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Supplementing is all in the numbers

Winter is coming. It’s not just a phrase on a popular premium cable TV show, it’s a fact. The leaves on the ground, the frost in the morning and the calendar tell us it’s inching closer. Whether your winter means a snow pack or grazing rye grass, the common denominator for all of us is what to do about supplementing.

More often than not, we use the cost per ton as the deciding factor when choosing a supplement program. However, we need to remember to add in other on-farm costs the cost per ton of supplement. These include labor to handle the supplement and mileage to and from the pasture. Derek Bailey, with Montana State University, looked at 2 supplement strategies, cake and low moisture blocks, to determine cost effectiveness. 160 cows were divided into 2 treatments, 20% cake fed 3 times/week and CRYSTALYX® BGF-30 offered free choice, on pasture October thru December.

The results of study showed that cattle supplemented with BGF-30 performed the same as cattle supplemented with cake while eating less. The BGF-30 cattle consumed an average of 0.70 lb (with 0.46 lb of free choice salt) whereas the cake cattle consumed an average of 1.69 lb (with 0.13 lb free choice salt). The exact driver behind the performance results was not determined in this study, but it does leave a person with a lot to think about. Another interesting observation in this study is pasture utilization. The BGF-30 cattle were tracked utilizing pastures at higher elevations than cattle fed cake.

From this research we can pull out 3 criteria for determining the economics of a supplement.

Supplement Cost – The total cost includes cost per ton of supplement, cost per ton for delivery to farm/ranch and storage cost per ton in addition to how many pounds/head/day during the supplementation period.

Labor Cost – How many hours does it take to put out the supplement for each feeding, and how many times per week do you do this?  What is your time or the hired hand’s time worth when other tasks could be completed?

Travel and Equipment Cost – How much does it cost you to drive your truck/tractor to the pasture round trip?

What it adds up to is cost of feed + cost of labor + cost of travel = total cost of supplement program. To see the numbers come together for yourself, click on the Crystal Clear Economyx® page. There you can use our cost calculator to do a quick comparison on the cost of a low moisture block to another type of supplement. Or you can download the Crystal Clear Economyx® spreadsheet and really crunch some numbers.

For more information on the research mentioned above, click on the ‘HOW IT WORKS’ tab above, then Supplementation Research and select Effects of Self-Fed vs Hand Fed Protein Supplements… under the Northern Agricultural Research Center Montana State University drop down.