From improved pregnancy rates to overall performance improvements like weight gain and higher weaning weights, beef producers have been seeing results from the CRYSTALYX Blueprint program. Jon Albro discusses what producers are saying about the benefits of the Blueprint program.
Tom: This is Tom Martin. And I'm joined by Jon Albro, a nutritionist with CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements. Jon's been involved in the feed business for more than 20 years, focusing on supplement strategies to improve forage utilization in beef cattle. We welcome you, Jon.
Jon: Thank you, Tom. Welcome.
Tom: On today's podcast, we're continuing our discussion about the CRYSTALYX Blueprint® program. Mark Robbins was with us last month talking about the benefits of feeding organic trace minerals. And, before continuing the discussion we began with Mark, can you give us a brief review or a simple definition of the CRYSTALYX Blueprint program?
Jon: Yes, Tom, thank you. That interview with Mark Robbins overviewed and defined that pretty well, so I’ll just simplify, but basically, the Blueprint nutrition program is probably more of a concept — or maybe not [so much] a concept — but [rather] a program that goes across different products. So, it could be a mineral; it could be a CRYSTALYX product [or] it could be a feed product. And, essentially, what we do with the Blueprint nutrition program [involves] trace minerals (primarily copper, zinc, manganese and cobalt). Those are primarily replaced from their inorganic form to an organic form; we’re using Bioplex® trace minerals as the only source of those trace minerals in a supplement. And we've removed inorganic trace minerals such as copper sulfate, zinc sulfate, oxides and even chloride. Some of these chloride trace minerals are more popular today, but they are an inorganic form. So, Blueprint strictly uses organic trace minerals, which are very bioavailable or more available to the animal. And, in doing so, we can feed these programs using a lower level than what maybe traditional levels would be in the diet. And we can do that at almost a neutral cost; Blueprint nutrition mineral programs just cost a few pennies per head per day more than a lot of our traditional programs.
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Tom: Well, Jon, I'm curious about what kind of feedback you're getting from customers who are still learning about the benefits of the Blueprint program. How do you explain Blueprint to current customers, as well as to new customers?
Jon: Yeah, well, I think with the current customer or a new customer, we will explain the program in pretty much the same way. We will talk about the research that our parent company, Alltech®, has done. And there’s been some university research that has been done on this topic as well as well. And we'll go through that and explain it and kind of explain why we see the differences we do. But, as far as a new customer versus an old customer, I might just remind an old customer or a current customer that if we've sold them the more conventional programs in the past that, you know, we weren't really doing anything wrong. They weren't doing anything wrong. The Blueprint nutrition program just is the next advancement. It's the next level of nutrition. And it's just a better program, and more efficient [and] more effective. We're still learning a lot about it, but what we've learned so far has been very important and very promising in overall performance.
Tom: I would have to imagine that there are some challenges to introducing new ideas into the marketplace. What kinds of challenges — and opportunities for that matter — have you seen with positioning new and innovative nutritional concepts in the beef industry?
Jon: Yeah, well, I think [one of] the opportunities [is that] it's always great to have something new to talk about. Any time you work with a customer or — I do this myself when somebody's trying to sell me something — I always want to learn about what the newest trend is, the latest advancement, those types of things. So, that's the opportunity. I think the challenge is just basically it's something new; it’s something different and it's a change, and we're oftentimes asking our customers to make a change when they may or may not be having a large need or a perceived need. And, I think that's just conventional wisdom. People are reluctant to change; maybe a little bit resistant to change. And Blueprint has been one of those nutritional concepts or nutritional programs that does go against conventional wisdom. It really has. And I'm not saying that that's right or wrong. I'm not saying conventional wisdom is wrong, but we’re basically coming out with a trace mineral program for livestock. And primarily when we talk about CRYSTALYX, we’re really going to be [speaking] in the beef cattle realm of nutrition. We're telling these people you can feed a 100% organic trace mineral supplement and you can feed it at lower levels than what we’ve traditionally done in the past. And that really is hard for a lot of people who understand mineral nutrition pretty well, or [at least] think they do. It's pretty hard for them to grasp if they've never really looked into the data and really thought about what organic trace minerals do.
I've been kind of amazed that it's easier to go talk to a producer about these new programs. They will understand it. They will get it. They will appreciate it more when we talk about replacing inorganic trace minerals with organic trace minerals and showing better results and maybe offsetting some of the negative effects that we have with inorganic trace minerals in the body that we didn't really know were occurring in the past and we still don't know the extent of that. And Mark Robbins talked about that pretty well in his podcast — the recent podcast that he recorded. So, I think the producers really do accept some of this new science [or] this new innovation probably easier than some of us that have been selling minerals and manufacturing supplements for the last several decades because we get kind of comfortable with our perceived notions or conventional wisdom and the way things always were and always used to be. And it's easier sometimes for somebody without that background knowledge that just is more interested in learning how something can be improved on their operation. It's almost easier for them to accept than it is some of our own colleagues in the industry.
