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Why beef on dairy?

123ducu/Getty Images Holstein cows feeding
DAIRY INCOME: The primary income for a dairy producer is milk production. With beef on dairy, producers can bring more carcass value to calves that are not retained as replacements and add more revenue to the operation.
Dairies with a breeding program that includes sexed heifer semen from dairy bulls and semen from beef bulls get the calves they need to produce both dairy and beef.

Beef on dairy. Maybe you’ve heard the phrase but didn’t quite understand it. It’s the practice of breeding dairy cows to beef bulls, through artificial insemination or natural service, says Tim Timmons, ABS Beef InFocus manager.

So why beef on dairy?

The bottom line is using beef genetics to add quality to dairy calves that will not be retained, Timmons says. At the end of the day, a dairy farmer’s primary income comes from milk production, but implementing beef genetics can allow for a secondary income from meat production.

AI, sexed dairy semen and beef semen are key to making this secondary income happen, he says.

“With beef on dairy, you use sexed dairy semen of the highest genetic level to make the number of replacement heifers you want,” Timmons says. “Then you breed the rest of your herd to high-quality beef semen genetics to produce calves as good as native beef cattle for the feeder industry.

“I had a dairy customer tell me that before beef on dairy, he was half guilty of being a heifer hoarder — if he had a heifer calf, he’d always keep it.” This strategy was overstocking female inventory and potentially causing a never-ending drag because the dairy producer was keeping all females instead of only retaining females with the best genetics.  

Cue beef on dairy.

By breeding a portion of the herd to dairy sexed heifer semen, producers can select the number of high-quality genetic females they would like to retain and use to improve their herd, Timmons says.

On the meat production side, dairy calves are worth less at a meatpacker due to dairy-type discounts, he says — thus, a need to bring more carcass value to calves not being selected as replacements.

Long story short, the practice is sustainable.

“The average U.S. citizen will eat 653 pounds of dairy products and 58 pounds of beef a year. So, a cow that produces 35,000 pounds of milk a year and has a dairy beef calf can feed 53 people all the dairy products they need to consume and 10 people a source of premium beef,” Timmons says. “And that’s a sustainable story for the dairy industry.”

TAGS: Beef Genetics
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