Does CRYSTALYX® Pencil Out? Part Four

Aug 30, 2023

Jon Albro and Jill Peine wrap up the latest podcast series "Does CRYSTALYX Pencil Out?", by discussing the economics of self-fed supplements and the cost of choosing not to supplement. 


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Tom:                       I'm Tom Martin here with Crystalyx® brand supplements nutritionist Jon Albro. Welcome, Jon.

Jon:                        Welcome. Thank you. 

Tom:                       And Ridley Block operations nutritionist, Jill Peine. Hi, Jill. 

Jill:                          Hi, Tom. 

Tom:                       We're wrapping up our blog and podcast series that's been posing this question: Does Crystalyx pencil out? Today, we're gonna put our money where our mouths are by talking about the economics of self-fed supplements and the cost of not supplementing. So Jon, let's begin with you. Self-fed supplements, sometimes they get a bad rap on being an effective method to supplement with, focusing on the cost per pound of nutrient. Can you expand on why this is and maybe give us some clarity on this? 

Jon:                        Yeah, I think a lot of people maybe will read about it in extension publications or in popular press, or hear it at a meeting or something. When people are suggesting what kind of supplement to use, they often boil it down to what looks the best on paper or maybe right out of a textbook. And it's easy to go back to kind of your feeds and feedings days in college and look at this and say, "Well, you know, what's the best value on a per pound of nutrient basis?"

                              And, you know, commodity feeds are always gonna win that battle. Something like soybean meal that's relatively high in protein. And the higher the protein value, for example, in a feed stuff is, probably the lower the cost per pound of nutrient it's gonna be. Crystalyx will always lose that exercise. It always has ever since its beginning. It's nothing new just this year. I think the thing you gotta realize is that when evaluating a self-fed supplement like Crystalyx or like many others, you really need to look at the practicality. 

                               How does it fit? I think in some of our blogs that we've written in this series in the last month or two, I think there was a saying in one of my blogs that said, you know, a supplement needs to be like your cow. It needs to fit your environment. It needs to be practical. a lot of these commodity-type supplements that would win on that cost per pound of nutrient battle, they need storage, they need delivery, they need equipment, they need all these extra costs that sometimes we don't think about if we're just [0:02:44]. So, all that's gotta be added back into there. And when you do that, Crystalyx will usually win that battle on what's the most economical. 

Jill:                          Right. That's exactly it, Jon. And as we travel the country, we know that Crystalyx won't be the cheapest price supplement option out there, but what we also know is that from an ingredient and formulation standpoint, we really focus on the quality, including the molasses sources that are used at all of our plants, mineral and vitamin sources, and really making these low moisture blocks without any binders or fillers in there. Can you also touch on how that drives the economics of using these self-fed supplements based on what you see each day in and day out in the field?

Jon:                        Yeah, for sure, Jill. You're exactly right. I think there's a lot of noise out there in the marketplace. It's not just in supplements and everything. I know, Jill, you and your husband raised some purebred animals. A lot of stuff out there in the livestock world can somewhat look alike on the surface, but underneath it's very, very different. And that's very true with any of these free-choice supplements, especially in every size, shape and color of tub out there on the market. And there's cost ranges from very little to very, very high.

                               One of these cheaper type or lower price for head per day is simply because on those lower cost or ones that look more attractive in price, they're gonna usually eat a lot more, sometimes two or three times as much. They don't provide as much intake consistency, and that's always gonna wind up costing more on a per head per day basis. And some of those would use a poorer quality ingredient. They'd use some binders, some fillers.

                               They would use maybe some minerals and vitamins that are not as good a quality. They might be higher in a lot of the oxides, and sulfates, and those kind of things. And so, if you try to compare that to a more performance-based supplement like Crystalyx, it's just not the same. And I think you really need to look beyond the label sometimes or look at the label and then look beyond how well that product's gonna fit into your program. 

Jill:                          Yeah, I would agree with that. And I think too with sulfates and oxides, and that's really something Crystalyx can stand apart with using bioplexes and many, if not most, of our ingredients and what's in those labels.


                               And really, that blueprint program is what we are really excited about. We have seen some pretty cool results here just in that relatively speaking short amount of time that's been on the market. But you know, also internally, we know that we can do all we can on the manufacturing side to be sure that the formulation and the processes are all in check to make a high quality supplement, which is maybe really more of an art as much as a science when making self-fed supplements. But you know, a question that we commonly get is from the end user's point of view, what can they do to be sure that they're getting the most of their supplement programs and how would you answer that? 

Jon:                        Well, I think a lot of it is once they've spent the money on it, they need to manage it. The hardest thing for me to watch a producer do is spend a lot of money on a pretty good quality supplement and then not manage it correctly. Or they spend a little bit of money on a very poor quality supplement and then they don't manage it properly. I mean, they may as well not have even spent the money in the first place on that. So you gotta manage the supplement to make it work right. And this is true not even with just the free-choice supplements. 