Tom: Jon, what are you hearing from customers who are feeding Blueprint programs about performance improvements? Are you getting any feedback in that area?
Jon: Yeah, we're getting a lot of information from a lot of different areas. We’re selling these Blueprint programs. Basically, we offer them to all of our customers throughout the U.S. now. And we've got some really good feedback from the Dakotas, from Nebraska, from the mountain states — like Wyoming, Montana and Colorado — and also in places like Arizona, and even in Canada. I think Mark talked about how our business in Canada was probably out-promoting and out-developing the Blueprint programs maybe [even] before we were here in the U.S. And so, the feedback has been across a larger geography and primarily what we’re seeing echoes a lot of the research that’s been done. We’re seeing improvements in breed back or in pregnancy rates [and] fertility. We’re seeing some improvements in animal health, and we’re seeing some improvements in just overall performance, like weight gain [and] weaning weights, those kind of things. So, a lot of the improvements that we’ve seen are echoed in the research that was out there and we’re seeing it across a wide geography. Not everybody sees the same benefit and not everybody may see it at the same level. I just was on the phone with a producer this morning that wasn't sure if they saw a big benefit in it and there's probably more devils in the details to look at as far as data. But, overall, I would say that the vast majority of programs that we've offered to people have been received well and [we’ve gotten] a lot of good feedback.
Tom: So, in some way, does a Blueprint nutrition program fit every producer buying supplements?
Jon: I think there are some that it definitely fits better than others. Some of the testimonials that we have so far — I would like to name a few — there is one down in Arizona that’s a commercial operation, but they do a very good job. They're trying to just demonstrate and improve efficiency on their operation. They run cattle at relatively high elevations in a desert climate. [This is a] very harsh climate [with] very rough topography. And this particular operation is called the C5 Cattle Company near Vail, Arizona. The manager there is Randy Feagins. And Randy decided to work with us this past year and actually took some liver biopsies from a subset of cattle in one herd; this herd was about 170 cows and we did some liver biopsies before and after feeding Blueprint. And they had bred the animals right before we started this program. And so, we had a good look at what the trace mineral status was in the liver on copper, zinc and manganese. And we found that [with the] subset of animals that we sampled, the levels of those trace minerals — the copper and zinc specifically — were low in about half of those animals. And, when we fed the Blueprint CRYSTALYX 6% Phos product for about 6 months, we were able to elevate the levels in all of those animals. There was one cow that didn't respond but she was an older cow and thin and didn’t breed back, so that was an interesting thing to know. But, the bottom line is we improved the trace mineral status in those animals and they had some of the best breeding they've ever had. And they've had a lot of their calves born in the early part of their calving season, which would suggest a lot of those cows did get bred on their first cycle and held that pregnancy and didn't get bred late. So, [this shows] a lot of good promise.
There's other ones; there's a ranch in Nebraska — the Tisthammer Ranch, near Albion, Nebraska — that improved their breeding percentage only by 3 percentage points, but they went from 94 to 97%. And those brothers told us that that was very important to them because it's awfully hard to improve from 94 to 97. That's a lot harder to do than say if you were at 85% pregnancy rates and you jump that up to 90; that's easier to do than to go from 94 to 97. So, we've seen that with other programs and other research. You know, it’s awfully hard to go promise that to a ranch when they’re already doing very well, to say “Well, you can do even better.” It’s hard to make that statement, but we're seeing that with this program.
And one other operation that [involved] more of an animal health performance [perspective is operated by] Monty and Matt Kline. They run purebred Simmentals near Hurdsfield, North Dakota. And they started on the Blueprint nutrition program about a year ago with their cowherd. It was actually the year before that where they had used it on their bulls, and they do sell purebred bulls. And they saw some fertility improvements there, or noted that, or observed that. But with their cows, what they saw this last year during calving season was a very big improvement in calf health. They used to fight a lot of scours issues about day 21 when the calves were about 21 days of age and just some herd health problems. And they've been on pretty decent programs in the past, but they went to the Blueprint program and used CRYSTALYX and they've also used some mineral programs — a dry mineral with Blueprint. And they saw a lot less sick calves and just were a lot happier with their healthy calves.
So, those are the things that we’re seeing. It doesn’t necessarily fit everyone. I think the more progressive operations would benefit from it more if they're keeping good records and a lot of the people that have embraced this right away are people who are raising purebred animals, raising seedstock animals and are not afraid to put a little extra input into their animals just to get that little extra edge.
Tom: Okay. Where can producers go then to learn more about the Blueprint program?
Jon: A very good place to go is to the website: blueprintbythebarrel.com. That will give you a list of products available in the CRYSTALYX Blueprint lineup. And you can also visit any CRYSTALYX dealer and ask questions there.
Tom: Jon Albro, a nutritionist with CRYSTALYX Brand Supplements. Thanks so much, Jon.
Jon: Thank you, Tom.