Urea and other forms of non-protein nitrogen have over the years taken some unwarranted hits, based largely on high-profile wrecks.
Non-protein nitrogen, or NPN, offers a valuable tool for squeezing every penny out of your supplement investment when formulated at appropriate levels and delivered by a foolproof proven method.
Research during the last decade has continually shown that cattle on low-quality forage, whether standing or harvested, perform better when they’re given a source of rumen-degradable protein—in other words, protein that is first broken down by the rumen through fermentation and then passed onto the lower gut as a more usable form of protein called microbial crude protein. “Feeding the rumen” with that form of protein increases the amount of fiber cattle eat as well as the digestibility of that fiber, especially on low-quality, low crude protein diets.
The problem: Protein, actually nitrogen, is one of the most expensive nutrients to supplement. However, researchers found long ago that feeding the rumen with relatively cheap forms of nitrogen—like urea—could easily replace up to 60 percent of the protein in some applications before cattle started turning up their noses at it.
Taking advantage of ruminant’s natural adaptability and digestive architecture can substantially reduce supplement costs. The downside—as discovered by those unfortunate producers who overapplied NPN through uncontrolled free choice feeding—is that under those conditions that allow the rumen to convert urea into ammonia too quickly, the ammonia is absorbed from the rumen and enters the blood, where it can, at best, reduce growth and reproductive performance, and at worst, kill when toxic levels are reached.
Low moisture blocks offer two proven methods to safely maximize utilization of urea. First, by controlling intake of the urea containing supplement, and, second, by the simultaneous intake of fermentable energy with the urea.
The Benefits Without the Problems
To ignore such a profitable advantage of the ruminant’s digestive system because of the risks, would be to the cattleman’s loss. New, more reliable supplement formulations vastly reduce, if not eliminate entirely, the traditional problems associated with misused non-protein nitrogen:
- Unreliable intake limits. Blocks like CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements control consumption physically, rather than by the less-reliable high-salt method or by the more labor-intensive daily delivery. Cattle typically consume less than a pound of CRYSTALYX® Brand block daily, far below the amount necessary to create any urea toxicity. Plus, because there’s no high salt level to encourage salt-naive cattle to load up, you don’t need to acclimate cattle to them as with traditional salt-based urea supplements.
- Infrequent intake. Urea supplements also cause problems when cattle don’t eat the same amount daily. Because CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements are highly palatable, animals consume them on a regular, but controlled basis that keeps the rumen environment acclimated to urea, and its incorporation into microbial protein.
- Unrestricted intake. Urea-containing blocks and liquids that permit cattle to consume large amounts of supplement at one time increase the chances of toxicity. The physical properties of CRYSTALYX® blocks do not permit them to be bitten or chewed.
- Insufficient supply of energy or microminerals. Research has found that a generous supply of energy in the ration that is available for microbes to ferment, and supplemental minerals—particularly cobalt, zinc and a sufficient nitrogen-to-sulfur ratio—are necessary to reduce the chance of urea overdose. CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements deliver all those nutrients in appropriate daily doses, and are completely blended so no separation can occur during feeding.
- Providing rumen-degradable protein supplement is critical to stretch the value of low-quality forage.
- Non-protein nitrogen is the cheapest source of rumen-degradable protein, and vastly improves efficiency when provided in a formulation you can trust to control intake and deliver supplement across the entire herd.
CRYSTALYX® BGF-30™ is a complete, self-fed supplement specially formulated for cattle consuming fresh or stored moderate to low quality forages. BGF-30™ combines rumen degradable protein, rumen bypass protein and non-protein nitrogen in an energy-rich, mineral-dense, weather-resistant package.