Tom Martin: I’m Tom Martin with Mark Robbins in Beulah, Wyoming and Ryan Bapst in Beaver, Ohio from Ridley Block Operations.
And we have part 3 of our Beyond the Barrel podcast series, Does Crystalyx Pencil Out?
Mark and Ryan, welcome to Block Talk.
Ryan Bapst: Good to be here.
Mark Robbins: Thanks, Tom. Glad to be here.
Tom Martin: So today, we’re going to focus on cattle grazing distribution and also on herd health.
And, Mark, let’s begin with you, how would you define cattle grazing distribution?
Mark Robbins: Sure, Tom. I mean, when we talk about cattle grazing distribution, what we’re looking at is how well-distributed your cattle are in a pasture and how well they utilize all the forage in that pasture.
Now, obviously if it’s a pretty small pasture, you don’t have to worry about that. A lot of the research we did for this was in Montana and Wyoming, where you’ve got larger pastures. And, sometimes it’s a little more difficult in a large pasture to get cattle into all the corners or sometimes up some steep grades to use all of that forage.
It’s pretty easy to get them to graze around the watering areas or water tanks or if you’ve got a creek or other riparian area with water in it. You know, any old cow is going to graze that out first. The trick is to then get them to move out of those riparian areas or watering areas to the uplands and graze that forage.
So, when we’re talking about grazing distribution, we’re talking about how well do you actually get cattle to graze where you want them to graze versus where they want to graze, which is usually in the real easy – easy to reach areas.
Ryan Bapst: What are some of the methods we can use to help get the cattle to graze the area that they’re not normally taking grass on, Mark?
Mark Robbins: You know what? The age old ways of doing that is generally with fences, water, and then herding. And, you know, each of those is going to have a cost.
What we’re proposing here is that you use your Crystalyx supplement to do that. We sort of let Crystalyx multitask, meaning that not only does it bring nutrition to your cattle, you could also let it move the cattle to those different grazing areas that you’d like to harvest.
So, there’s certainly a cost to put in water in. Everybody would probably know what it cost to put in, you know, a pipeline to another watering tank or something like that.
Fences is another way to break up large pastures into smaller parcels and then, you can rotate them around. But then, you’ve got the cost of the fence, the cost of moving them around. And just herding in general where you’re out there every so often and you move cattle into some of those areas. They all have cost. We really like the idea that Crystalyx kind of multitask and can do that grazing distribution or that movement of cattle for you.
You know, some of the things that we found out over the years with some research from Dr. Bailey up at Havre, Montana was that a set of Crystalyx barrels if they’re properly stocked, you can graze an area that’s about – has a 600-yard radius around those barrels. That’s about 233 acres. And in a two-week period, you can basically harvest or utilize 15% of that available forage there.
Now, you know, everybody’s forage levels are going to vary on what you have available per acre, but, you know, if you have a fairly light amount of forage available, even like 1200 lbs per acre, if you get 15% of that, you end up with about 1700 tons of forage that you’ve harvested.
Now, the nice part of that is that 1700 tons of forage that you don’t have to purchase, you know. And if you are paying a couple of hundred dollars a ton for bale hay these days and your Crystalyx is maybe costing you something like $1,400 at ton or so, you got a two to one return on your investment just from the forage that you graze. Basically then, the nutrition is free on top of that because we’re only looking at the cost of replacing that forage.
[0:04:56] So, all of those methods will work. We like the idea of using your nutritional supplement to kind of multitask and handle that grazing distribution for you.
You know, Ryan, I’ve got a question for you. Like I said, most of this research was done west of the Mississippi and the northern plains, intermountain areas.
But, when we talk about this farther east, I think a lot of people have some irregular pastures or pastures with more topography in them. Do you think this research can help people in Ohio or Kentucky with some of their grazing problems?
Ryan Bapst: Oh, absolutely, Mark. You know in the east, we have a lot more forage per acre, our stocking densities are a lot higher, and we manage our pastures a lot more intensively.
That being said, you know, using Crystalyx barrels to, you know, with some of our larger pastures in this part of the world, you know, it helps pull cattle away from the shade or water sources to the farther reaches of their pastures.
But, not only does it help them, you know, nutritionally hitting the Crystalyx barrel and consuming that extra nutrition, but it also helps them pick up that extra forage that’s available at the extremities of their pastures.
But, one of the things that I think the people like in this part of the world using that extra grazing distribution is the distribution of manure. A lot of the folks in this part of the world use a fair amount of fertilizer to keep their pastures up to par on tonnage and, you know, getting that extra manure out of the shade into the farther regions of the pastures really pays dividends for having a good even pasture growth at the end of the day.
