stores they received from their mothers in utero, and calves have been on a diet of milk and forage, which are both very low in trace minerals. We often wean them when they are at the lowest trace mineral status of their lives. Cows are often also at their lowest trace mineral status at calving due to the transfer of trace minerals to the developing calf during the second and third trimester of pregnancy.
Stimulating water and feed intake with CRYSTALYX
CRYSTALYX® Brigade® and Blueprint® Battalion® are a few of the products that contain salt and electrolytes to stimulate water intake. The licking action required to consume low-moisture blocks also stimulates the production of saliva, which is a potent natural rumen buffer. Water intake and a buffered rumen are highly correlated with feed intake. If we can ensure water intake, then feed intake will follow.
Improved feed intake equals improved energy status
Getting calves to eat at weaning is key to a successful weaning process. We have trials in both beef and dairy calves in which dry matter intake was improved by more than 10% in calves during the first weeks of the weaning phase. This improved intake continued throughout the feeding period, allowing the calves to reach their target feed intake weeks sooner when Brigade or Battalion were provided, compared to calves that were not offered a stress block. Both products contain B vitamins to stimulate appetite. Battalion is also fortified with chromium, which improves energy status and promotes higher feed intake due to its role in improving insulin sensitivity and blood glucose levels. Battalion also contains Bio-Mos® 2 to support gut health.
The use of our CRYSTALYX Breed Up line with cows at calving supports improved feed intake due to feeding the rumen with protein and carbohydrates to enhance rumen forage digestion. The Breed Up line combines protein delivery with higher trace mineral and vitamin levels compared to the balanced line of protein supplements. A portion of those trace minerals are offered as Bioplex® organic trace minerals for improved bioavailability to support animal health. Our supplements for mature cattle do not contain salt; therefore, free-choice salt needs to be provided.
Performance-driven trace mineral delivery
The consistent and predictable delivery of nutrition with CRYSTALYX Brand Supplements is the key to promoting performance. The controlled intake provided by a self-fed supplement makes CRYSTALYX a low-cost-per-head-per-day feeding program. These stress supplements are highly fortified to help you better manage the stress of weaning and calving. In Brigade, a portion of the trace minerals are provided as Bioplex organic trace minerals, and Blueprint Battalion utilizes our Total Replacement Technology (TRT), with all of its trace minerals provided as Bioplex organic trace minerals.
In summary, how can we lower your risk? CRYSTALYX stress supplements get your cattle to drink and eat and supports improved rumen forage digestion while delivering high-quality, highly available trace minerals and vitamins. Calves and cows that are on feed and in a good mineral status are low-risk, meaning you can just watch them grow and perform.