Although all the breeders within the Big Country Genetics group believe in raising honest cattle that work for a living, I can speak specifically to our beliefs here at XL Ranch. We know that, as stewards of land and livestock, it is our responsibility to manage these resources. By caring for our livestock, land, and natural resources in a sustainable manner, we ensure that not only the resources, but also the lifestyle are preserved for future generations.
Profitable & Sustainable Cattle Ranching
A smart man once told me, “you will never be sustainable without first being profitable.” That being said, we in the beef industry are tasked to balance economics, cattle nutrition, and productivity. When we study this equation and try to crack the code to success, we realize that as seed-stock providers, our primary job is to offer the proper genetic package. A genetic package that offers good potential, while still requiring a sustainable level of economic inputs and maintaining optimum productivity.
Of course, you could try to create the best genetic package by harvesting all of the resources that your ranch can offer, any given year. But how to do this without taking more than necessary, while ensuring that the land resource will provide for you in the future to keep the cycle going? It doesn’t sound easy, and I will assure you that it is easier to write these words on paper than correctly calculate and solve the equation.
The truth is, very few operators ever look past all of the third-party influences and actually get good at what it takes to become firstly, profitable, and ultimately sustainable. When you do run across an operator who has the discipline and skillset to crack this code, it is my advice to take notes and spend as much time with them as possible; at least, that’s what I do in an attempt to have some of their knowledge wear off on me.
Our stance is that these girls need to work for us. They should graze for most of the year, run on crop stubble or long-stem hay when the grass is gone or covered in snow, breed in a 45-day window, and bring a big strapping calf to weaning, right? As we look at this scenario, it most definitely doesn’t take a Ph.D. to know that nutrition is going to vary a great deal throughout the course of a year. We also know how critical it is for the cow to have proper nutrition at the right time. This can be very challenging to find a balance, especially because we have already identified that profitability and sustainability are our end-goal. And, we don’t have a lot of extra resources or money throughout this project.
Cattle Nutrition & Calf Performance
Now, I could take this writeup in literally a hundred different directions, and have more to say than anyone is anxious to read in several different, yet related subjects. Perhaps that is better suited for another day, or even a face-to-face conversation. Here, though, I will address cow nutrition and specifically how it impacts subsequent calf performance.
The cow/calf industry relies primarily on forage as the main feedstuff and here at XL Ranch, forage is the one and only. Depending on the season, quality of forage, and the stage of production your cows are in, forage-based diets may not always meet 100% of nutritional requirements. As most of you know, poor nutrition will require the cow to pull nutrients from its own reserves to survive and continue fetal development, if she is bred. This leads to loss of body condition and puts your cow at potential risk of deficiencies during the critical stages of fetal development. If she’s not bred yet, you’ll likely have a hard time getting her bred, especially in times of poor nutrition.
Besides the obvious breed up and body condition scores, it’s also important to think about what is going on with the calf fetus during times of nutrient deficiencies. How can you employ strategic supplements to aid and ensure that you turn on all of the genetic markers during the most critical period in fetal development? Ultimately, the answer to that question is the key to locking in long-term success.
Now, I am not going to recite all of the studies and statistics that are very well documented in regards to fetal programming. However, it is a real topic, and we have learned that proper nutrition at critical times during gestation has so much more effect on the resulting prodigy than any of us had ever imagined. From carcass markers being turned on, to overall herd health and longevity, there are plenty of examples to prove the significance of fetal programming. If you are interested in this topic and want to learn more details, I would suggest researching Dr. Rick Funston’s work; he has done a ton of research on this subject.
How to Prevent Cattle Reproduction Failure
A question I will answer is: how can you provide enough nutrients to prevent reproductive failure and ensure proper calf development, while still on a low-cost diet? It may seem difficult to maintain herd health and profitability without busting the budget!
As we have already identified, fetal programming plays a very important role in ensuring overall health of the resulting progeny. Turning on genetic markers ensures that we capture full genetic potential, with forage/hay being the primary diet.