And, once you get that manure distributed, you distribute those nutrients through the manure, you’ve got a pasture that, you know, is productive from close to the shade far away and the cattle will really learn to maximize your forage that’s available in each one of those pastures whether it’s large or small.
Mark Robbins: That’s a good point, Ryan. You know, we talk about moving the cattle and distributing the grazing, but by doing that, you’re also distributing the manure on the land as well. I can see why that would be a real big benefit in some of those smaller pastures.
You know, we’ve seen this worked really well in the fall of the year, that’s when we did most of our research. We have some research where we used it in the summer time on mineral products, in the fall, we used protein Crystalyx products and it worked really well.
You know, the other thing that we did see is that it generally worked better than other supplements. It certainly works better than salt alone or conventional minerals. The only thing that we really found that was attractive as Crystalyx were liquid supplements. And being both of them based on molasses, I think that’s what attracts the cattle to them.
The thing you have with Crystalyx is it’s much more portable. You know, you can put a few barrels in the back of a pickup or in the frontend loader take them exactly where you want, dump them off. And then, if using the BioBarrel, you’re pretty much done right there because you don’t even have to go back and pick up the barrels.
With liquid supplements, it’s not quite as portable with those large tanks, but we did see that they were probably about as attractive as the Crystalyx was.
Tom Martin: Mark, you’re in Wyoming, Ryan, you’re in South Ohio, so a question for each of you if you want to weigh in on this, but does grazing distribution work in all seasons?
Mark Robbins: Yeah. It really does because you – one of the nice things with Crystalyx that sometimes you don’t have with other self-fed supplements, think of a mineral when the grass turns green, it’s really hard to get them to consume a mineral, a bag of mineral.
With Crystalyx, that molasses really attracts them and therefore, you do get good consumption in all seasons especially the summer where it’s a little harder to get consumption. And, as long as you’re getting consumption, you’ll get the distribution to work because they’re going to seek out those barrels wherever you put them in your pasture.
Ryan Bapst: Yeah. I agree with you, Mark. And in this part of the world, I think it works good whenever we’re grazing some of that dormant forage, you know, it’s going to pull them to that, you know, farther to the extremities like I said.
But, also when the pasture is growing, you know, the cattle aren’t just grazing the stuff close to the shade or the water and then, leaving the other farther extremities ungrazed, where it will get old and stale and they don’t really like it especially in fescue country I am. And when that fescue gets stale and rot and odor and they don’t really like to graze that and they just keep picking the fresh forage available.
So, you can force those cows to, you know, graze the entire pasture all at the same time instead of just the closer – the closer portions of it and then the pastures grow more evenly like it’s been mowed each time you graze them maybe three, four, five times during the grazing and growing season.
Tom Martin: Well, of course you need a healthy herd to graze. So, Ryan, what role does nutrition play in building herd health and immunity?
Ryan Bapst: Well, I think a lot of times, you know, people look at using self-fed supplements or Crystalyx products as a way to improve maybe the protein intake of a cow or using them in crucial breeding times to improve mineral status to help promote fertility.
You know, a lot of the same mineral packages that we use to fortify Crystalyx to improve fertility really enhance herd health. I think herd health is very, very important. We’re all busy, the last thing we need to do is we doctoring cattle that are – that are sick or having health challenges.
And having an immune system that is functioning at tiptop condition is extremely important. I think having a good mineral fortification can help promote a good immune function in our cattle.
Mark Robbins: Ryan, do you think a lot of customers feel they could just vaccinate or give, you know, BRD treatments and things like that to kind of overcome any immune problems versus maybe using a supplement to build immunity?
Ryan Bapst: I think some producers believe that they can just skimp on nutrition and vaccinate and get away with good herd health, but I don’t really think that they’re going to realize the full effects of today’s technology of vaccines and how powerful that is with all these advancements we’ve had in health programs.
So, I think it’s a twofold situation. If you’re going to invest in vaccines, I think your nutrition program really ought to be up to snuff to get your most bang for the buck out of that.
Mark Robbins: You know, in conversations I’ve had with veterinarians, I think they’re going to tell you the same thing. They say, you know, we can sell you vaccines, but you have to have a good nutrition program for these vaccines to work.
And, obviously that reflects on the veterinarian if they’re promoting certain vaccines and treatments, they want them to work and they know full well if that customer has a nutrition program that’s maybe subpar, those vaccines and treatments aren’t going to look like they’re working and of course that will come right back to the veterinarian and say, hey, what’s wrong with this?
So, I have often heard veterinarians recommend, you know, if we’re going to use these vaccines and these treatments, we got to first have a good herd health program going.
