6/27/18: Proper CRYSTALYX® management yields increased benefits

I have recently spoken with several ranchers who have had questions on the limitations of CRYSTALYX®. Naturally, everything has its limits, whether it be your best friend, a faithful dog, a good cow or even a CRYSTALYX barrel. What I’m getting at is that it’s good to understand both how and why CRYSTALYX is to be fed, and the best way to manage it. Following some basic rules will help this supplement to perform at its best.

Always read and follow label directions

How many of us have skipped right over this little detail, and not just with feed supplements?  CRYSTALYX products have some common rules when it comes to feeding directions.

One of the most common errors witnessed with CRYSTALYX customers is the number of barrels that are placed and their location. Most products that deliver primarily protein have feeding instructions indicating that one barrel should be fed for every 20–30 head. Yet, I’ve commonly seen producers ignore this general rule and place as many as eight barrels for 50 cows or as few as one barrel for 250 cows.

The first of these scenarios gives animals about four times as much access to the supplement as is necessary and would likely result in higher than typical intake. The second example would limit the amount of surface area for cattle to lick and result in underconsumption. If that one barrel for 250 cows was gone in five days, it may cause some to think it was consumed very quickly, but, in reality, when consumption for 250 head is calculated, it equates to cows receiving roughly one-third of what’s typical.  

Recognize the difference between formulas

With CRYSTALYX mineral formulas like CRYSTAL-PHOS® or our new Blueprint® 6% Phos product, the management changes a bit compared to a protein supplement like BGF-30™. Many producers like the advantage of using a CRYSTALYX mineral formulation for their mineral programs. Often, these products also deliver fly control in the summer months.

It is worth noting that CRYSTALYX mineral formulas aren’t necessarily fed the same as protein formulas. One key difference is that the mineral formulas are fed primarily in spring and summer pasture settings versus winter grazing or winter feeding, and the intake is designed to be lower. Our experience has been that the number of CRYSTALYX mineral formula barrels fed can be less, or about one barrel for every 40–75 cows. It’s not uncommon for a producer to adjust the number of barrels placed for a period in order to dial in the proper intake, which is typically going to be 0.25 pounds per head per day for a mineral formula.

Recently, I discussed this very case with a producer who likes our CRYSTAL-PHOS product and its advantages but was displeased with intake. Cattle were consuming nearly 0.5 pounds of CRYSTAL-PHOS per head daily, and, in this case, one barrel was being placed for about every 35 head of cows that were calving and being held in a small pasture. They were being fed low-quality hay and a hand-fed protein supplement. CRYSTAL-PHOS made sense as the mineral supplement here, but when cattle are in a small pasture and staying close to feeding and calving areas, it makes more sense to place one barrel for about every 50 cows rather than 35. This would decrease the amount of supplement surface area and consumption would be closer to the desired amount of 0.25 pounds per head per day. 

Understand intake and your cattle’s unique environment

The opposite problem can occur when there is not enough intake. A different rancher in another region told me that he wanted to see higher intake when feeding CRYSTALYX Rolyx® Max. This is a mineral product providing Rabon® Oral Larvacide for fly control, and getting proper intake is key to providing the proper dosage of fly control. In this case, the producer needed to place about two to three barrels with his 80 cows rather than the one to two he had placed. There were multiple watering locations (stock ponds) in the pasture, and cattle tended to stay on one end more so than the other. In this situation, having some extra barrels placed at more than one location would increase access and help improve intake. This would also help with grazing distribution.

The above situations are real-world examples of how CRYSTALYX is an excellent supplement choice but would prove even more beneficial with some relatively minor changes to management. The table below outlines some common scenarios that may be seen on any given operation and the recommended use of CRYSTALYX in these situations.

 

Problem or scenario Result Solution
CRYSTALYX mineral formula is being fed with a low-quality roughage and no protein supplement. Higher than expected intake.  Feed a CRYSTALYX protein supplement to complement the low-quality forage.
Feeding the wrong animal-to-barrel ratio. Intake is either too high or too low. For protein supplements, place barrels at the rate of 1:20–30 head. For mineral formulations, place at the rate of 1:45–70 head.
Feeding CRYSTALYX to thin cows and trying to add a condition score in a short period of time with limited forage. Cows may not gain weight as desired without additional energy supplementation. Feed grain or byproduct feeds in addition to better forages.  A CRYSTALYX supplement can remain part of the ration.
Extremely cold weather conditions. Cattle will minimize their movement, seek more protection and may not travel to and from free-choice supplement. Place CRYSTALYX barrels where cattle will congregate in colder periods and keep out of wind-exposed areas.
Extremely hot weather conditions. Cattle will seek and stay in shade and watering areas or areas that enable them to stand in the wind or a light breeze. Place CRYSTALYX barrels away from watering areas to increase grazing distribution and prevent too much access to them.
Large pastures with multiple water sources. Cattle may not visit all water sources and will then access CRYSTALYX in only one location. Place barrels at multiple sites to ensure cattle have access.
Yearlings and/or replacement heifers in large pastures. These animals like to roam and wander. Supplements can be ignored, and a learning curve is usually required to start intake. Place barrels at multiple sites and in areas where cattle will congregate to establish and maintain proper intake.

 

Being prepared to use a supplement is not difficult, and, fortunately, CRYSTALYX can remove a lot of the guesswork. I wrote a blog last July on managing mineral supplements that relates to this very topic. You may find reading it useful to your supplementation program.

Remember: Managing your supplement is just as important as the supplement itself, as a poorly managed supplement can be a complete waste of money if it doesn’t perform correctly. I’m hopeful that this article can help you to feel more confident in your CRYSTALYX program moving forward, but if you have any questions, feel free to contact me directly at jon.albro@ridleyinc.com.

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