This leads me to my next point; the quality of your forage. Forage quality plays a huge role in being able to properly fetal program your calf crop, period. As a rule, most conventional-thinking ranchers would agree a cow needs around 2.5-3% of her body weight in dry matter per day. However, in most places, you will find that the 2.5-3 % of body weight we use as a rule of thumb may not provide adequate nutrition to sustain the cow. At certain times of the year, forage quality decreases, and the cow can hardly get enough nutrients for herself, let alone what’s needed to program and properly develop/set up the fetus for success after birth.
If you are anything like me, I knew that I had to address this challenge. I worked on it for decades; this quest, trying to find some kind of supplement that would aid fetal programming. About 5 years ago, we felt as though we had tried everything. We came to the conclusion that although some operations have better success than others, nothing would help us do what we needed to do. We couldn’t find anything that really helped us to move the needle.
But I still couldn’t get past everybody saying, “that’s just the way it is” and “that’s just how much it costs” … “you need more commercial fertilizer” or, “there’s just not any profit in ranching”.
I, for one, was not about to fall into the trap that so many seed stock breeders are in; pampering their cattle at any cost and feeling as if they only ranch because they love it, but don’t make any money. We do love ranching, but it is also our business, and it has to be profitable, period.
After sampling nearly every product line available on thousands of cattle over several years, we finally had one product come through as the clear winner: Riomax360®. I can’t say that this is the silver bullet, or that you don’t have to do everything else right. But I can share with you what I’ve seen in using this great product, and most importantly, how it positively impacted our economic model at XL Ranch.
What Is Riomax®?
First of all, you have to change your train of thought; this is not a direct-fed supplement. Riomax® is highly concentrated with low consumption by design. That means that the consumption ranges from 1/8 (0.125) pound to a max of 1/3 (0.33) pound per head per day. Riomax® is fundamentally different because it utilizes Indirect Supplementation Technology, powered by a proprietary Nutrizorb® digestion pack. Please note that this is very different than the traditional direct-fed cattle nutrition supplements available on the market today.
Multi-Component Digestion Pack
I could write a whole article on Nutrizorb® and the multi-component digestion powerhouse that it is, with 19 different components consisting of prebiotics, probiotics, yeast, FungiFuel™, and more. This unique blend, offered exclusively by Riomax®, is instrumental in feeding and increasing the good bug population in the rumen, which ultimately enables the cow to get more from every mouthful of whatever you have to feed her.
Protected Mineral Technology
Another advantage that pays dividends is the Esqort® mineral technology. This blend has 100% rumen bypass on all key trace minerals, including Cu, Mn, Zn and Se. By allowing the mineral we purchase to actually get into the bloodstream, we are giving ourselves the absolute best chance to achieve the results we’re striving for. Esqort® also works in harmony with Nutrizorb® to ensure that we don’t have any adverse effect on gut health or loss of microbes that you may experience by feeding traditional minerals that contain sulfates and oxides.
And finally, because we are never going to be able to stay on top of the ever-changing forages available for our primary diet, Riomax® has what is called Forage Balancer Technology built into it. Forage Balancer is designed to help the cattle self-regulate on the product, dependent on forage quality. This technology is key to the success that this product has had in many different geographical regions, climates, and elevations, not to mention the array of different forage types and forage densities.
Proven Ranch Results
I’ve personally experienced continual success by using Riomax®. Some of the results include:
- High conception rates, even in a short 45-day breeding window.
- Maximizing available forages with a rather hefty stocking rate, and still maintaining very good range conditions.
- Modest hay consumption, while still maintaining ideal body condition scores and herd health.
- A significant decrease in calf health challenges, including scours and respiratory diseases.
Unleash Genetic Potential On Your Ranching Operation
Riomax® also gives us 100% confidence that we are giving our calf crop every opportunity to succeed by unleashing their full genetic potential. Granted, we do everything in our power to run efficiently and effectively as an operation, but we still feel that Riomax® is a huge tool for us. It enables us to have our cows work for us, and we truly feel that it is not only the lowest cost, but also the best and only option for maximum digestion, maximum nutrition, and maximum results on our ranch.
We feel it is of all importance that we raise our cattle in a real-world environment, without pampering, because it is necessary to watch every penny in order to survive in today’s market.