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Supplement by numbers

Winter has made its presence known across the nation; leaving some wondering what part of the US they are in and others chuckling at the first group as they add another layer of clothing. Regardless of geographic location, we can all agree that it’s been strange. Winter grazing can vary just as much as the weather; stockpiled or storage forage to crop residue to rye grass; however, the common denominator is what to do about supplementation.

Many factors are considered when choosing a supplement, protein level, trace minerals, feed additive(s), vitamins and cost. Nine times out of 10, cost rises to the top and with good reason. However, the cost per ton is only part of the true cost of supplementation.


Researchers at Montana State University designed a study to not only evaluate the effectiveness of 2 supplement strategies, but also the total cost (feed cost, labor and transportation) and pasture utilization. For this study, 160 cross-bred, non-lactating cows were divided into 2 treatments, 20% range cake fed 3 times/week and CRYSTALYX® BGF-30 self-fed (replaced every other week), on similar pastures October thru December. Both treatments included white salt blocks were kept available to cattle. In each group, 4 to 8 cows were randomly selected and fitted with a GPS collar to track their location for 2 weeks.



The results of study showed that cattle supplemented with BGF-30 performed the same as cattle supplemented with cake while eating less supplement (similar final body weight and condition score). The BGF-30 cattle consumed an average of 0.70 lb daily (with 0.46 oz of free choice salt) whereas the cake cattle consumed an average of 1.69 lb daily (with 0.13 oz 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 and spending more time near the supplement, than cattle fed cake.

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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?

  3. 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. Regardless of the type of supplement program you choose, be sure that you know the total cost. Check out the Crystal Clear Economyx® calculator to find your total cost.

Winter grazing means many different things and no two winters are the same. Be sure your cattle have the right supplement for the situation with CRYSTALYX®. Not sure which barrel fits your program, contact us, or your local dealer, and we’ll find the perfect fit.