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Rumen forage fiber digestion: The ruminant advantage

Many parts of the country have experienced a rather abrupt shift toward winter-like weather. Overnight low temperatures have been below freezing in Kentucky and are even reaching regions as far south as Georgia. My friends and family in the upper Midwest received another dose of measurable snow last week, and I don’t think I am alone in wondering what happened to fall. The drastic weather change is putting an end to the good growing and grazing season many of us experienced, and it is now time to consider supplementation to fulfill your herd’s needs.

Why feed CRYSTALYX® protein supplements?

  1. Labor and equipment savings: Consider the total cost on a per-head, per-day basis. Daily or even every-third-day feeding of cake or grain requires more time and labor costs compared to a block feeding program.

  2. Waterproof, windproof and waste-proof: Shrink or waste is a real cost for a grain or cake program and it adds up in three places: at the feed bin, in the delivery and at the feeding site. With CRYSTALYX, the cows lick every bit.

  3. Consistent delivery of the mineral and additive package: The majority of CRYSTALYX self-fed supplements have a complete mineral profile; therefore, no additional minerals are needed. I wrote an earlier blog on mineral package options. The fact that cows consume the product daily is a real advantage over free-choice mineral, which can be quite variable.

  4. Feed the rumen, not the cow: Cows are designed to be forage digesters; they aren’t naturally meant to be living on a grain diet. As such, if we feed with rumen function in mind, the rumen will do its job of feeding the cow. At just 0.25 to 1 pound per day, the supplement is not much, but it does a great deal for both the rumen and cow. The small amount of protein and carbohydrate nutrition delivered by CRYSTALYX protein supplements optimize rumen fermentation.

How does CRYSTALYX work so well to promote rumen fiber digestion?

  1. Keeps rumen fiber-digesting bacteria thriving: The licking action promotes natural rumen buffering ability through saliva production. Rumen fiber-digesting bacteria must have a relatively high rumen pH in order to thrive. When we slug-feed a grain mix with even a small amount of starch — or worse, straight corn — we cause a drop in rumen pH. This kills off fiber-digesting bacteria, and it may be several days before the bacterial population recovers. If this happens repeatedly, the rumen begins to resemble that of a feedlot steer instead of a cow on forage. Excessive intake of liquid supplements can have a similar effect.
    Related article: The benefits of saliva production during weaning
  2. Protein and nitrogen delivery: In average- to low-quality forage, the first limiting nutrient will be protein. The rumen bacteria require both protein and nitrogen to grow and digest fiber. Some of the “natural” protein we feed is broken down to ammonia nitrogen, which gets recirculated and utilized by a group of fiber-digesting bacteria.   

  3. Carbohydrate energy delivery: When many people consider the energy needs of cows, they first think of total digestible nutrients (TDN) and fat level. However, from a rumen health standpoint, carbohydrates in the form of simple sugars are what drive rumen forage digestion. With CRYSTALYX, the delivery of protein and carbohydrates is synchronized. The rumen bacteria ferment the forage fiber to rumen volatile fatty acids (VFA), the cow’s energy source. Optimizing rumen function and maintaining a healthy liver is critical to this biological energy system. Corn and fat both have great TDN values but, in excess, they can negatively impact both rumen and liver function.

  4. Matches your goals: CRYSTALYX maximizes forage utilization, keeps costs down and is simple and effective.

Making a profit in the cow-calf business depends on keeping expenses low and getting the most out of your forage. CRYSTALYX Brand Supplements offer a wide variety of protein, mineral and specialty self-fed supplements. All of them play a role in maintaining rumen health and optimizing rumen function so that cattle can get the most out of available forages.