CRYSTALYX® low-moisture blocks (LMB) are a popular free-choice supplement that provides consistent low daily intakes that generally deliver less than 1 pound per head per day for grazing beef cattle. These LMB supplements are manufactured by dehydrating molasses and then blending with dry ingredients to arrive at a specific nutrient profile for grazing livestock. Some formulations feature higher protein guarantees, while others feature a mineral/vitamin supplement depending upon what may be required.
CRYSTALYX® can be described as a product with “cold-flow” properties where it can physically flow under its own product weight. What this means for LMB’s is that they are physically hard at ambient temperatures but require a rigid container so that they hold their shape. This also means that as ambient temperatures dramatically increase and/or persist over a number of days, LMB’s become more pliable and softer. Sunlight has the effect of increasing the surface temperature of the blocks by 20 degrees. (see graph below) This means surface temperatures of the blocks can exceed 125 degrees on hot days. Cool nights generally help to harden the product back to a hardness that is conducive to typical intakes of less than 1 pound. However, extended periods of extremely high temperatures coupled with nights that do not cool appreciably, contribute greatly to LMB’s that are softer than what is desirable.
The southern US has been experiencing these conditions this summer in addition to extreme drought over a wide geographic area. Extreme temperatures and sunlight can influence physical properties of LMB supplements and when combined with limited forage availability supplement programs need to be monitored closely to meet intake expectations.
Handling, Storage and Feeding Tips for CRYSTALYX® in Hot Weather
- Make sure barrels, steel, BioBarrel® or plastic, are stored upright and that nothing is placed directly on the surface of the product.
- If hot temperatures persist, be sure barrels other than steel are not stacked more than two high in order to limit the weight on the bottom row of containers.
- Persistent heat will cause LMB product to become more malleable and allow for potential shifting in storage for CRYSTALYX® in plastic barrels and the BioBarrel®.
- Keep containers out of the direct sun light in storage.
- Monitor stored product daily to look for changes in product or containers that may cause shifting.
- Pay particular attention to the bottom row of barrels that are placed directly on pallets as shifting can occur due to an uneven pallet surface for BioBarrel® or plastic barrels.
- Un-stack BioBarrel® and plastic barrels if they are more than two levels high. Placing all containers at ground level is advised when storage conditions permit.
- Make sure there is plenty of available forage in pastures. Once forage becomes limiting, supplement intake will most often increase.
- Be sure there are 20 to 30 head per barrel for proper surface area exposure. Fewer animals per container could allow for increased daily intake.
- Place barrels further away from water or loafing areas once livestock are familiar with the supplement to decrease intake.
- If possible, position barrels in areas that receive shade during the day.
- Low-moisture block products will normally soften with high temperatures. Shade will significantly reduce this softening and night cooling will return product to original hardness.
- Check your livestock frequently during extended periods of heat to make sure they have access to fresh water and CRYSTALYX® supplement programs are delivering expected intakes. Repositioning barrels in the pasture may be needed to help reach desired intake.
- Common livestock management practices that can lead to higher CRYSTALYX® supplement intake include:
- Limited forage availability and/or a significant reduction in quality.
- Fewer than 20 to 30 head per container where they have access to more supplement surface area.
- Confined situations where cattle are in close proximity to supplement containers for most of the day.
- Placement of CRYSTALYX® barrels in open, un-shaded areas near water.
- Allow free-choice supplement access to starved animals that were previously restricted.
CRYSTALYX® products can be successfully fed under a wide range of grazing conditions including summer pastures. Long periods of extended heat has the ability to influence the hardness of the product, however, properly manufactured product can safely and predictably be fed. Drought conditions, modifications in container placement or stocking rates per container are important factors that should be considered when managing a summer LMB supplementation program.