RELATED ARTICLE: Three ways to alleviate stress this fall with CRYSTALYX ®
Tom: I'm Tom Martin, and joining us on Beyond the Barrel is Jill Peine, nutritionist for Ridley Block Operations. Welcome, Jill.
Jill: Hi, Tom.
Tom: And joining us from Fort McLeod in Alberta, Canada is Ridley Block Operations Canadian account manager, Reed Van Driesten. Thanks for being here, Reed.
Reed: Thank you, Tom.
Tom: Well, it's that time of year again when many cow-calf producers are getting everything ready to wean calves. Jill, I wonder if you could start us off by talking about the significance of starting calves off on the right foot at the time of weaning and why it's especially important this year to capitalize on the strong calf market we're seeing across our listening area.
Jill: You bet, Tom. And with the strong calf market that we're seeing this year, you wanna make sure that you get the most or the calves that are being sold, and keeping them healthy and getting them on feed is the first step there. We know that preconditioned calves generally bring better prices at the sale barn compared to calves just weaned off the cow. And there's many factors leading up to and through weaning that can really help get the most out of the calves, like the nutritional status of the cow from the start when the calves are born.
But if we fast forward to today, getting these calves on feed and healthy is key to getting the highest dollar out of them. And so, what we wanna talk about today is the stress blocks or stress barrels like the Crystalyx Brigade or Blueprint Battalion in the Crystalyx lineup that have really proven to help in those areas and even more. When I think about weaning calves, a similarity that comes to my mind is like mixing a group of kids together, whether that be at a daycare or in a school.
Now, there's chaos in these areas. Maybe some more organized chaos than others. But what comes to mind is during the new school year is commonly new germs being spread from one child to another. Now, I know in my house this has recently happened at daycare. One kid starts it and suddenly gets passed on to the rest, and the parents and the teachers end up getting exposed and end up getting sick with new germs. And really, this can be thought of the same way as co-mingling a new pen of calves during weaning. The stress may challenge the immune system of the calves, and we want them to be equipped to overcome those immune challenges the best way possible.
We've collected some data on groups of animals to really compare the difference between having access to a stress block during weaning to compare to those that do not. And what we found was that by providing Brigade to calves, there were nearly half the number of treatments and re-treatments and ultimately dead calves with those calves on the stress block also having a higher feed or ration intake during that 28-day period and also had higher daily gains and improved feed efficiency. So ultimately, it came down to calves feeling good, doing what they should straight from weaning, getting on feed. And we know that healthier calves will make a producer more money.
Reed: Jill, we know stress blocks like Brigade and Blueprint Battalion are really good options for calves to get the nutrients they need during the times of stress like weaning, but also for behavioral aspects. So I really think that's interesting. Can you expand on that as well?
Jill: Yeah. Reed, Crystalyx barrels are highly palatable and nutrient dense. And what sorts the stress blocks off from the rest is their fortification level of vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes. And although intakes are relatively low for most weaned calves coming in around a quarter of a pound, the added nutrients at the right levels are essential to help those calves overcome nutritional stresses that they may be encountering as they adjust to their new environment. Adding the benefits of Bioplex organic trace minerals [0:04:48] that superior absorption and utilization compared to other trace mineral forms. And you know, these supplements nutritionally have what the calves need.
But as far as the behavior aspects, that may be just as much where we see the success in these products as anything else. And while this may not be top of mind for most, it's actually the saliva production from the calf's licking action that also plays in an important role. Not only does it help line the throat of a bawling calf that may be going hoarse1, but it also will help increase the activity of enzymes, those enzymes that break down fats and starches. It nourishes the rumen microorganisms and also will help serve as a buffering agent to help prevent bloat. So, all of those things help with digestion and encourages further consumption of the diet.
And then also, if you've observed a recently weaned calf before, you've probably noticed that they typically like to walk the perimeter of the pen learning their new environment. So, placing those barrels around the perimeter will put the supplement in an easy to find spot for those calves, and their curiosity will have them smelling and licking at the supplement in no time. Barrels can also be placed behind the feed bunk as palatability of those stress blocks will help entice those calves to eat and find the feed as well. So really, the behavior and the placement of those barrels also helps in the success that we've seen with these stress blocks.
Reed, a question for you is that when out in the field, we often get asked, "Which formula should I use, Brigade or Blueprint battalion?" Now, can you give a brief outline of the different applications and what you would recommend to producers asking this question?
Reed: Yeah, that's a good question, and that is a common question. Brigade's been around for quite some time. There's some testing that goes back to 2009. They did 450 calve splits and did testing on 'em. And it's really segregated the Brigade for— It has a very high level of minerals and nutrients. And for smaller intakes, like you said, a third quarter a pound intakes are really segregated for 500, 600-pound calf, which is pretty typical at weaning. And so, you get a more dense product and get more into 'em than just regular blocks. And that one's been around for a while. It works quite well. We see some really good applications with it.
The advantage of the Blueprint Battalion, it has Bio-Mos 2. And the better choices for higher stress calves is definitely the Blueprint Battalion. These calves are hauled a long way after Roundup, and they've been through auction market stresses. Like you said earlier, they get co-mingled and a lot of disease challenges at that time. It's a lot of stress just in weaning itself. And then we have the Allbrew. And it's listed in Canada as AB (in big letters). We'll get into that a little more later.
