Legend has it that the idea for CRYSTALYX came while observing how hard candy was made at Knott’s Berry Farm more than 44 years ago. The original formulations were few and quite simple and were initially packaged in 50-pound cardboard boxes instead of the steel barrels we recognize today. Mark Robbins discusses where CRYSTALYX came from and where it’s going.
Tom: The holidays are upon us. 2020 is coming to a close and naturally, our thoughts turn to reflection. I'm Tom Martin here today with Mark Robbins, Director of Research and Nutrition Services at CRYSTALYX Brand Supplements to talk about the history of low moisture blocks, and specifically the history of CRYSTALYX. Thanks for joining us, Mark.
Mark: Thanks for having me, Tom.
Tom: Just how long have low moisture blocks been around?
Mark: Tom, the history of low moisture blocks -- and also, some people call them cooked blocks -- goes back about 44 years now to a patent that Carl McKenzie applied for actually in 1974, but it was approved about two years later in 1976. So, you can say that low moisture blocks have about a 44-year history.
Tom: Okay. So naturally, the question next is how old is CRYSTALYX?
Mark: If you look at CRYSTALYX, that trademark goes back to just a year later, 1977. So, I guess we'd say CRYSTALYX is about 43 years old. Certainly, CRYSTALYX and Carl McKenzie are very much intertwined that they brought out that name, and for years, that was the predominant name in low moisture blocks.
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Tom: Mark, we've talked a lot on the podcast about different CRYSTALYX products and formulas, many of which are updates or improvements to existing products. Why have formulas changed over the years?
Mark: If you look back to the mid '70s when these products first came out as self-fed supplements, at that time, the only other self-fed supplements you really had were probably pressed blocks. Most of our other forms of blocks came along in later years. The idea of supplementing the animal back then — there wasn't quite as much research as we have today — so it was a little bit simpler. That was something that the folks at our production plants really remind us of. Back in the late '70s, early '80s, we've had fewer products, and that supplementation at that time wasn't as much based on research as it was, just providing a little bit of supplement, perhaps some protein. You look at the product names that we had back then. They were called "high energy" and I think that was seen as something that they wanted to supplement at the time, were higher levels of energy to spur growth, not really looking so much at trace minerals, vitamins, and proteins.
Over the years then, more research comes out. You get into the '80s, later '80s into the '90s. Certainly, trace mineral nutrition got a lot more in-depth research. We started to learn that most of these forages are short on copper. They're short on zinc, short on selenium. You looked at how the products changed in the '80s, and into the '90s, we actually started adding some trace minerals. It was kind of interesting that when the original CRYSTALYX HE-12%™ and HE-20%™, you could feed those to sheep because they did not have any added copper. They made a decision to add some copper to those products. Now, all of a sudden, we didn't have a sheep product. So, about 1993 to 1994, we added a product called Sweet 14%™ that was now a multispecies product without added copper that you could feed to sheep.
As you go through the '90s, we actually looked at those copper levels again. And in the late '90s, about 1998 or so, we said we should really bring these up a little bit higher. The original copper level was around 50% of NRC. In the late '90s, we went to 100% of NRC in most of our products. The HE products were probably about 75% of NRC. That gets you up to about the year 2000. In about 2007, we actually came out with a line of products called Breed-Up, and those products were 200% of NRC as far as trace mineral supplementation goes. Then in addition to that, we also made it 25% of the trace minerals came from an organic form of those trace minerals.
That was kind of two steps there with that Breed-Up® line. It recognized the need for a lot of producers or their desire to have even more than 100% of NRC and trace minerals, and a desire to have an organic form of the trace minerals.
Now, if you come up here closer to present day about 2017, we then went to our Blueprint® line of CRYSTALYX products, which is 100% organic trace minerals coming from Alltech's Bioplex®. We've talked about Blueprint before, how those organic trace minerals are much more available. They're much more like you find in nature, but now, we actually use completely only organic trace minerals. We've removed the inorganic forms from the products and that's really been the epiphany of the development of the trace mineral supplementation that we see with CRYSTALYX over the years.
Tom: How many CRYSTALYX products are there anyway? I would imagine quite a few.
