Last week’s Discussion
Last week’s CRYSTALYX® blog discussed challenges often seen when breeding coincides with grazing lush or early spring pastures. I cited research that has looked at these issues from both a nutritional and management aspect. Some may think this is only a northern plains or Canadian problem due to the time of year where breeding may coincide with pasture turnout. Perhaps it is more of an issue in the northern regions, but could happen anywhere if & when conditions are right. To summarize the problem, breeding challenges may often be the result of embryonic death loss during the first few weeks of pregnancy vs initial conception rates. Energy intake by cows and heifers may be limited on early new grass thus contributing to the problem.
The CRYSTALYX® Strategy put to work – CRYSTALYX® Breed-Up® Omega Demonstration 2015
In 2015, Ridley Block Operations and Hubbard Feeds conducted a demonstration at a ranch in central North Dakota evaluating breeding performance with timed AI. Approximately 500 head of synchronized heifers were bred the first week of June and then turned out to green grass for the first time that season within two days of breeding. Prior to breeding, all heifers were managed and grown in a dry lot with a ration formulated to gain weight modestly. Approximately 10 days prior to breeding, CRYSTALYX® Breed-Up® Omega was offered as the mineral vitamin program and then continued on pasture for 45 days post breeding. This product is 12% protein and 12% fat and contains twice the NRC requirements for beef cattle of trace and vitamins. A portion of the trace minerals are organic or chelated, and a portion of the fat comes from flax seed; an excellent source of Omega fatty acids. Overall, intake of the product was approximately 6 ounces at a cost of roughly 20-25 cents per head per day. This may appear to be an expensive mineral program but it’s actually more than just a mineral program. Consider it a breeder mineral and a protein-vitamin supplement all in one; that’s really what it is. Some of the research discussed in last week’s blog mentioned supplemental feeding of a commodity on pasture does improve energy status, and therefore breeding characteristics. Doing so with 2-4 lbs of a commodity feed, which does not provide additional minerals and vitamins and requires more delivery and storage cost, would actually cost more to feed than CRYSTALYX®.
Conclusions made by the ranch at pregnancy testing were that 55% of the heifers conceived by AI breeding. This would likely be considered a low AI conception rate but was very similar to the past 20 years of breeding records using this practice. What was interesting however was that very few heifers bred late or what would be deemed the third heat cycle, meaning most that did not breed AI were bred in the second heat cycle by clean up bulls. This was a marked improvement over previous years on a different mineral program, and supported our theory going into the demonstration that with better nutrition post AI breeding, we could perhaps achieve better embryonic survival once heifers went to grass and better clean up breeding thereafter.
North Dakota Heifer AI Breeding & CRYSTALYX® Breed-Up® Omega performance
The take home story here is that using CRYSTALYX®, and in this case the Breed-Up® Omega as a supplement prior to, during and after breeding is a good choice. Not only does it provide a high quality and highly fortified mineral/vitamin level, it is in a palatable form (CRYSTALYX®) and assures intake on high quality lush grasses. The higher fat level provides additional energy as well. Overall, CRYSTALYX® as a mineral program, makes a lot of sense. It’s waste proof, waterproof and windproof; can be used as a grazing management tool, and comes with its own feeder. Not many other mineral supplement can provide all these features.
Spring brings the opportunity for green grass, pasture turnout, calving and of course breeding season. Lots on “new starts.” There’s been a lot of attention placed on the importance of getting that “new start” off to a good start when it comes to animal health and nutrition. A calf never gets over a good or bad start from the day it’s born. A weaned calf never gets over a poor start in a backgrounding lot or a feedyard. The same can be said for breeding, and the “start” I’m talking about is the one that happens at breeding and post conception.