Dairy School: Dairy managment with a beef twist


It is a good idea to keep an open mind, to make changes when new, better ideas present themselves. Some dairy farmers, for instance, wouldn’t consider breeding some of their cows to a beef sire, but others are doing just that and, under the right circumstances, they are finding it to be a successful cross-breeding strategy.

In this episode of RealAgriculture Dairy School, Bernard Tobin talks with Brad Gilchrist, Semex beef marketing and product specialist, about the benefits of breeding some of your dairy herd to a beef sire.

This certainly has not been a common practice over the years. Gilchrist says it really took off quite recently. “Probably three or four years ago is when the trend started to come into place and ever since then the demand for beef calves has been exploding, both domestically and globally.”

The strategy involves breeding the top half or two thirds of your cows as you always have – to the best dairy bulls available, to get the best replacement heifers you can. The less productive part of the herd is not going to be used for replacement heifers so you might as well take advantage of beef characteristics in your calves. (Story continues after the video.)

Making calving easier on dairy cows and the farmer is the primary focus, but there are other benefits as well. “The main focus is obviously calving ease, we really want to lower birth weight,” says Gilchrist “after that we try to add some value from the carcass side of things.” The beef bulls also have a fertility advantage which means fewer open, unproductive cows.

There can also be a premium associated with the calves when they head to the feedlot. “They’re going to see an improved efficiency as well, feeding a beef crossed calf versus a straight dairy calf.” according to Gilchrist. “If we compare a straight Holstein calf to a straight beef calf there’s also a significant amount of days difference on feed.”

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