Mark: Yeah. Your imagination is correct. Most people tell us there are too many CRYSTALYX products. We do have over a hundred formulas that are available in North America. Most of our dealers, what they'll do is they'll handle a few of those products that are more specific to their area or their clientele, but CRYSTALYX or low moisture blocks in general don't really lend themselves to making customized formulas for each customer. So, we naturally have quite a few options available that are standard formulas. That's part of the reason that you get more formulas.
Now, another reason is you generally have mineral formulas and protein formulas. When you have two categories like that, they further break down into sometimes you want a mineral with fly control and/or a mineral without fly control. Sometimes you want a protein product with fly control and a protein product without fly control. Now, you've got about four categories. Now, sometimes the people that are buying protein products will say, "Well, I want an all-natural formula. I don't want a formula that has urea or non-protein nitrogen in it." So now, you've just doubled up what you have there in protein formulas.
Another option that you get in protein formulas is sometimes we'll use hydrolyzed feather meal to reach higher levels of proteins in some of those formulas that get kind of tight. Of course, now you have people that are on a natural program say, "Well, I can't use any animal protein in this natural program. I need a version of that that doesn't use animal protein." So there, you get an even wider dispersion of the types of formulas you have to have available. It's kind of a cascade of events that you come out with an idea for a new formula, but now you have to have about three or four versions of that for everybody to have what they want to use.
Once you start looking at some additives that we have such as Bio-Mos® or the Blueprint line or just organic trace minerals in general, again, there's another layer of complexities that you have whether you have a product with or without those different additives.
Tom: So, I take it that having this deep bench of products, if you will, is because of the many different feeding situations that livestock producers might have.
Mark: Yeah. Tom, we do have a pretty major change coming up with our dairy products that we're looking to start on the first of January. That would be we're going to change those dairy products over to be a Blueprint formula. So, like with our beef products, what this means is that our trace minerals will now only be from the Alltech Bioplex. So, what you'll see on the label is a slightly lower level of trace minerals, but here again, those trace minerals are much more available. Really, the other part of Blueprint is that we're removing the sulfates and the oxides from the formula, and that always gives us a boost in animal performance when we actually remove those. That seems to be half of what we see out there. Not only do we provide more available trace minerals in the Bioplex form, but that removal of the oxides and the sulfates gives us a boost in animal performance as well.
Tom: Well, it sounds like the Blueprint products are really the future of livestock nutrition. Is there any way to improve upon Blueprint?
Mark: You know, that's kind of an interesting point. As it stands right now, it would be very hard to improve on the Blueprint formulation from the standpoint of the ingredients that you use. The Bioplex organic trace minerals are basically how you would find copper, zinc, manganese in nature, in forages.
So, if we were to improve on that, if we're going to improve on nature, we're going to have to find or develop or basically invent an even more available form of copper or zinc. I'm not saying that that may not happen, but as it stands right now, no one else really has anything like that. So, we're really kind of at the epiphany of where you would want to be with with Blueprint products.
The only thing that you could do to really improve it is improve how you deliver that to animals. We certainly feel that CRYSTALYX low moisture blocks are one of the best ways to provide a self-fed supplement because you have more of the herd that actually consumes the product than you do with other self-fed supplements. A lot of that's due to the fact that there's a lot of molasses in CRYSTALYX and that's very attractive. The animals like it. You just get more of the animals to consume the mineral or the protein product when you feed it through a CRYSTALYX feed.
Tom: Okay. Where can livestock producers who are listening to us go to learn more about CRYSTALYX products?
Mark: Sure. You can go to your local dealer. If you don't know who that is, you can always go to crystalyx.com and that's going to have a lot of this information. The other nice thing about the crystalyx.com website is in the upper right corner, you can find a link to a "find your dealer" locator. Type in your zip code there and it'll give you a listing of dealers that handle CRYSTALYX in your area. It shows them on a map, so it'll be very easy to find who your CRYSTALYX dealer is.
Tom: Well, thanks for being with us today, Mark.
Mark: Thank you, Tom. I appreciate it.
Tom: That's Mark Robbins, Director of Research and Nutrition Services for CRYSTALYX Brand Supplements. I'm Tom Martin and thanks for listening.