The best of both: Launching a new block form

Oct 25, 2018

As we enter into the fall and winter grazing period, grasses and crop residues go from mature to dormant and the protein level of these forages declines. Dr. Dan Dhuyvetter discusses the newest block form that combines CRYSTALYX and distillers grains for increased protein supplementation to help maintain cow body condition as cattle consume low quality forages. Visit for more information.


Tom:    I'm Tom Martin and I'm talking with Dan Dhuyvetter, director of research and development and director of nutrition services at CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements. Thanks for being with us, Dan.

Dan:    My pleasure.

Tom:    Dan, fall is approaching. For many producers who are grazing cattle on pastures, that means the need for greater intake of protein to maximize forage utilization. Can you tell us about what you see out in the field with your customers, and across the country for that matter, with cattle grazing fall pastures?

Dan:    It's a great time of the year when things are cooling down, but with that, it means that we're starting to see the slowing down of growth on the pastures for our cow-calf producers. As that grass slows down, it starts to mature. One of the things that happens –– kind of like us and our bones as we get older –– the grass gets a little more brittle. Those forages, they start getting a little stemmier. They start lignifying so that they increase the amount of fiber that's in those forages, and that really means that the quality of the pastures, and what the cattle are consuming, deteriorates.

            It happens every year at this time. One of the things that goes along with that, then, is the need for a little additional protein in order for cattle to make better use of that more stemmy, stockier forage. Additional protein will help increase the fermentation rate. It helps stimulate microbial growth in the rumen, which helps them break down those forages so the animals can better digest them and actually turn them into energy.

            The pastures, over the summer, have provided ample energy — ample feed — to maintain those cows and actually even put a little weight on. As they do start getting maternal, the ability for them to provide that nice nutrient supply –– to match their energy and protein needs of the animal –– starts to become a deficit. So, as producers, what we want to do as cows move from here into the winter is try and match nutritional needs to help cows maintain that body weight, rather than see them deteriorate in weight or body condition.

            To provide protein this time of the year, there are a lot of different ways producers do it. They can go out there and they can deliver protein in liquid supplements that are fairly stationary liquid tanks, which are put in pastures, and cattle consume a little bit of that. That's one method of delivery. They might bring out larger cubes or cake that they feed, and they have to come out every other day or so and provide that to livestock, and/or they may just go in and get raw commodities. Things like distiller grains or soybean meal, wheat midds, things like that, where they hand-feed those to cattle.

            One of the other methods –– which is a very popular choice –– is getting protein blocks or tubs, and that's something that is a class of supplement that we call “self-fed” or “free choice.” They put those blocks in tubs out there in the pasture. Cattle consume them at will until they actually run out, and then they're replaced. That helps, from a labor standpoint, that you'd only have to go out there at certain times once the supplement has been consumed.

            So, there are a lot of different ways right now, in terms of supplementing additional protein, to help cows meet those energy and protein deficits that they're facing with the forage supply, which happens every year at this time.  

Tom:    I understand there's a new product coming to the market developed by CRYSTALYX called CrystalBlox™. Can you tell us tell us more about that product and how it would work in a producer's operation?

Dan:    Sure. You know, as one looks at supplying protein to livestock, we in the feed industry are always asking, “Is there possibly a better way to try and do that?” And as we were evaluating, here at CRYSTALYX, our particular delivery of protein through CRYSTALYX supplements, we asked, “Is there a way that we might be able to improve our ability to deliver a low-cost protein supplement?”

            As we started going down the process, what we ended up doing –– and this has been in development for about seven years –– is we’ve looked at whether or not there was an opportunity to actually marry two different types of supplements and provide a more powerful ability to provide protein to our cow-calf customers.

            What we came up with was where we combine two different supplement forms. One of those is what we call the “low-moisture block form,” which is what CRYSTALYX is. We basically dehydrate molasses. We blend in other ingredients. As that dehydrated molasses cools and hardens, it then has the ability to deliver protein to the cows. The one fallback of the low-moisture block supplements is that they have a fairly limited range in their intake. They're very good at delivering precise amounts of supplemental nutrition on a daily basis across the herd uniformly, but they usually are around that three-quarters of a pound a day as typical intake. Sometimes, when conditions are bad or you put enough blocks out, you might be able to raise that up to a pound or a little more, but you are limited to that type of a range in terms of intake.

            On the flip side, there's another form of supplement that we also work with here, and that's called a “compressed block.” Basically, what you do is put dry ingredients in that particular block and, then, you add pressure; you actually press it down into a tub. A very common ingredient used in those is distiller grains. Dried distiller grains are very plentiful, especially within the ethanol industry. They are pretty widespread across the U.S. Because of that, it's a very economical protein supplement.

