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ANNOUNCER: Welcome to Beyond the Barrel. I’m Tom Martin, and with us today is Mark Robbins, Director of Research and Nutrition Services, Ridley Block Operations. Hello, Mark.
Mark: Hi, Tom. How are you?
ANNOUNCER: Doing good. And it’s fall, and it’s the time of year when most cow-calf producers wean and sell their calves, and I’m wondering if this is also when, once the calves are sold, cattle producers can, kind of kick back and relax their management of the cow herd?
Mark: You know, Tom, I think that’s kind of a typical situation for a lot of cattlemen. You know, it’s kind of like running a race and getting to the finish line, and once you get over the finish line, you want to take a little breather, catch your breath and not keep running anymore.
But, you know, it’s actually a very good time of the year for cattlemen to look at the body condition scores of their cows. And, you know, while we just mentioned we got to the end of the race with this year’s calf crop, we’re starting the race already a few months back with next year’s calf crop. So, you know, that cow is always taking care of at least one calf, sometimes two, if you think of the calf that she’s got nursing and then a fetus. So, you don’t really want to let up. And it’s actually a very good time of the year to look at the body condition score of the cattle, and it is a good chance to add some body condition if you need to.
ANNOUNCER: Well, can you elaborate on that a bit? Why is BCS, or body condition score, so important to a cow-calf operation?
Mark: Sure. It’s a very good way to, kind of, gauge, you know, the status of, really, the body condition of those cows. Now, if you had scales and you could weigh those cows all the time, we’d just run them across the scale, and we’d know if they were gaining weight or losing weight or where we really want them to be as far as their ability to take care of that calf or that fetus.
But, you know, most people don’t have a scale like that. They don’t have the time to do it. It’s a lot of work. So, they developed the body condition score system, which gives scores from a more emaciated cow, down at 1, up to a very fat cow, at 9, to give you an idea of where your cows are at and where they’re going. Now, in order for this a value to you, you kind of need to look at them several times during the year to see if they’re trending up in body condition or down in body condition or maintaining. Now, CRYSTALYX does have an app for that, if you want to look that up. But basically, what we do know is that you want to be somewhere around the body condition score of 5, 5-1/2 or 6 at calving time. So, we just talked about where we are at weaning time. You know, if our cows are slipping down at weaning time — maybe they’re at a 5 or something less — it’s a great time of the year to actually put on a little bit of weight on those cows.
If we can take a cow that’s at a body condition score of 4 versus a body condition score of 5 at calving time, we know that that cow is more likely to breed back as a 5 or a 5-1/2 or a 6 than she is as a 4. And there are big numbers at stake here really. Some work that was done, some research at different universities, showed that at a body score of 5, you’ll have 20% more of your cows breed back than a body condition score of 4. If you can get those cows to a body condition score of 6, you have another 10% or 15% more than what you have with a 5 that will breed back. So, it’s a very important tool, and managing that is worth a lot of money to our cow-calf customers out there.
Related article: The greatest opportunity for adding body condition is right now
ANNOUNCER: You mentioned that app, and I’m just wondering, how can CRYSTALYX help cattlemen manage body condition?
Mark: Sure. So, the app is one tool that we can use to just gauge where your cows are at. You can take a picture of several cows in your herd, and you can do it in the spring, at calving, you can do it, maybe, when you turn the bulls out, you can do it at this time of the year, and you can see whether they’re trending up or down because you’re going to have these historical pictures.
But CRYSTALYX, the supplement itself is, as we say, a self-fed supplement, so it’s very low on labor, equipment, and just time and input to get supplement to your cattle every day, whether that be a protein supplement here in the fall or a mineral supplement that you can use throughout the summer. That self-fed nature makes it a very low-input, very low amount of time budget for a cattleman to actually get supplement out every day.
ANNOUNCER: Why is the fall of the year such a good time to add body condition to spring-calving cows?
Mark: Yeah, it’s a very good time. Three main reasons that we have that we really like this time, like right now, after you’ve just weaned your calf to put a little bit of weight on those cows for very cheap. Now, the first thing is that those cows are no longer lactating, so that’s about a third of her energy that she is putting into milk and the lactation. Now, that can go into body weight gain. So, those cows have a much lower maintenance and gain requirement because they’re not lactating anymore. So, that’s a very economical time period. The second thing that we have is, you know, this time of year, yeah, we mention how it’s getting cooler in the mornings, it’s fall of the year, but it’s not really winter yet. So, those cows are much more closer to their thermal neutral zone. This also gives them a lower maintenance energy requirement. So, any extra energy we can get into those cows now is going to go into weight gain.