Tom Martin: Well, how does the importance of nutrition change for cattle in a natural program?
Mark Robbins: You know, Tom, that’s a good one because if you’re in a natural program, you’re trying not to use antibiotics at all. And if a calf gets sick, you have to treat that calf likely with antibiotics to get it back well again.
Now, that calf then falls out of your natural program and now you don’t get those premiums for that calf. So, it certainly behooves you to manage the cattle and give them a nutrition program that absolutely minimizes sickness and nutrition can do a lot for that.
So, when it comes to a natural program, even more so your nutritional program matters because it allows you to keep more calves in that program.
You know, we did some work with some receding cattle and our Crystalyx Brigade products years ago and basically the extra calves that you kept from getting sick added about $15 per hundred weight to those calves, so that’s pretty remarkable.
And I think most people understand that, you know, a healthier calf, you’re not – or calf with a better immune system is healthier and is less likely going to require treatment with antibiotics will drop out of that natural program.
Ryan Bapst: So, Mark, do you think that most cattlemen buy a nutritional supplement with health and immunity in mind?
Mark Robbins: Yeah. Ryan, I think you kind of touched on this earlier on. I think most people look at our Crystalyx supplement as a protein supplement when protein is lacking. Obviously, we have a lot of mineral supplements today that work well through the summer. You know, we got a product that has Bovatec in it and people may be looking more and more at them for herd health.
I think a lot of people do also, you know, they realize that if they’re supplying protein, the cattle are going to do better. We do have vitamins and trace minerals levels on the label that are guaranteed. There isn’t in the back of their mind a little bit that this is helping with the health of their herd, but I don’t know that anybody would maybe say that’s the first thing they’re thinking about when they buy Crystalyx is herd health.
[0:15:12] And actually, it really should be because that’s very important to your bottom line. We’re talking about reproduction, you know, calves when they’re weaned and how healthy are and how well they get started in that weaning period.
Tom Martin: Well, when would you say – and this is a question for either of you – when is the ideal time to start a good mineral or supplement program?
Ryan Bapst: Honestly, with cattle prices the way they are right now, if you’re not – if you don’t have a good mineral or supplement program, it needs to be today.
There really is no time during the year no matter whether you’re a fall calver, a spring calver, running stockers, or whatever it may be, there really isn’t a time during the life cycle when you need or when you can absolutely afford not to supplement or skimp on your supplementation, whether it’s a cow that is bred and she doesn’t have a calf on her and she’s in her third trimester.
You know, we know so much about fetal programming and, you know, mineral status in a cow whenever they’re pre-calving and how that affects that calf when it hits the ground to, you know, when that cow drops the calf, she stress hard, she needs a high quality trace mineral supplementation program to help her whenever she’s pressured with peak lactation and getting ready to go back into breeding.
And then, all of a sudden for these calves, once they’re on the ground, if they can access the mineral, which is we’re saying that in a Crystalyx barrel, they can get right in there very easily, it’s highly palatable, then little calves can get right in there.
It can keep their immune function rocking and rolling with a good mineral status and that’s going to carry right on in when these calves go through the stresses of weaning and go on to their next phase whether they’re going in and getting sold into a backgrounding program or to a feedlot and they can really adjust and take on these challenges and keep on rolling for their new homes.
Tom Martin: So, you don’t want to cut corners on nutrition. What do these supplement programs cost?
Mark Robbins: You know, Tom, our protein supplements and we’ve got different levels of trace mineral and vitamin nutrition and different levels of protein. But, generally, you’re going to be looking in that 40 to 45 cents per head per day for that protein program through our Crystalyx barrel.
Now, in the summer time here, when you’re just feeding a mineral, that’s probably going to be more in that 17 to 22 cents per head per day, again, depending on the program that you have chosen to go with or the level of nutrition. So, you know, about 20 cents for a mineral, about 45 or so for a protein product.
Tom Martin: Do you have something to add to that, Ryan?
Ryan Bapst: No, I think that’s right on. I mean, those are the numbers that I was thinking myself and even in the eastern parts of the country.
Tom Martin: All right. That’s Mark Robbins in Beulah, Wyoming. Good to have you back, Mark.
Mark Robbins: Thanks, Tom.
Tom Martin: And from Beaver, Ohio, Ryan Bapst. Thanks for joining us, Ryan.
Ryan Bapst: Thank you, Tom, appreciate it.
Tom Martin: And I’m Tom Martin and you’ve been listening to part 3 in our Beyond the Barrel podcast series, Does Crystalyx Pencil Out?
Thanks for listening.
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