The removal of inorganic trace minerals can have a significant impact on both animal health and performance, as well as environmental stewardship. Mark Robbins discusses the many benefits of feeding organic trace minerals through the Blueprint program.
Tom: Mark, we spoke with you on the podcast around this time last year about a new line of CRYSTALYX® products and their use of organic trace minerals, called Blueprint®. Can you remind us; what exactly is Blueprint?
Mark: Sure, Tom. When we look at Blueprint as a product line, there are two things to keep in mind right off the bat. It involves a total replacement of the trace minerals with an organic form of trace mineral called Bioplex®. And, hand in hand with that, the second thing is that you are completely removing the inorganic trace minerals. Now, you can't really have one without the other, but I think we're finding that the removal of the inorganic trace minerals is having tremendous benefits that we haven't really seen before just because we haven't had an entire product line like Blueprint, which has products that are completely organic as far as our trace mineral complement. The third thing that we would look at is we tend to use other Alltech® additives in this product line probably a little more heavily to enhance performance along with the Blueprint.
Tom: Sounds like Blueprint is a fairly new program — how long has it been on the market?
Mark: You know, we kind of still think of it as being new. But as of this month, it's actually been out for two years. Like with any new program, things can take off a little bit slower and then build [momentum] over time, but it has been two years now and I'm happy to say we're still seeing about 150% growth on the product line. So, it may be somewhat new, but it's not [brand] new. At the same time, we're still finding more and more producers that are taking advantage of the performance gains that we're seeing with it.
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Tom: Do other feed companies offer similar programs? What makes Blueprint truly different from other feed company’s “new” programs?
Mark: Sure. So, you know what? Everybody tries to have something new to talk about every year maybe even every month or every week. The difference between Blueprint and any other feed company’s program is that if you look for a total replacement product out there that’s using just organic trace minerals, other companies may have a product here and there, or two or three. They don't necessarily have an entire line. If you look at our CRYSTALYX product line, there are over 20 different products. We've got products available in the U.S. and in Canada in the Blueprint line. What we're trying to do there is make it so that you can feed this product line year-round without having to go off it. We definitely feel the benefits that you see from Blueprint by removing those inorganic trace minerals are something that you’ll want to continue. You don't want to use a Blueprint product for six months of the year and then go back and put inorganic trace minerals back into the diet for the next six months. You want to stay on the program. That requires having quite [several] products [available]. You need protein products of different levels of protein and you need those with different additives in them. You need mineral products with different additives in them with fly control and other products as well. You need high mag products in some places where they need to feed higher levels of magnesium. So, you can't really make a year-round program with just one or two products that is going to fit all of your customers’ needs. You need to have a number of products. So, that's really where Blueprint is different. It's a lot of different products to choose from so many customers can feed the product year-round and have the exact product that they want to have.
Tom: Mark, you talked about using lower levels of Bioplex trace minerals in the Blueprint line of products. Can you explain why you use lower levels?
Mark: Sure. So, when you look at this total replacement with the organic trace minerals, they're much more available to the animals. So, you do not need to feed as much. Now, we also know that organic trace minerals, — on an apples to apples basis — do cost more than inorganic trace minerals. So, using that lower level of the more available trace minerals does help some with cost.
That’s been something that a lot of people have kind of shied away from; the fact that you’re going to go out with a new product. And most people are tuned in to looking at those levels of trace minerals and then basing the relative value of that product on how high that trace mineral level is. So now, we're coming out with a premium product line that actually has a lower level of trace minerals and that's something that has to be walked through with most customers; why are they lower. Well, it's because they're more bioavailable.
Tom: I heard you mention that Bioplex trace minerals are more available to the animal. Why is that?
Mark: Right. So, the organic trace minerals — and the Bioplex especially — they're bound to an organic molecule and this is much how you will find trace minerals in nature. And, because it's bound to an organic molecule, it’s more or less protected in the rumen of animals. So, as you're feeding cows and the trace minerals go into the rumen, the organic ones are protected or more protected as they travel through that rumen and they actually get down to the lower intestine where they're more readily absorbed. If you find inorganic trace minerals in an animal’s diet, it’s generally because we've put them there. We've added those. That's not how they're typically found in nature. They're cheaper. They've been around for years. That's why we use them, but they're not nearly as available to the animal. So, we end up feeding higher levels of them to compensate for that.