            So, what we've done with these, this new form called CrystalBlox, is we've taken this very economical form of compressed block and we've added a little bit –– about 15 to 20 percent –– of CRYSTALYX to it in a very specific shape. By putting those together, we’re able to get the best of both worlds: we can get the economical cost and a little bit broader range in protein delivery, in terms of intake. At the same time, we can get that very precise control of intake that CRYSTALYX provides. So, this new block form is a combination of two: a compressed block and a low-moisture block. We put those together and we’re able to get the best of both worlds. And that's what this new supplement called CrystalBlox is all about.

Tom:    So, is intake even across the surface of the block, given the different densities of the material?

Dan:    Yes. As cows consume the CrystalBlox supplement –– as I mentioned, it has a compressed form and [is] embedded in a particular mold. The mold has five points to it. With that configuration, the mold is filled in with the low-moisture block. So, as cattle are trying to get to the distiller grains, they have to lick the CRYSTALYX portion. So, the CRYSTALYX portion has to go down at about the same rate that it normally does. By doing that, it helps slow the intake, which is oftentimes, in compressed blocks, a little higher than we'd like. It brings that intake right in line. And because it's embedded in the compressed block form, basically, the cattle have to consume the CRYSTALYX component of it, and that's what regulates it. It makes for a uniform consumption as the material is being consumed over time.

Tom:    Interesting. So, what types of supplementation situations would be a good match for CrystalBlox?

Dan:    CrystalBlox is by design. What we've done with it is really focus on protein delivery. You know, again, this time of the year, when the pastures are getting mature and they're getting a little bit more limited, this is an excellent time for good CrystalBlox applications for beef cow- calf producers.

            The other part of it is when you start looking at the types of cattle that you have, especially younger cattle or cattle that have come in from the summer grazing that are in thinner body condition. They need a little bit extra, a little bit more nutrients. CrystalBlox can help provide that, as opposed to a CRYSTALYX supplement, which would provide a tighter controlled, lower amount of supplement every day.

            The other condition would certainly be during drought. If you have pastures that have not had the rain that you normally like to see in the summer, drought conditions would be a great application for the CrystalBlox supplement. It's really looking at when you need to have a little bit broader or longer reach in delivering that protein.

Tom:    What types of formulas are available in the CrystalBlox line of products?

Dan:    Speaking for the formulation side, we've tried to make this pretty straightforward. We did most of our work on a 20-percent natural protein that would be all plant-protein derived. That's a very common industry protein level that we find in self-fed supplements. So, the 20-percent protein formulation is our base.

            To that, we have added a fortification package that models our Blueprint® technology. That's where we've removed all the inorganic trace minerals and replaced them with organic trace minerals. And so, we have a 20-percent base that has the trace mineral fortification package in it, which would provide greater bioavailability of trace minerals for the cowherd.

            Finally, to that 20-percent base –– for conditions where the forage quality is really under pressure and we have extenuating circumstances and lower quality –– we've added a digestive enzyme called Fibrozyme®, which will help [with] integrating fiber. That gives that little extra benefit when you have some particularly low-quality forages. You can feed that particular formula and it will help digest some of those stemmier, stocky forages.

            That's what we have right now in the product line. We are working on a higher protein formulation as well, and that will be delivered soon.

Tom:    If a producer is looking to deliver additives –– say, fly control, for example –– should they look to CrystalBlox for delivery of these?

Dan:    At this point in time, that is not the design of CrystalBlox. I would encourage people who might be thinking of those types of products to take a look at the CRYSTALYX line. CRYSTALYX, by nature, is that low-moisture block-type form and is really very good at delivering specific, low amounts of “payload,” as I call it –– “payload” meaning the supplement amount delivered a day. It's very good at doing that. That's usually what you really want to have when you're delivering a feed additive like a larvacide and fly control.

            It also would be what we want to see when we're looking at products for other species, whether they be small ruminants like sheep and goats or horses. We want to be specific in the amount we deliver. So, for those types of applications, we certainly would look at mineral products that are oftentimes on mature cows. We’re looking at delivering between ¼ and ½ pound. We would really encourage people to stay with the CRYSTALYX line. Those products are tried and true. They deliver very precise quantities, and that's probably going to be better suited for what the customer needs, in that regard.

Tom:    Dan Dhuyvetter, director of research and development and director of nutrition services at CRYSTALYX Brand Supplements. Thanks so much for joining us.

Dan:    You're welcome.



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