                               I don't know, Jill, if you've ever heard the saying or the example on a feed loader on a dairy that there's really three rations that are being fed. Well, there's really one that is fed, but then if the cow actually eats, yeah, because they can sort things in the diet, for example. It's kind of the same with free-choice supplements. I mean, a lot of times with loose minerals for example, we'll see people over dilute it with salt. A lot of times, we will let supplement run out. We might not place it in the right place, maybe not take advantage of a free-choice supplement like Crystalyx to use it for grazing distribution.

                               I think a lot of people place these lick barrels, these lick tubs maybe in the wrong place or they place 'em too close together. And they might not be maximizing the true value out of that supplement where they could spread them out in a pasture, use 'em for grazing distribution, making sure they never let 'em run out. So I think that's awfully important. And I think that is very key in making sure that we get the performance out of a supplement. If it's not managed, it's not gonna perform well. And that leads me to ask you a question, Jill, and that is, when you look at it the entire supplement program and [0:07:22] economics of a self-fed supplement, what other areas do you think from a performance standpoint makes this true? 

Jill:                          You know, Jon, I think you touched on that really well as far as we can manage it so well and then that does translate to performance measures. And I think that really touches all aspects of performance all the way through. And you know, like the cost of not supplementing, although you may think that's maybe saving you money now, the cost of doing nothing as supplementation goes is really costing a person or an operation in the long run in a variety of ways. And the first that really comes to mind is reproductive performance. We all know that minerals and vitamins play a critical role in repro success, which is the main driver to overall profitability on a cow calf operation. Not only do we want good conception rates, right, that's often a measure that producers are looking at, but also including calving distribution, weaning rates, and also cull rates.

                               If cow isn't producing one live calf each year, she is really costing that operation rather than doing what she can to contribute to it. So, you know, if we do nothing in terms of a supplementation program or not supplementing anything, or even if we are maybe a poor quality supplement, based on research and many studies that are out there and really just experience in the field, we can expect weaning rate to be dropped. The weight of those calves at weaning can be expected to be lighter. And at the end of the day, the cash casting and return per cow is less compared to providing a supplement. And I know, Jon, you have shared some of those numbers in your recent blogs based on an extension publication that's out there.

                               And I'd invite others to go back in and look at those numbers carefully and put their own numbers to that. But you know, in today's cattle market, we should be doing all that we can to capitalize on those strong calf values, providing the nutrients that cattle need to be more efficient and getting more cow's bred and bred earlier in that breeding season, which then will in turn produce more and heavier calves to market. And this has been proven throughout time with Crystalyx. Along with repro performance, we often think about body condition. And you know, body condition is really important when it comes to getting those cows bred back.


                               We're looking at a targeted condition score of 5 to 6 based on the US 9-point scale. And if we can get 'em in that right body condition, 5 to 6, they're more likely to breed back and are retained in the herd longer. With the cow cost where they are at today and depreciation costs on these animals, it's really important that we do what we can in our own control to keep them in the herd while they are productive for us. And you know, this time of year as we enter the fall season, it may not feel like fallout there, but it's coming. 

                               It may mean getting a protein supplement out in front of our cattle, especially after we pull those calves off from their side at this time. It's the most efficient time to put condition on as our forage quality is dropping, and that added protein will get more energy out of those forages. This also reminds me of forage utilization and grazing distribution. We can use Crystalyx supplements to our advantage not only nutritionally, but also to help manage where cattle are grazing. We can put barrels out in areas away from water or other places in the pasture that you would like them to go.

                               And that molasses, the palatability of that supplement will really entice them to go there. Now, it's taking nothing away either from a good mineral program. The cost of not supplementing mineral will be evident in other areas. Even when higher quality forages are being fed like spring grasses or maybe in confinement situations, that comes to mind. Research still tells us that animals will perform more efficiently if macro and trace mineral deficiencies are corrected. So our research specifically proves this through improved gain in yearling heifers that were supplemented with a mineral block.

                               And even more efficient gains can be expected when those heifers were supplemented with an ionophore such as BOVATEC like we can find in our Crystalyx Iono-lyx, which is really an excellent product of choice when developing replacement heifers. Not only do you have nutrition protein, but also the BOVATEC in there. And really, when we think about a good mineral program, it also coincides with healthy animals to be better equipped to overcome immune challenges.

                               We know that vaccines have only improved over the years, fortunately, and we still need a good mineral program and vitamin program for those vaccines to work to their utmost potential. And I think most, if not all, veterinarians that we visit with Jon would agree with that. And it reminds me of the saying, an apple a day keeps the doctor away, right? And the same theory holds true with our cattle. If we can provide 'em with the nutrients that they need, they are more likely to stay healthy, have stronger immune systems to defend themselves from sickness and disease, and really help keep the doctor away, which helps, at the end of the day, lower the producer's costs. Healthy cattle make us more money. Treatments aren't cheap. Providing a Crystalyx supplement or better yet a Crystalyx blueprint supplement to help cattle stay on the right track health wise will be money in your pocket.

