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Why beef on dairy?

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.

Sierra Day

November 26, 2021

2 Min Read
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. 123ducu/Getty Images

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.”

About the Author(s)

Sierra Day

Field editor, Farm Progress

A 10th-generation agriculturist, Sierra Day grew up alongside the Angus cattle, corn and soybeans on her family’s operation in Cerro Gordo, Ill. Although she spent an equal amount in farm machinery as she did in the cattle barn as a child, Day developed a bigger passion for the cattle side of the things.

An active member of organizations such as 4-H, FFA and the National Junior Angus Association, she was able to show Angus cattle on the local, state and national levels while participating in contests and leadership opportunities that were presented through these programs.

As Day got older, she began to understand the importance of transitioning from a member to a mentor for other youth in the industry. Thus, her professional and career focus is centered around educating agriculture producers and youth to aid in prospering the agriculture industry.

In 2018, she received her associate degree from Lake Land College, where her time was spent as an active member in clubs such as Ag Transfer club and PAS. A December 2020 graduate of Kansas State University in Animal Sciences & Industry and Agricultural Communications & Journalism, Day was active in Block & Bridle and Agriculture Communicators of Tomorrow, while also serving as a communications student worker in the animal science department.

Day currently resides back home where she owns and operates Day Cattle Farm with her younger brother, Chayton. The duo strives to raise functional cattle that are show ring quality and a solid foundation for building anyone’s herd.

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