Tom: If organic trace minerals are so beneficial, why do we continue to use inorganic forms of trace minerals in animal feed?
Mark: Sure. The inorganic forms, as I mentioned, are cheaper. They've been around for a longer time. And you know what? They're just easier to sell because the prices aren’t as high. This isn't just something you see with selling feeds. It’s in any industry. You have people that will go out and sell a product based on the value of it or you'll have people that will go out and sell a product based on my price is lower than my neighbor or my competitor. And inorganic trace minerals certainly lend themselves to a lower cost in the product and you can sell out on the price. When you make that step into the Blueprint line or the organic trace mineral line, you have something that may cost a little bit more. You need to sell that value. And the value [lies in] the fact that they're more available and that you actually have healthier animals [as a result of using them]. For example, we've seen greater gains on calves at weaning time if they and their mothers are on the Blueprint program. [Of course,] that stuff isn't really noticeable maybe when you look at a feed tag. So, you have to be able to speak to the values and explain that to the customers and some people just don't want to take the time to do that.
Tom: Can inorganic trace minerals be harmful to the animal?
Mark: You know, the word “harmful”— people probably kind of shy [away] from that. But in some respects, I think actually they can be and this would be more [comparable to something like this:] I think we all know that smoking is harmful to our health. Eating too much sugar is harmful. It takes a lot of it over time to actually be harmful. And I think that's what we're probably seeing with our inorganic trace minerals; over time they create more free radicals. Those free radicals actually cause aging in all of us. That's what ages our skin and our cells. Certainly, it can be harmful over time. And the thing is, is that before we had a lot of research on the availability of organic trace minerals, those inorganic trace minerals were all we had. So, it's what we used. You know, if you go back in history and you look at some of the treatments that they used in the medical field, [think about how] we look at them today. They used to use mercury, for example. I mean, today, we know that that's just crazy to put mercury in your body. But before they really knew any better, they saw some benefits from it. And, so, it was used. Inorganic trace minerals aren’t probably quite that bad, but I do feel over time we're going to discover more and more reasons that they really weren’t the best choice for supplementing trace minerals to animals.
Tom: Yeah, I'm horrified to remember that as a kid we used to play with mercury.
Mark: Right. Right.
Tom: It sounds like there is a real benefit to feeding organic trace minerals. What other benefits are there of the Blueprint program?
Mark: You know, one thing that I think we'll see, as I mentioned, we've only had the product line out for a couple of years.
But when you think about how we're seeing tremendously improved performance with the lower levels of those trace minerals, one benefit is that we're putting less of those trace minerals into the environment. We're not overfeeding them. We're feeding a much lower level that's more available. It's much more utilized. You have less going into the environment. Another area that I think is kind of interesting that it will take a few years to actually see this, but I think the potential is there, is you have fewer free radicals created in the animal when you remove those inorganics. I think you may see some increased longevity in some of our cows or individual cows. Number one, the things that age the animal are going to be much less; those free radicals. The other thing is a lot of times the reason that an animal is going to drop out of your herd is [because] they fail to become pregnant. And we do see increased pregnancy rates when we use the Blueprint program. So, there's definitely a couple of things there that could look to, you know, lengthen the amount of time that a cow stays in your herd.
Tom: Well, Mark, where can producers who are listening to us go to learn more about the CRYSTALYX Blueprint line of products?
Mark: Sure, so, there's a website. It's called blueprintbythebarrel.com and that will give you a full list of [available] CRYSTALYX Blueprint products, which can be found at your nearest CRYSTALYX dealer.
Tom: Mark Robbins, Director of Research and Nutrition Services for CRYSTALYX Brand Supplements. Mark, thanks for your time and your expertise.
Mark: You bet. Thank you, Tom.