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Decisions, Decisions, Decisions...

I’m going to do something that will shock you today. I’m going to advise you when NOT to use our CRYSTALYX® products. I know! I know! It’s pure heresy! But bear with me here.

Some people think that if a little is good, then more must be better. Sadly, this isn’t always the case.  Many cattle producers unwittingly sabotage their nutritional program by offering two, or even more, different self-fed supplements to a group of cattle at once. Here’s why that’s a bad thing…

The Smorgasbord approach doesn’t work

I know that I’ve personally heard both professionals and laypersons give the advice of offering multiple supplements at once. And when I say supplements, I’m talking about everything from straight minerals like magnesium oxide to commodities like kelp or corn to professionally manufactured products like CRYSTALYX®.

The smorgasbord approach doesn’t work mainly because cattle don’t know exactly what they “need” vs. what they “like”. I liken it to offering a child ice cream and broccoli and letting the child choose what is best for them. Sure, some will eat the broccoli, but most will eat the ice cream because they like it better. In the same way, cattle are going to eat the supplement that tastes the best to them first (or maybe even exclusively). Providing magnesium oxide to help prevent grass tetany is a good example of cattle not knowing what’s good for them. Even though lactating cows need the magnesium in lush spring or fall pastures, they won’t consume it.

In the same way, multiple commercial supplements offered at the same time won’t yield consistent results. Animals are likely to eat less than recommended levels of everything you offer or they eat all of one and none of the other. In the end, you have no idea which they are eating and the relative intake rate.  When the supplement fortification levels are very similar, this may not be a huge issue; however, when one or more supplements have additives, disparity occurs.

As an example, let’s say a producer wants to use a CRYSTALYX® IGR Pro barrel for fly control but also decides they want CRYSTALYX® Breed-Up® 20 with Bio-Mos® because it’s calving season too. On paper that sounds like a fine idea – the best of both worlds. The problem is that it doesn’t turn out that way.  Here’s why…

Each is designed for a very specific intake level with carefully balanced levels of ingredients to both attract cattle and keep them from over consuming. When you pair two very different products that are each designed to be the ONLY supplement provided, you are short changing your cattle. They will most likely eat some of each, and thus provide less than desired levels of BOTH supplements.

Exact intake matters

CRYSTALYX® low moisture block supplements that contain additives are designed for a very specific intake level. These are formulated to deliver the specified additive at effective levels within that intake level. If animals eat less than recommended levels of those additives, like Altosid® or Bio-Mos®, the additives will not provide the desired effects. Additives need to be consumed at a minimum level to fulfill their purpose. Under-dosing additives because of too many supplement choices could foster disease or parasite resistance to those additives over time. Delivery of sub-recommended levels of additives needlessly adds input costs to your operation with little to no return on investment.  Also, in rare cases, additives that are not meant to be consumed together can interact with disastrous results. With this in mind, NEVER mix and match ANY supplements containing additives (medications, fly control, nutraceuticals) without first consulting a veterinarian and/or nutritionist. This includes mixing a CRYSTALYX® low moisture block with medicated minerals, medicated pressed blocks or even medicated feeds. Read and follow label directions EXACTLY as recommended for use of products containing medications and additives.

Summary

In summary, as a cattle manager, you are responsible for the care and nutrition of your cattle. More isn’t better. Mixing products containing medications or additives can often result in suboptimum intake of those medications or additives, giving you less than desirable results. You have to realize that sometimes it isn’t possible to get a particular combination of additives in one product, so you have to choose which additive is most important to you at the time.  In many situations, it will be necessary to change products as forage conditions or cattle production stage change. Always, read and follow the label directions. If you have questions, call 800-727-2502 and our staff of nutritionists are always happy to help.