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The magic of CRYSTALYX® explained

In 2027, Crystalyx® will celebrate its 50th birthday. While the look and feeding characteristics of this Generation-X supplement have stayed the same, our understanding of how it works has changed greatly over the years. The original Crystalyx self-fed supplement was 12% crude protein (CP). Soon after its debut, a second formula was introduced that added 8% more crude protein from urea/NPN, thereby making it a 20% CP supplement. You know these offerings today as Crystalyx® HE-12™ and Crystalyx® HE-20™. (The HE stands for high energy, which I’ll explain more later.) Just as our apparent wisdom and real-world experience grows as we become grandparents, the same can be said for Crystalyx, as the nutrition and value provided by these solutions has also grown dramatically over the last 46 years.

What makes Crystalyx “magical”?

Back when Crystalyx was around 18 years old and I had just started my tenure with the company, I had a conversation at the Montana Stock Grower’s Convention with a very well-known and respected professor from Montana State University. He asked me, “What do you put in Crystalyx that makes it so magical?” I countered with a question of my own: “Why do you think it’s magical?” He replied, “I often tell ranchers that I believe Crystalyx is an expensive way to feed protein and mineral to cattle — but those same ranchers tell me that if they have stopped feeding Crystalyx in the past, they’ve have issues with lower conception rates, retained placentas and overall poor calf health. I look at your labels, and the ingredients are the same as other self-fed (bagged) minerals. So I ask again: What makes Crystalyx so magical?” At the time, I had just started with the company, so I just smiled at him and said, “I don’t know!” But over the next few years, I learned the answer. 

Old-school magic

Looking back on that time, when Crystalyx was just old enough to vote, there were around 20 Crystalyx options on the market, and I was a nutritionist fresh out of grad school. I was surprised to find all of the marketing materials for our Crystalyx supplements started with the words “high-energy”. This surprised me, because I could see that the actual energy content of the supplement was quite similar to the energy provided by corn — and corn was significantly cheaper. So, why were producers choosing to feed Crystalyx for its energy content when there were cheaper options on the market?

The mode of action behind the results seen when feeding Crystalyx was a bit of a mystery when it first made its debut. Much of the success that cattlemen achieved when feeding Crystalyx was then explained by the increased amounts of saliva produced by cows through the licking action necessary for them to consume the supplement. But while this is certainly a benefit, there is much more to the magic of Crystalyx.

The real magic: Part 1

The early 1990s saw the first actual research studies of Crystalyx that began to help explain the production responses it elicited. Over the next few years, we conducted research that quantified some rather large increases in the digestibility of low-quality forages with a supplement that was provided at less than one pound a day. In a time when the majority of hand-fed supplements — mostly grain, cakes or cubes — were fed at amounts of 2 pounds a day or more, the low-supplement (quantity) delivery of Crystalyx was thought to have very little impact on the diet of a cow.

Then, two digestion trials at Kansas State University around 1996 showed that the typical intakes of Crystalyx® BGF-30™ could increase digestible neutral detergent fiber (NDF) intake of low-quality forages by 21–36%. Suddenly, we could show that there is more to this supplement than just increased saliva production and a high energy content. Even the relatively small doses of protein supplied by Crystalyx greatly increase the digestibility of low-quality forages, thereby greatly increasing the energy released from the forage consumed.

While our early marketing campaigns focused on the energy content of Crystalyx itself, the real hero of the story is how Crystalyx releases more energy from the forage consumed by cattle. I began to realize that maybe these really are high-energy supplements! At any rate, this increased energy intake positively impacts the body condition score of your herd — perhaps magically so. 

The real magic: Part 2

Much of our research in the late 1990s and early 2000s centered around GPS-collared cows — which was pretty much considered rocket science at the time — to understand how Crystalyx can be used to better distribute cattle throughout a pasture. Our blocks allow ranchers and cattle to better utilize areas that are often under-utilized (i.e., forage) of a pasture, including areas that are far from water or up steeper slopes.

While we have detailed much of this research in other blogs, probably the single greatest attribute of Crystalyx that we uncovered through our research, is its palatability compared to other free-choice supplements. Surprisingly, the GPS collar data revealed that only about two-thirds of the herd was consuming the conventional dry bagged mineral supplement. Maybe less surprisingly, the data also revealed that 90–97% of the cows consumed Crystalyx.

You don’t have to understand rocket science to know that cattle are attracted to the taste of molasses — but if up to one-third of your herd is not consuming the supplement, it is easy to see how the overall performance of the herd could be greatly compromised. And if one out of three cows struggles with delayed conception, retained placentas and poor calf health, the situation could look like a train wreck for the whole herd. Switch to a supplement that almost every cow will consume, and the results probably will seem like magic!

Crystalyx Brand Supplements are available to your herd 24/7 and are one of the most efficient methods of delivering protein, minerals and vitamins to your herd. Try some today to see the magic for yourself!