On the Blog

Navigating fall calving and forage supplementation programs

It’s November, and we have reached the time of year when temperatures are cooling off for many of us and having fewer hours of daylight is starting to cramp our busy schedules. Fall is here, and that means that a lot of calves are getting weaned and shipped to their new homes — but for many herds, autumn is a season of new beginnings, thanks to fall calving.

Fall calving is the norm in many regions but is totally foreign to producers in other areas of the country. Regardless of geography, every operation has to deal with three changes in the fall: Fewer hours of sunlight, lower temperatures and higher energy requirements in lactating cows. Depending on where you live, the forage quality may be declining due to the grazable forage going dormant or the utilization of grain crop residues — or, alternatively, you may be transitioning completely to stored forages. On the other hand, producers in the southern U.S. have the opportunity to utilize highly digestible cool-season pastures now that temperatures have come down a bit.

No matter your geography or situation, it’s important to know your cows’ requirements, the forage resources that are available, and which deficiencies or imbalances need to be corrected to achieve optimal production.

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RELATED BLOG: A road map to beef cattle supplementation
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First, it is crucial to address the foundation of cow production and health: meeting their mineral requirements. Fall-calving cows have just gone through the physiological and metabolic stress of having a calf, starting lactation and preparing their reproductive tract for rebreeding. On average, this process needs to be completed in 82 days to maintain a rate of one calf per year.

Meeting a cow’s macro mineral needs — particularly their requirements for calcium, phosphorus and magnesium — can be fairly simple with a basic mineral program, but to get them bred back in a timely manner and to retain that embryo through the first trimester, delivering a highly available trace mineral supplement to the cow on a consistent basis is critical. When it comes to proven results in cows, including higher conception rates, Bioplex® organic trace minerals are the gold standard of mineral technology. CRYSTALYX®’s Blueprint® products contain 100% Bioplex organic trace minerals to maximize the efficiency of the trace minerals and can supply this crucial piece of the puzzle in a self-fed, non-labor-intensive form.

Research data from Florida herds demonstrates the positive effects of the Blueprint Total Replacement Technology (TRT) program on the conception rates of cows, with an 8.24% improvement in pregnancy rates. Maximizing fertility and getting more cows pregnant one heat cycle earlier means an extra 21 days of age on a calf, which equates to roughly 30 to 40 pounds of added weight at weaning.



When it comes to widely varying forage supplies, meeting a cow’s protein and energy needs can be a bit trickier. With higher-quality forage supplies, added digestible protein may not be required to enhance the cow’s utilization of its diet, and a consistently delivered mineral supplement — such as CRYSTALYX® Blueprint® 6% Phos — could be all that is needed to achieve profitable results. At this time of year, however, many forage sources need a little boost to produce the desired outcome, and some need a lot of help to keep production females performing at an acceptable body condition. CRYSTALYX mineral and protein supplements — like CRYSTALYX® Blueprint® 20 All Natural or CRYSTALYX® Blueprint® 30 — can fit the bill for supplying that extra bump of protein while also providing a mineral package that covers all the bases to get cows bred back in a small and demanding window of time.

In some cases — especially with mature stockpiled forage or crop residues — forage digestibility is lower than what we’d ideally like to see, and we need to deliver more protein to get the job done. This is a perfect scenario for utilizing CrystalBlox™ Blueprint®, which can deliver up to 50% more protein in a controlled, higher-intake form to get the most out of those available forages while also supplying the proven Blueprint mineral package to enhance the cow’s fertility and immunity.

Forage availability and quality are the driving factors of cow herd performance. Matching supplementation strategies to our forage resources and time constraints can help us achieve the results that translate to profitability in today’s beef production system. CRYSTALYX products allow us to optimize our forage resources while maximizing the efficiency of both our mineral offerings and our on-farm labor.