Jon:                        Yeah, for sure. Everything you say, Jill, is probably more true today with just the markets being the way they are. And it's nice to see that some of the cost of some of these supplements has actually gone down a little bit. Maybe things are leveling out a little bit. We're seeing a little bit of reprieve in some of the commodity markets as far as feed costs go. And I guess one of the things I'm trying to remind some of our people that go out and market Crystalyx is that the cost of the barrels are down, cattle prices are up. And that's something we don't always see, obviously. And so, now is really the best time for those producers to capitalize on everything that you just talked about, Jill. The return on investment is there. We don't need to apologize for having good markets. We just need to take advantage of them.

Jill:                          Right. That's just it, Jon. And you know what? At Crystalyx, we measure our success based on our customer success, right? At the end of the day, we all wanna be on the winning team. And so, if you haven't started yet, no, it isn't too late to get that supplement out front out of your cattle. As weaning approaches, now look for those Brigade or Blueprint Battalion stress blocks in front of those calves to get them on feed, keep them healthy.


                               And as pasture quality declines and reaches dormancy in many parts of the US and Canada, now put that Crystalyx protein supplement in front of those cows to really help stretch those forages, make them more digestible to get more energy, help the body condition on those animals by feeding those rumen microbes. You know, fetal programming is a topic that I'm partial to and, you know, as most producers should be as it really tells a lot about how we manage cows today will really impact generations to come and the productivity and the success that we see. 

                               So it's something that we can do now to set up for the future. We also know that fall for many of us is a busy time of the year. Many producers have a lot of things going on this time of year. And Crystalyx being a low labor supplement option is one that's easy to use to get out there and get that protein or mineral out in front of those cattle. Take it a step further with the bio barrel biodegradable container. You won't have empty containers to hang in out there to have to go clean up. And like you said, Jon, you know, cattle prices are up, cost of barrels are down compared to where they've been in recent years. And, so we really hope customers will see that and take advantage of it, and see the return on their investment with a good, sound supplement program. 

Tom:                       All right. That seems like a great way to wrap up this latest Crystalyx blog and podcast series. Any last thoughts, last remarks?  

Jon:                        Yeah, Tom, I just wanna reiterate a little bit of what was said. And that is with the markets the way they are, the returns have never been better. And it's interesting, just in the last year, we saw good prices last year as well relatively to historical numbers. But just in the last year, we can look at these calf prices being up 50 cents to a dollar more per pound than where they were a year ago. And it's amazing when you look at the value of a supplement for weaning rates, better weaning weights, and getting more calves weaned on a percentage base and more pounds to sell.

                               That extra 50 cents to a dollar per pound pays off exponentially compared to where it would've been, say, at 50 cents or a dollar less per pound. So if the supplement price is going down and the cap price is going up, it's like a double win-win situation. And I just can't manage this. There's never a good time to skimp in nutrition. The worst time you could skimp in nutrition is when you can earn the most back from it. 

Tom:                       Well, one last question for Jill. After talking through the various ways that Crystalyx can bring value to an operation and addressing the dollars and cents of a self-fed supplementation program, would you say that Crystalyx pencils out for the average operation? 

Jill:                          Yeah. I think from what we've seen and discussed throughout this entire series, if you will, there's really no doubt in my mind that Crystalyx wouldn't pencil out for the average operation. Now, if you find yourself saying, but it doesn't pencil out this year, like the social media posts, which really ignited this conversation said, no, we could think about it this way too. Since a year ago, the price of Crystalyx has decreased.

                               At that same time, the value of a CattleFax 550-pound calf has increased four $450 from roughly $1,100 per head to $1,500 a head since a year ago. And like Jon said, the cost of doing nothing a year ago would cost you about $2 for every pound you did not get across the scale on a weaned calf. This year, if you don't do anything, it probably will cost you closer to $3 per pound. That additional pounds on a weaned calf really has never been more profitable than it is today.

                               And, you know, just trying to cut corners on supplements to just get by, so to speak, in the long run, really won't be beneficial to the average producer or producers really on either side of that spectrum, and really may be costly by giving up those performance measures that we talked about in efficiency within the cow. So, really, Crystalyx does pencil out, and we hope that this series has been beneficial in taking a look at the return on investment that we can work towards with Crystalyx.

Tom:                       We've been talking with Ridley Block operations and nutritionist Jill Peine. Thanks, Jill. 

Jill:                          Thank you Tom 

Tom:                       And Crystalyx brand supplements nutritionist, Jon Albro. And thanks to you, Jon. 

Jon:                        Thank you very much, Tom. Sure enjoyed this. 

Tom:                       I'm Tom Martin, and thank you for listening.

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