Now, the third reason we like this time of year versus, say maybe, later on in gestation is that the fetus of the calf, you know, about 70% of that fetal growth occurs in the third trimester. And for spring-calving cows, you know, that’s going to be like from December, January, February. Right now, let’s say in September, October, November, there’s still a very low amount of growth in that fetus. This, again, allows that cow to have a lower maintenance or energy requirement. And more of that energy that you can put into her today is going to end up in weight gain. That’s kind of like putting that weight gain in the bank now, and maybe she’s going to need some of that in the colder months ahead.
ANNOUNCER: So, not much advantage to just waiting and adding body condition just ahead of calving?
Mark: Right. That happens to a lot of cattlemen. Say, you know, if you’re going to calve in March and you’re out there looking at them in January, and they look a little thin, you’d think, well, I probably ought to get some weight on these cows ahead of calving. It’s really an uphill battle at that time of year because, as I just mentioned, you’re now in that third trimester. That’s going to take a lot more energy that the cow needs just to grow the calf, let alone get her own condition back up.
And the other thing is that, you know, it’s generally colder in those months than it is today. So, there, again, maintenance energy requirements just to keep the body warm and functioning are going to be much higher as we get into that third trimester. So, again, this time of the year is the best time. It’s one of the cheapest times to put some weight on those cows just because of the energy dynamics involved and the fact that maintenance and fetal growth requirements for energy are so low right now.
ANNOUNCER: Well, speaking of the time of year, autumn, this could be a busy time for harvesting. How can cattlemen balance the needs of harvesting the crop with the needs of the cow herd?
Mark: You know, you’re right, Tom. A lot of our cattlemen do farm and do have crops, and that’s a big drain in the spring when they’re calving, and it’s a big drain on time in the fall when they should be looking at maybe doing some weaning and maybe supplementing these cows. So, Crystalyx being a self-fed supplement, really works well here. A properly stocked set of Crystalyx barrels is typically on a protein product in the fall, where they eat about three-quarters of a pound per head per day. That’s going to last about two weeks, more or less.
So, it doesn’t take a lot of time to put out a set of Crystalyx barrels, and they’ll feed your cattle every day, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Again, you probably have to replace those barrels about one day out of every two weeks. So, that works very well, especially when you’re busy harvesting the crop this fall.
ANNOUNCER: Are there any other management concerns that cattlemen ought to be aware of when they’re using CRYSTALYX to manage body condition?
Mark: Yeah, Tom, I’d say there is one thing to keep in mind. I think we need to know how to use the product, and we need to know where not to use it. And one thing that I always tell people is that CRYSTALYX is not a rescue product. Now, we mentioned earlier, if someone happens to be looking at their herd, you know, if they’re going to calve in March and they’re looking at them in mid-January, first part of February, and deciding, hey, I want to put some weight on right now, that’s not the best application for Crystalyx.
It’s not a rescue product that’s going to turn a cow around in two or three weeks or a month. You actually, then you need to look at a hand-fed supplement and feeding quite a bit of it. As we said, that’s kind of an expensive way to add weight. That’s kind of the wrong time of the year to add weight. In the fall is a much better time, where you’ve got several months here that you can put on a little bit of weight each day. It’s kind of like, you know, a big ship. A rescue product to turn a ship around in a hurry, in a short amount of time, is probably a tugboat.
CRYSTALYX is more like the rudder on the ship in that it takes a long time to turn that around, but it’s a low-class supplement, it’s a low-input supplement, as far as how much of your time and labor it uses. You can use CRYSTALYX for a long period of time to get the results that you want two, three, four months from now.
ANNOUNCER: All right. That’s Mark Robbins, Director of Research and Nutrition Services, Ridley Block Operations. Thanks for joining us, Mark.
Mark: Thanks for having me, Tom.
ANNOUNCER: And for Beyond the Barrel, I’m Tom Martin.
Thank you for joining us for the Beyond the Barrel podcast. Learn more about all that CRYSTALYX has to offer by going to www.crystalyx.com. It all adds up to results by the barrel.