Risk. It’s a term everyone in the livestock business is familiar with. But why take additional risk on sets of already high-risk calves that you plan to background and sell? With a premium nutrition program that jump-starts their feed and water intake and keeps them eating and growing, you can put that extra risk behind you.
Rex Claxton is no stranger to getting in high-risk, comingled sale barn calves to straighten out and background before selling them to a feed yard or retaining ownership through feeding himself. Originally based out of Northeast Texas, he recently relocated to Southwest Oklahoma, near Chattanooga. However, one thing he won’t change is his nutrition protocol.
“The sooner you can get those calves eating and drinking and filled back up, the healthier they are. The better your vaccines and health protocols are going to work and the better the cattle will perform,” Claxton said.
That’s why he starts his calves on the Vita Charge® Stress Tub or Vita Charge Stress Tub HEAT®, depending on the time of year he receives cattle. Claxton has the Vita Charge Stress Tubs, high-quality grass hay and water waiting in a pen for his calves as soon as they unload. The next afternoon after they have had time to rest, he processes the new calves, weighing anywhere from 350 to 750 pounds. Then they go out into a bigger trap with hay, feed, water and the Stress Tubs until they have completed one round of tubs. Then they get converted to a loose mineral from the Gain Smart® line.
“The Stress Tubs help them keep on water and they lick them. Most of them don’t know what a feed bunk is. It gives them a little pick me up and gets them restarted. Who knows how long they have been off feed and water while being shipped, especially in the summer,” he said.
Once the Stress Tubs are licked clean, he switches his calves to one of three minerals, depending on the time of year: Gain Smart® Stocker, Gain Smart® Wheat or Gain Smart® Stocker HEAT®. The Gain Smart minerals are free-choice vitamin and mineral supplements for stocker cattle designed to balance basic nutrient needs for maximized efficient gain on grass or wheat pasture. The Gain Smart line contains Amaferm®, a precision prebiotic designed to impact intake, digestion and absorption for optimum gain. The mineral also includes organic copper and zinc plus added iodine for maximum bioavailability to the animal to support hoof health and immunity.
“We fed another mineral for eight or nine years, maybe 10. I thought it was the best mineral around. There was a friend of mine that handled a lot of roping calves and he was telling me how good they were getting along with VitaFerm®. I started on VitaFerm products and I haven’t looked back. We saw a big difference in our average daily gain and consistent gain too. Probably the best intake I’ve ever had has been with VitaFerm. There’s also a guy I partner with on some cattle, and he didn’t have any mineral. I told him to come start getting my VitaFerm. He actually just called me yesterday and said he sees a big difference with the Gain Smart on the health of his cattle,” Claxton said.
Claxton notices a big difference in his calves’ overall performance, posting an additional .2 to .5 pounds per day, per calf since switching mineral programs in 2019. When calves get sold by the pound, that additional gain is a benefit that Claxton likes in his operation. He feeds the Gain Smart Stocker until he’s ready to turn out onto wheat; he’ll feed Gain Smart Wheat once the calves are out grazing. Typically, from May to September, he’ll feed Gain Smart Stocker HEAT, to help prevent heat stress. In addition to the Amaferm and other nutrients, HEAT contains capsaicin to help maintain circulation to support animal performance and gain in both heat and fescue situations. Capsaicin is research-proven to support animals’ ability to maintain normal body temperature. HEAT also includes garlic to deter pests.
“We put the Gain Smart to the test, especially in the summer. We have a lot of drought-stressed, heat-stressed calves. That’s when we buy a lot of calves when everybody is out of grass including ourselves. We feed about 2% of their body weight in commodity ration, DDG-based feed. I’m a firm believer of the HEAT in the summer,” Claxton said. “You see the cattle out grazing more, spread out more, they aren’t bunched up under the shade tree panting. It seems like they get out and hustle more, and they are not as stressed about the heat. They seem to stay cooler and if we can keep them cooler, we can keep them more comfortable, and they will definitely perform better. Anything we can do to keep them comfortable will help them perform.”
With calves that start out high-risk, Claxton knows the importance of getting them eating, drinking and growing. He knows the value of a premium mineral program to get them started and keep them growing.
“There’s cheaper minerals out there, but you generally get what you pay for. First of all, if they don’t eat it, it doesn’t do any good to put it out no matter how cheap it is. Second of all, if they don’t perform on it, there’s no reason to put it out either. I feel like you are better off to pay for a higher quality product and get better results. Actually, I am getting a better buy on y’alls products than I was my last mineral per sack. Happy customers are the best advertisement you can have. I recommend the Gain Smart and Vita Charge products to about anybody I talk to about mineral. I’m a firm believer in them,” he said. Don’t leave your feeding program to risk. Invest in a program that you can see the results with.