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Why all the fuss about beef cattle feed intake?

During several recent dealer meetings, intake has been a common topic of discussion. Talk has ranged from modifying total feed intake to the need for predictable intake of certain nutrients and additives to the control of self-fed supplements. CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements has a long history of helping beef and dairy producers manage the challenge of controlling intake.

Do sick animals eat less, or do animals that eat less get sick? 

Many performance and health problems can be attributed to challenges with low feed intake. Animals in transition periods will experience periods of reduced intake due to biological and management factors. Both beef and dairy cattle experience a significant drop in feed intake around the time of calving. Diets are balanced for the average intake of the group, and it is practically impossible to have the perfect diet for every individual animal in the group during these transition periods.

Depressed intake will be amplified when overcrowding occurs in calving pens. Calves are also at increased risk of reduced feed at weaning and receiving. The depressed feed intake can last up to three weeks for individual animals. Research with dairy cattle has shown a significant correlation between disease outcome and intake, both prior to and immediately after calving. Feedlot research and practical experience has documented the lower intake of sickly calves versus their healthy herd mates. The table below shows the intake of healthy animals compared to sick animals, relative to the stress events of calving and weaning.

Decreased feed intake will negatively impact total energy, protein, trace mineral and vitamin consumption. If the depressed energy intake is prolonged, there is increased risk for ketosis, excessive weight loss and depression of immune function. This depressed immune function is increased in severity due to the compounding effect of the reduced intake of critical trace minerals and vitamins.

CRYSTALYX has several products formulated specifically for these stressful transition times. Close-Up™ Dry Cow, Transition Stress™ Formula for dairy cattle, Brigade® and Battalion® are designed for calves. The Breed-Up® line is specifically formulated for feeding to beef cattle one month prior to calving and through the breeding season. All of these formulas share a common theme of being more nutrient-dense than a typical protein block, and they all utilize Bioplex® organic trace minerals for maximum trace mineral availability for optimal animal performance.

CRYSTALYX increases overall feed intake by improving rumen function

Feed the rumen and it will feed the cow. The rumen will generate energy and protein from forage fiber digestion in the form of volatile fatty acids and rumen microbial protein. The licking action required to consume CRYSTALYX stimulates saliva production, serving as a potent natural rumen buffer needed for maintaining a high rumen pH, which is required for optimum fiber digestion. Cattle consuming moderate to low quality forage will need additional protein and carbohydrates for proper rumen fiber digestion. Without the supplemental protein, the rumen passage rate is slowed down, and cows and calves cannot physically consume enough forage to meet their nutrient demands. The term “hay belly” is very accurate, as the animal may be full of low quality hay but doing poorly. It does not take a great deal of supplemental protein and carbohydrate to improve rumen function and fiber digestibility. Typical intake of 0.75 to 1 pounds per head per day of CRYSTALYX protein supplements is all it takes to improve overall forage intake and digestibility.

Consistent, predictable CRYSTALYX intake helps control feed costs

A discussion of intake would not be complete without covering the impact of supplement intake on total feed costs. There are multiple ways to get supplemental protein and carbohydrates to cattle. Daily delivery requires a great deal of labor, time and equipment. The supplement may cost less, but the cost to feed the feed is considerable. There are other self-fed supplements that have less consistent and higher daily intakes, which will often make them more expensive. The LICS app (Livestock Intake Calculator for Supplements) is a great tool for comparing supplements. It is a free download that can be used on both the iOS and Android platforms. 

It’s no secret that animals who eat well perform well. Improving average daily gain or milk production requires higher feed intake, and nutritionists can fix a lot of problems with just a few more pounds consumed. However, we often never know the actual intake of a specific animal. CRYSTALYX can help take the guesswork out of the equation, providing more balanced nutrition and increased performance for your entire herd.