The Growing Beef x Dairy Trend

At the 2022 Beef Industry Convention, producers learned how genetic technology can impact their operations during the “Big Picture Outcomes for the Beef X Dairy Trend” session. In recent years, the idea of ​​breeding dairy cows with beef bulls has gained ground.

Jerry Wulf is part of a team that operates dairy and beef farms in six states and works to optimize beef and dairy cattle genetics.

Wulf Cattle started over 50 years ago, selling Limousin and ‘LimFlex’ – an Angus hybrid – from seed stock. The operation works with both beef and dairy animals and has a system called “Breed to Feed” which emphasizes matching the genetics of dairy and dairy cattle. fattening.

The program begins with a Limousin female from the Wulf herd, and potential bulls are evaluated on a bull inventory index. They select genetic lines that should perform best in feedlots and dairies, and bulls are evaluated every 30 days for fertility. A bull must pass three rounds of fertility testing to become an approved “breed to feed” bull.

“Not just any beef bull will knock down a dairy cow,” says Wulf. “The major problem with the pure dairy animal is its lack of muscle and poor carcass confirmation. We are able to put product on the carcass to give it ribeye and a nice size.

Wulf Cattle’s genetic development timeline dates back to 2009, when they began using sexed dairy semen and conventional semen to create replacement animals for their herd. The first “BeefBuilders” – what Wulf calls beef and dairy hybrids – were developed in 2012. In 2017, Wulf Cattle had developed his “Breeding to Feeding” assessment to predict the phenotypic likelihood of offspring.

Wulf Cattle sells to several packers and collects information from them about beef and dairy cattle carcasses after they are harvested. Wulf says it’s critical to evaluate the carcass information, so they can continue to improve the genetics and the process.

“The ability to gesture cows is very important to the dairy farmer, says Wulf. “If he’s not going to get cows pregnant, then he’s losing interest in the program.”

From a packing industry perspective, Glen Dolezal says that while there are many benefits about these cattle, there is also room for improvement.

Dolezal, assistant vice president of technology development for Cargill Proteins, points to several strengths.

  • More sustainable beef production than with purebred dairy steers

  • High percentage of black-skinned animals

  • High percentage of premium, premium and choice cuts

  • Impressive beef tenderness equivalent to native cattle

  • Less than 4 and 5 performance ratings on the USDA performance rating scale

  • Improved ribeye musculature/area compared to dairy steers

  • Higher yields than purebred dairy steers

  • More moderate frame size

In terms of opportunities for improvement, Dolezal notes that beef x dairy cattle tend to lose more product at slaughter than native beef cattle. Liver abscesses, gut loss, and outer skirt loss were significantly higher in beef cattle than in dairy cattle, resulting in a less salable product.

“A factory had to condemn 76,000 outer skirts, which are usually meat used in fajitas, because a liver abscess was attached to them. That’s $2 million that the producer and Cargill lost in value,” says Dolezal: “That’s also when the GMs started calling and saying, ‘We have an opportunity to solve this problem.’ ”

A common theme throughout the presentation was that beef x dairy cattle do not create new cattle, but rather replace and enhance existing dairy cattle. Kelli Retallick, president of Angus Genetics, says this type of breeding is a way to create a solution to the problems that exist in the beef industry.

She compares it to laying hens. The commercial value of a spent laying hen has long been considered negligible. Hens at the end of their laying life have been considered a by-product of the egg industry, unlike broilers which are raised for meat. Now laying hens are crossed with broiler chickens to add more meat to the hen so that she can also be used as a source of meat at the end of her laying years.

Ultimately, the goal of beef cattle x dairy cows is to add muscle to a dairy calf without adding stress to its life cycle or quality of life. Retallick says that just like beef producers, dairy farmers don’t want to pull a calf, so it’s important to make sure this trend doesn’t harm the dairy female or calf resulting from a birthing event. hard.

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