Interest in the use of beef sires on dairy cows to increase calf value is rapidly gaining momentum across the dairy industry, according to two Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service specialists.
Jason Smith, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension beef cattle specialist, Amarillo, covered the topic at Southwest Dairy Day in Snyder.
It’s estimated traditional dairy cattle make up approximately 20% of the beef market through finished cattle and cull cows. Traditionally, the best heifers are kept as replacement females, while the remaining dairy heifers and bull calves enter the beef supply chain.
Changes in packer demand for finished straight-bred dairy calves have driven a decline in their value, Smith said. A beef-on-dairy breeding program can add value to these calves by improving traits that directly impact the cost of gain and carcass value.
As the interest grows, basically two things are happening.
“The dairy industry is trying to figure out how to strategically use the practice, and the beef industry is in the process of determining the value of these cattle,” Smith said.
Feeders are looking at experiences with these cattle in terms of health, growth and efficiency, while packers are looking at carcass quality, yield and cut-out.
There is currently a lot of focus on identifying certain beef breeds that work better than others on certain dairy breeds in a dairy-beef cross-breeding system, he said.
On the flip side, one of the positive attributes of the dairy genetics is that retail products from dairy carcasses tend to be very uniform, whereas traditional beef cattle tend to be more variable, he said.
Smith said while it seems the market has not yet settled on a value, that value will be driven by experiences with those calves. Some beef-on-dairy calves have sold near the top of recent feeder calf markets, while some have sold toward the bottom of the market.
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