Tom: Reed, you mentioned that you've seen a lot of great customer success when using products that contain Antigen or Bio-Mos. Can you tell us more about that?
Reed: Yeah. It was funny, just a couple weeks ago, we were at a meeting up by Hannah, and I ran into a couple that I was at their place a couple years ago with the dealer. And they rent about 400 red Angus cow-calf pairs and very nice ranch. And she really thanked me for my advice that I gave her a couple years ago. And I asked her the story. I said, "What are you seeing?" And she says, "Well, you remember the time we were having scour issues, and it was kind of a bit of a history on our place, and we couldn't seem to get rid of it?" And she asked what way we should be going with these barrels. And I said, "You know, the Blueprint will help with the immunities."
And she says, "Well, it's funny you said that 'cause that advice has done a lot for our ranch." They decided to make the switch and virtually wiped out the issue. In fact, they did not give one needle last calving season, her husband told me. And you know, just the saving money on antibiotics and the time of treating. They're an elderly couple. That's getting tougher for them to do. So this was a big help and a money saver on the ranch. And their vet advised them to do a scour vaccination last year. And he had had mentioned that the Actigen would help with the effects of the vaccine because it's way more effective when the cattle are clean like that. And you know, they also said they've seen better weights on calves in the fall, which makes sense because calves that are not sick put on weight instead of losing weight.
It can get that 2 pounds per head per day. It does add up. With today's prices, it's more relevant than ever. If it's being said that prevention is a cure, it sure seems that way 'cause I hear these same stories over and over.
Jill: Yeah, I think that's very true, Reed. And you know, Bio-Mos has been used in the industry for quite some time. But you know, we might have some listeners that might not be as familiar. Bio-Mos is designed to feed the gastrointestinal tract and really help maximize performance like that customer had seen. It's derived from a selected strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast. It's a prebiotic that helps promote the good bacteria in the gut, helps build natural defenses.
So this is not only beneficial for the calves, keeping them healthy and the gut functioning, the highest potential during weaning and backgrounding. But it's also a really great option for the cow herd leading up to and through calving for our spring calving herds through those winter months to really help clean up the gut to be more feed efficient, helps transfer those nutrients from the cow to the calf. It really helps promote gut integrity and ultimately cattle performance as a whole. Reed, which Crystalyx products are available in Canada with added Actigen or Allbrew?
Jill: We do have a smaller line in Canada than the US. We have two minerals. So we have the Blueprint 6 Phos that comes with Actigen as an option. It's a mineral. So if you're feeding good forages, that one's available. And then a step down would be the Mineral-lyx line with AB, with Allbrew. That's been around a little longer, still widely used nowadays. If you have less quality forages available, we have a Blueprint 30% protein block with Actigen, and then a step down for that is the BP 30 Allbrew protein block. It's used more in an all-natural program if they can't use urea. And also, we have the Blueprint Battalion that has come standard with Actigen. That's topline of weaning and receiving block that we carry.
Tom: Jill, are there a variety of options available with Bio-Mos 2 in the US?
Jill: Yeah, Tom. There's also a variety of formulas that have the option to contain Bio-Mos 2 here in the US. Very similar to what Reed had said, they're available in Canada, but many of our Blueprint protein formulas have a Bio-Mos 2 option. Our popular BGF and AT products have a Bio-Mos option. Like Reed said, our Blueprint Battalion has Bio-Mos already formulated in there. And then also some other formulas like our Blueprint all-in-1 25, also the Goat-lyx and Sheep-lyx, those have Bio-Mos automatically formulated in those as well. So there's a wide variety of options. Our website is probably the go-to to find which ones specifically have the Bio-Mos 2 in there.
Tom: Any last thoughts or comments that either of you would like to add for our listeners?
Reed: Yeah, Tom. I would say using a stress block can really help save on treatments to even save calves. The return on investment is there. We've seen several studies done. Studies have indicated that morbidity and the mortality are reduced when calves are on a stress block like Brigade or the Blueprint Battalion for the first 28 to 30 days. If you have 100 calves, then you save just one calf with brigade, which doubles your investment. It will cost you round $7 a day Canadian and then $10 to step up to the Brigade, which is even a lot better option. So the investment is there.
Jill: And I would say for our dealers, our Crystalyx dealers, make sure that you're well stocked with stress products like the Brigade and Blueprint Battalion this fall as producers start weaning those calves and get them equipped with the product that they need. When producers get started on that stress block after the first year, they typically don't wanna go without it after the success that they find. And we have heard that there are two problems with the Crystalyx Brigade and Blueprint Battalion. And I know Mark Robbins has previously recorded a podcast on this specifically, but that is, it doesn't cost enough and it's too easy for the ease of use of these barrels and the value that it brings to keeping calves healthy during the weaning time period.
Tom: Well, those are lovely problems.
That's Jill Peine, nutritionist for Ridley Block Operations. Thanks so much, Jill.
Jill: Thank you Tom.
Tom: And Ridley Block Operations Canadian account manager, Reed Van Driesten. Thanks a lot, Reed.
Jill: Thanks Tom.
Tom: And for Beyond the Barrel, I'm Tom Martin.