Increase Forage Utilization And Improve Wildlife Habitat On Public Lands With CRYSTALYX
David Voldseth, Comb Butte, MT
The Voldseth family has been raising cattle in southwestern Montana for 125 years. Their largest neighbor is the U.S. National Forest. The Voldseths run about 400 head of their 1,500 cow-calf herd on the Comb Butte Allotment each summer.
David Voldseth has used CRYSTALYX®
Brand Supplements on his own land for the past 15 years, and knew how effective CRYSTALYX®
could be as a grazing management tool. He approached the Forest Service about using CRYSTALYX®
on his public land allotments. The drought in Montana was stretching into its seventh year. Voldseth had been forced to reduce his herd numbers and the USFS was planning to reduce his grazing season. Voldseth convinced the Forest Service to let him use CRYSTALYX®
as a grazing management tool to maximize use and minimize overuse of the allotment.
Barrels were placed in an area distant from water where salt had historically been placed. In some locations single barrels were placed, in others, multiple barrels were placed in a string. Voldseth says both livestock and wildlife have underused the area. In addition to the barrels, riders were used to trail cattle to the barrels, and as a result, the cattle stayed in the area and used more of the forage.
"I think we'll find in time that the elk in that particular area will use these areas more as well," Voldseth says, " because a lot of that coarse rough fescue has been grazed down. What's left will be considerably more palatable to the wildlife population."
Voldseth pointed out that forage isn't something that can be stored, and elk and deer don't winter in high ground where excess forage is left standing. "If your cattle don't graze it, it gets snowed down. The elk don't get it, the deer don't get it, it just goes to waste."
While he feeds CRYSTALYX®
for the additional protein and energy it provides during the winter, Voldseth sees increased forage utilization as the key benefit to putting the barrels out on public lands allotments. "It did what we wanted it to do: keep cattle in areas that were previously mostly underused and keep them there long enough that a good share of the forage was utilized."