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Busting common myths about Beef on Dairy

Wednesday, July 1, 2020   (0 Comments)
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By Clay Fredericks, Beef on Dairy coordinator for STgenetics

Beef on Dairy is an established management practice within the industry, but dairy farmers and industry professionals nationwide are curious to know what is next for this management philosophy. There are several myths floating around about Beef on Dairy.

Myth: Beef on Dairy is a fad.

Traditionally, the industry focused on creating as many high-genetic females as possible. This philosophy is commonly known as “Old AI.” Beef on Dairy is a tool that challenges this practice. The economics behind genetic improvement, reduction of heifer populations to better suit the dairy, and the increased dollar value of the crossbred beef-like calf generate too much of an economic benefit for the industry to swing back to the way of “Old AI.”

Myth: Beef on Dairy will flood the calf market and make these crossbred animals worthless.

Researchers from University of Wisconsin-River Falls found that the dairy sector contributed only 21 percent of the total U.S. commercial beef supply in 2018. Instead of adding animals to market, the calves created with terminal crosses are simply replacing the inferior purebred Holstein steers, heifers and cull cows.

Myth: The industry will have a major depression of nonlactating cattle throughout the country followed by a high demand to purchase them.

The dairy industry has seen success with sorted female semen to successfully generate adequate females. In some cases, dairies can factor herd growth as high as 25 percent and generate enough replacements with large genetic improvements. These heifers will be in abundance, but the population can be managed more routinely. By adjusting breeding protocols, dairies can plan for expansion with the genetically correct population of cows, not just more cows. Beef on Dairy increases Net Merit dollar values over generations as we breed a more refined population of dairy cattle by eliminating problem cows and their genetically inferior offspring. Dairies across the country have shown adjustments to cull rates and non-completion rates as we better manage the correct population of dairy cattle.

Myth: Beef on Dairy is just a temporary fix for the dairy industry.

The future is promising for Beef on Dairy as we see evolution in not only genetic selection but with the opportunity of dairy farms as a feedlot. The dairy industry can retain ownership and create age source-verified cattle that produce a consistent genetic profile along with a steady flow of cattle into feedlots. The industry has already adopted terms like “counterfeit cattle” or “dirty Holstein” — meaning cows that are bred to poor genetics. Without a focus on genetic potential of terminal traits, beef-dairy cross calves can see low market prices like those of the Holstein bull calf. However, cows bred to more elite beef genetics will see their opportunities come in abundance.

Jared Wareham, general manager for Top Dollar Angus, is excited about the opportunities for beef-dairy cross calves as well.

“The dairy industry represents the ideal segment to facilitate integrated supply chains,” Wareham said. “Their innate structure will allow them to overcome the major challenges that exist throughout a highly siloed industry, like beef.”

“Clear advantages in timing of supply, scalability, genetic precision and transparency have many key influencers executing initiatives to carve a path right now. Beyond the normal ebb and flow of the replacement female market, I wouldn’t foresee any slippage or reversal in the widespread integration of beef on dairy production within dairy systems moving forward.”

This article is sponsored by STgenetics.

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