Turning starving cattle around
CYLINDER – Since he was featured in Farm News a year ago, John Robinson, a cattleman in rural Cylinder, said his feeding approach that brings starving cattle quickly back on tract nutritionally has expanded to working in other states.
Robinson, who is outspoken on what he calls a “dirty” livestock feeding system in the U.S., purchases nutritionally deficient cattle, even bred cows and heifers, and gets their digestive system in balance and properly gaining weight within 60 days.
As an example, he points to a cow, with a calf in the straw near her.
“When she came here,” Robinson said, “she was skinny as a rail and bred, too.
“She was sold off because she was a poor milker.”
That was then. Now she’s healthy, filled out and just delivered her second calf with an udder filled with milk.
Robinson pulls out a photo album of another cow, named Pumpkin, that came to him as a heifer with nutrient deficiencies, showing bones and ribs through her hide. That was followed with a photo of a filled-out Pumpkin which he says was taken 60 days later.
In a 2013 Farm News article, Robinson said he has researched better ways to feed cattle using enzymes that clean out intestines, allowing for more nutrient uptake of protein, vitamins and minerals.
Almost drug free
As a result, Robinson said the use of steroids and growth stimulants are not necessary.
His cattle develop healthy immune systems.
Vaccinations are given, Robinson said, “because drugs do have their place.
“But without a good immune system, the cattle can’t accept the medications. But my cattle respond.”
He blames nutrient-ladened surface water, toxins in grains and grasses stressed by heat that work “to plug up the intestines,” meaning keeping them from absorbing all the nutrients in their feed. As a result, they must be fed more often.
In addition, he said feed companies have been withholding vitamins and minerals from feed to keep costs down.
He said his cattle start showing improvement within a month, and in another month, have all the signs of balance digestive systems and showing proper weight gain.
Calves being dropped by his cows, Robinson said, come out with a clear film, no cloudy afterbirth.
“There’s no junk in their mouths,” he said, “because I clean those cows out.”
Less feed required
And because his cattle are taking in more vitamins and minerals, he doesn’t have to feed them as much.
He said the rule of thumb is to feed cattle 3 percent of their body weight daily. But his cattle do well, he said, at 2 percent of their body weight – a substantial per-head, per-day savings with high corn and hay costs.
His feed formula, which he said was developed during years of study, is proprietary with a local feed mill.
For the past year, Robinson has been seeking nutrient deficient cattle from around the country. His operation has show cattle, feeder cattle and a cow-calf herd.
“I work with Nebraska and Texas feedlots and cow-calf operators,” he said.
His business has expanded as other cattlemen have discovered that his feeding regimen works.
He serves as a broker for cattlemen who get bovines with deficiencies at a discount price, and brings them quickly back to health and proper daily rate of gain.
But it’s not as easy as it sounds.
“It takes a lot of work,” Robinson said.
To his base formula or ground corn, soy hulls, molasses and natural proteins, he adds vitamins and minerals and enzymes as needed.
“This balances the calcium levels,” Robinson said. “The cows won’t overeat and it’s a booster to lower the affects of stress.”
He claims he has natural ingredients that when mixed, can kill viruses and clear up calf scours within hours.
And it’s not only cattlemen who are noticing.
Mike Wadle, area sales manager for VitaFerm, said Robinson got VitaFerm’s attention during a three- to four-year period working with him.
Wadle said what first drew his attention to Robinson’s feed formula is when the cattleman shipped in 52 head of beef cattle with bean poisoning.
“You could count their ribs, and their ears were dropping,” Wadle said.
When Robinson saved every head, Wadle said “It didn’t figure right, so we started looking into it.”
Now VitaFerm will be testing Robinson’s formula on select research farms, Wadle said.
“The animals prove themselves what he’s doing,” he said.
Robinson said he thinks an unexpected side benefit to his feeding regimen is less methane in cattle manure.
On May 8, just within 30 minutes from a rain, the feedlot did not stink. There was the mild odor of cattle, but not of manure.
He said his hypothesis that cleaning the digestive tracts of toxins leads to less methane gas is not yet proven, but is being studied.
“I’m devoted,” Robinson said, “and have a deep passion for bovines.”
Wadle said Robinson’s secret to success is his open-mindedness and fearlessness about change.
Robinson said it’s not striving for perfection, but for constant improvement and patience.
“I just keep picking at this stuff,” Robinson said. “It takes a long time to get a long-term affect.”
Robinson said packing houses have put cattlemen on alert that in the future, no animal that has been fed steroids or growth stimulants will be accepted.
New feeding laws concerning antibiotics will be a challenge for producers.
“We have to look for a new edge,” Robinson said. “This might be it.”
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