Some dairy producers are finding more revenue in beef-cross calves
With dairy cattle prices low, many dairy producers are seeking efficient ways to boost their income.
One way producers can achieve this is by entering the crossbred beef market.
When it comes to breeding dairy cows to a beef bull there is a lot of opportunity, said Reagan Bluel, Extension Dairy Specialist with the University of Missouri.
Not only can producers get a higher price for crossbred cattle in the current market, they can also accelerate superior genetics within their dairy herd.
In order to integrate this practice and get good results, Bluel highly recommends that producers do genomic testing on their dairy herd. The results of the testing will aid producers in identifying the “bottom 25 percent” of their dairy herd genetics-wise.
These are the cows that can be bred to a beef bull, while the top 75 percent of the herd will continue to perpetuate the best genetics into the dairy industry.
“The genomic testing prevents the producers from investing in bad genetics, and in two years bring superior accelerated genetics to the herd,” Bluel said.
On top of providing very marketable steers and heifers and improving herd genetics, this type of breeding program helps keep the calving window tight on grazing dairies.
For producers who purchase crossbred steers and heifers, there are a few management points to consider that differ from full beef cows.
Since dairy animals naturally drop condition after birthing a calf and beginning to lactate, the nutritional needs of crossbred cattle will be a little higher. Producers should keep an eye on the cow’s Body Condition Score (BCS) as this will indicate if they need some extra groceries.
If the facilities allow, separating cows by different nutrient needs is desirable,” Bluel said.
According to published reports, when properly fed, crossbred heifers are excellent producers and performers, and crossbred beef finishes much better than a straight dairy animal.
When raising dairy beef or selecting beef bulls for reproduction on dairy cows know the market, provide excellent calf care and identification, and conduct a genetic audit of the herd. More dairy beef calves means that buyers will become more selective.
When considering genetics, low genetic animals do not need to contribute offspring. A genetic audit of the herd will reduce poor herd genetics.