Growing Demand for Beef-on-Dairy

It’s simple economics. A shrinking national beef herd plus growing consumer demand means a strong cattle market for years to come. For the nation’s dairy cattle producers, this means great opportunities to breed for beef on dairy crosses.

With the nation’s beef cow herd inventory the smallest it’s been since the 1960s, the beef industry needs more cattle to keep up with consumer demand – and it needs them fast. John Meyer, CEO of Holstein Association USA, says the registered Holstein cow has provided value to the beef industry for a long time – and she plays an even greater role in today’s growing beef on dairy trends.

“Some of the very early research on this – and substantiated research – shows how important the Holstein cow is to beef supply in this country. And I learned and saw statistical information that shows that the best beef – in all of the different tests that they have – is actually a straight Holstein cow.” 

By crossing Holstein cows with beef breeds, many dairy farmers can achieve high-choice or even prime grading animals. That results in significant profit potential. But a profit on that line of thinking can go even further.

“If people want to start developing a new profit center on their dairy, where they’re actually raising some of these animals and feeding them themselves, so, that a cow spends all of its time on that farm its entire life until it goes to harvest, where everything is controllable.” 

Dr. Dal Woerner is an animal science professor at Texas Tech University. He says benefits from beef on dairy programs go both ways – especially while the beef industry recovers from drought-forced liquidation.

“The beef-on-dairy crosses are definitely needed by both the dairy and the beef industries today. Of course, the dairy industry benefitting for producing a more profitable calf from those cows, and the beef industry is in a predicament now because the beef cow herd has shrunk.” 

Beef on dairy crosses simply make cattle operations more efficient – and that translates to more profit.

“Utilizing an alternative animal to the traditional straight-bred dairy animal improves feed efficiency in the feedlot, produces more beef at the end of the day, with heavier carcass weights and higher red meat yields.”

The professor says the added information and genomic data that comes with U.S. registered Holsteins is also a major benefits.

“The beef industry has never experienced this amount of information coming in with the cattle that are coming into feedlots and into the harvest environment. The ability to use genomics and genomics testing in order to better select animals for things like carcass merit, growth potential, feed efficiency, marbling ability, other carcass traits, like ribeye area and indicators of muscling is something that we’ve never had before.” 

Continued development in efforts like Holstein Association USA’s Hol-Sim program, which offers sire recommendations when breeding registered Holsteins with Sim-Angus bulls, could also help keep generations of family farms in the family. And the real advantage goes to registered Holstein breeders.

“Any way you slice it, Holstein has to be in the mix when it comes to the beef-on-dairy business. And I think those opportunities are going to be really, really good as we go forward.” 

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