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The Cost of Not Supplementing

The cost of doing nothing

As we wrap up this Crystalyx® blog series, which addresses an important question -"Does Crystalyx Pencil Out? - I have been thinking back to the comment on one of our social media posts that inspired this series:

While the input costs on just about everything have been increasing in recent years, at the same time, cash flow may also be tighter for some people than it was in the past. As such, some are being forced to make hard decisions about how much they are able to spend on things like supplementation. But what is the real cost of doing nothing?

From my perspective, supplementation can be looked at in either one of two ways: as simply an added expense or as a necessity that helps deliver the nutrients cattle need to achieve optimal production. Let’s take a closer look at how doing nothing right now can end up costing us down the line.

Reproductive efficiency

It has been said time and time again that reproductive efficiency is the main profit-driver in a beef cow operation, as it also relates to calving distribution, weaning rates and cull rates. If a cow isn’t producing one live calf each year, she is costing the operation money rather than contributing to its profits. With this in mind, here are some of the common consequences of doing nothing with a supplementation program:

  • The weaning rate will likely drop.
  • The weight of calves at weaning may be lighter.
  • The cash costs and returns per cow will be lower compared to the costs and returns associated with supplementation.

The chart below, which Jon explored in detail in a previous blog, does a good job of illustrating the tangible results of doing nothing, based on calves selling at $250/cwt. In today’s cattle market, you should be striving to do everything you can to capitalize on strong calf values. Providing the nutrients cattle need in the form of Crystalyx helps producers improve their operational efficiency, get more cows bred — and bred earlier in the breeding season — and, in turn, produce more and heavier calves to market. As the chart here makes clear, producers who choose not to supplement may be leaving money on the table.


Reproductive performance can also be influenced by body condition — which, in turn, has a direct impact on colostrum and milk production. Research conducted at universities has shown that when cows go from a condition score of 4 to 5 (on a nine-point scale), their pregnancy rates increase by 25%, the calving interval shortens, and calves’ average daily gains and weaning weights improve. Additionally, supplemental protein helps unlock more energy from the forages cattle are consuming by improving the overall digestibility of that forage.

Here are some monetary values linked to these results:

  • The average Crystalyx protein barrel costs around 50 cents per head per day to supplement. This translates to around $75 per head for a 150-day period.
  • Raising the cows’ body condition scores from a 4 to a 5 could potentially result in getting 25% more calves, who will also be more efficient and heavier at the time of weaning. In a 100-head herd getting a conservative $250/cwt calf price for 500-lb. calves (not taking into account the difference in weaning weights), having 25 more calves would lead to an increase in profitability of more than $30,000!

Long story short: Producers who choose not to supplement and subsequently stay in a body condition score of 4 could be losing out on a significant amount of money. The ROI is there; take advantage of it!

The cost of a mineral program

Even when supplemental protein is not required due to higher-quality forages being fed, the research continues to tell us that animals will perform more efficiently on grass if any macro- and trace-mineral deficiencies are corrected. Research from Ridley Block Operations has specifically shown improved gains in yearlings that are supplemented with a mineral block — and even more efficient gains have been seen when yearlings are supplemented with an ionophore, such as the Bovatec® included in Crystalyx Ionolyx®.

We have previously looked at examples of how “saving costs” by not supplementing leads to lower returns per cow compared to a typical mineral supplement program Blueprint offers an even more advanced program backed by substantial data and results that have included improvements in conception rates, weaning weights and pre-weaning calf mortalities.

The cost of not supplementing is even more significant when we consider the improved performance associated with mineral supplementation. Delivering minerals in a barrel form, on the other hand, not only provides nutritional benefits for cows but also helps producers save on labor, as it does not require any equipment. With a Crystalyx mineral program, you can provide a palatable source of mineral that more cattle will consume more consistently, helping you get better results and adding to the returns on your investment.

Grazing distribution

In a previous blog, Mark Robbins outlined the latest grazing distribution research and what it means for producers. Land prices and value continue to increase, and as a result, it is critical to utilize the land and the available forages cattle graze on to their fullest potential.

Crystalyx is a multitasker, as it not only serves as a self-fed and nutritional supplement but also helps you move your cattle to the places where you want them to graze. Without a solution like Crystalyx, producers could potentially experience:

  • Diminished forage utilization
  • Increased costs as a result of overgrazed pastures
  • A need for more land if cattle aren’t going out to distribute grazing in pastures
  • An increased demand for labor to move cattle instead of letting the supplement do the work


As you could probably have guessed, when it comes to animal health, the hidden costs of not supplementing are just as serious as the costs outlined in the examples above. We can throw all of the vaccines, medicines and pharmaceuticals in the world at a cow, yearling or calf, but if the mineral and vitamin status of the animal is depleted, those solutions — which can be very expensive —won’t be very effective.

As the saying goes, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” and that adage rings true with cattle. If we provide our animals with the nutrients they need, they will be more likely to stay healthy or to have a stronger immune system that will help defend them from sickness and disease, keeping the need for doctoring at bay. Healthy cattle make us more money; on the other side of the coin, treatments aren’t cheap. Providing a Crystalyx supplement — or better yet, a Crystalyx Blueprint supplement — to help keep cattle on the right track health-wise will translate to more money in your pocket, thanks to the calves being marketed running across the scale or to the cows raising calves in the pasture.

Doing nothing is costly

If you’re sharpening your pencils and putting them to paper to determine the kind of returns you could expect when supplementing with Crystalyx versus doing nothing at all, at this point, the answer should be relatively obvious. The consistent and controlled intake that producers have seen over and over again with Crystalyx make it an outstanding option for providing your animals with the right nutrition. While not supplementing may save you money today, in the long run, you will be missing out on the significant ROI associated with utilizing a mineral program — including improved reproductive performance, grazing distribution and health, which all lead to a profitable bottom line.

If you, like our social-media follower mentioned above, find yourself thinking that Crystalyx “doesn’t pencil out this year,” think about it this way instead: The current price of Crystalyx is lower than it was one year ago. Over the last year, the value of a CattleFax 550-pound calf has increased $450, from $1,106 per head to $1,558 per head. The “lower cost” of doing nothing a year ago actually ended up costing you $2 for every pound you did not get across the scale on a weaned calf. This year, it will cost you even more — close to $3 per pound. The additional pounds on a weaned calf have never been more profitable. So run it past me again: How could this program not work for you?

We hope this blog series has been beneficial for you and your operation. We understand that the cost of production has gone up, along with the cost of nearly everything else — but choosing to do nothing right now in favor of potentially saving a little bit of money will cost a lot more in the long run in terms of both efficiency and profitability. As proven throughout this blog series, the answer to our question is clear: Crystalyx does, in fact, pencil out.