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Monthly Archives: February 2020

Beef x Dairy: Which breed should you choose?

When it comes to your targeted approach to beef x dairy, the beef breed you use matters.

To optimize your beef x dairy premiums, it’s important to weigh your options. While actual beef x dairy carcass trait research is still very limited, there are several general breed trends that can help you decide what might fit your program best.

While these pros and cons can help guide your decision, it’s still important to select the right sires to address your current situation and when you plan to capitalize on your beef x dairy premium.

Different breeds of beef animals standing in a line

ANGUS

Far and away the most common beef breed in the US, you have countless Angus options to use in your beef x dairy program. In fact, many other breeds have previously crossed with Angus to increase the prevalence of black coat color, add the polled trait, and to improve carcass quality. With that in mind, here are the pros and cons of the Angus breed.

+ Easy calvings
Good for dairy producers who want to make sure their cows freshen in with no troubles

+ Marbling
One of the breed’s features, which results in higher quality beef

+ Small frame
Helps bring the larger frames of dairy cattle more in line with beef breed size. This benefits the packing plants that may have restrictions on the size of carcass they can handle.

+ Strong Performance
Angus is now documented to be one of the top breeds for both yearling growth and carcass weight.

– Lower birth weight
A pro, in terms of easy calvings for dairy producers, but may lead to a docked price from a calf buyer on day-old beef x dairy cross calves.

– Smaller ribeye area than other breeds
One of the downfalls of Holstein and Jersey carcasses is the ribeye size and shape. However, the Angus sires selected as part of the Alta BULLSEYE program all rank in the upper echelon of the breed for this trait.

LIMOUSIN | LIMFLEX

Limousin are traditionally a red, horned breed, and have become a popular choice for Jersey breeders because the breed’s characteristics offer the right complement for Jerseys. However, the breed has also gained recent popularity in use on Holsteins. Most of the Limousin sires offered are actually LimFlex (Limousin x Angus). Here are the pros and cons of the Limousin breed as a whole:

+ Ribeye area
One of the top breeds for this trait, based on across-breed adjusted EPDs. The favorable Limousin ribeye area addresses the smaller size and elongated ribeye shape in dairy cattle, which improves overall uniformity from one beef x dairy cross carcass to the next

+ Growth and feed efficiency
Calf buyers are more likely to purchase again when calves achieve excellent growth rates

+ Breeding to Feeding Program offers additional marketing opportunities for calves

-Calving ease
Limousin and LimFlex will sire higher birth weights and more calving difficulty than Angus

– Marbling
Beef quality may not be as tender as some other breeds. However, the breed can work for beef x dairy because Jerseys are especially known for their excellent marbling. Also, the LimFlex sires (with Angus blood in the pedigree), may offer the marbling gained from the Angus breed.

– Fewer available sire options than in the Angus breed

SIMMENTAL | SIM ANGUS

Traditionally red or yellow and also horned, the Simmental breed has also incorporated Angus genetics. Currently available are a variety of Simmental and SimAngus sires that offer the following trait qualities.

+ Ribeye area
A positive trait for dairy producers, since ribeye size and shape is one area of weakness on purebred Holstein and Jersey cattle

+ Carcass weight
Crosses well with Holsteins for an appropriately sized hanging carcass

+ Efficient growth
Growers prefer the beef x dairy cross animals that can efficiently build muscle

-Calving ease
Simmental and SimAngus will sire higher birth weights and more calving difficulty than Angus.

– Fewer available sire options than Angus
However, several SimAngus sires offer the benefits of both the Simmental and Angus breeds

– Several options are not homozygous black
If black coat color is necessary for your premium, be sure to check whether the sires you use are more likely to throw calves that are not fully black.

CHAROLAIS

More popular in western US breeding programs, Charolais cattle are among the higher performing, heaviest muscled animals of the US beef breed. Here are a few things to consider when choosing Charolais for your targeted approach to beef x dairy.

+/- Higher birth weight
A higher birth weight often leads to a more favorable premium when selling day-old calves.
However, that extra birth weight can come at the cost of calving difficulties. That means the Charolais breed is best suited to the milking herd

+ Size and growth
Charolais cattle are among the largest beef breeds, which delivers more pounds at yearling weight and carcass weight on the rail

– The calves probably won’t be black
Remember that Charolais are not black, so if black coat color is a key part of obtaining your premium, this is not your best choice. Most Charolais-sired calves born from black cows will have a “buckskin” or “smoky” colored hide.

Regardless of the breed you choose for your targeted approach to beef x dairy, keep these points in mind:

  1. Visit with your calf buyer to determine the best breed to meet their needs. If you can get a premium for using a specific beef breed, put a contract in place to go ahead and use the best genetics from that breed.
  2. Sire fertility matters in beef bulls too. When you’re a working dairy operation, your milk check is probably your biggest income. To get more milk, you need to get cows pregnant. And since we know that sire fertility varies from one bull to the next, check with your trusted Alta advisor to see which sires offer the optimal chance at creating a beef x dairy pregnancy.
  3. Use the right sires to fit your goals. The Alta BULLSEYE selection indexes are set up to address your current situation and future goals with beef x dairy – and there are various breeds that fit each index. These sires are elite among their respective breeds for the traits represented in each index. So use them with confidence to maximize your future profit potential.

Want more beef x dairy resources?

Download the PDF of this article, or visit articles that discuss two other topics to consider when adding beef x dairy as part of your genetic strategy.

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Beef x Dairy: 3 questions to help map your strategy

You’ve chosen to put your breeding strategy in high gear. That means you’re probably using some amount of beef semen as part of that plan.

Creating those black, beef-looking calves can generate a premium on the day-old animals you sell. However, in this process, don’t forget to map out your plan before you start. Have you asked yourself the important questions? The questions that address your farm’s current situation and future goals. The questions about herd inventories and genetics that drive the profitability from your decision to implement beef x dairy.
Don’t let anyone pretend they have all the answers for you on this approach. It’s important not to get swept up in this newest strategy before you’ve set your plan. Start mapping your strategy by considering these three questions and all possible scenarios.
Beef calves

1. Which animals will I breed to beef?

You have a few different methods to separate out which animals will be the mothers of the next generation of your herd versus which animals will be mothers to those beef x dairy crossbred calves.

First, one of the simplest approaches to segmenting your herd is to sort by lactation group. In this case, you’ll generally designate your second or third lactation animals to receive beef semen, simply because of their older genetics. The remainder of your milking herd and your heifers – because of their newer, and higher genetic levels – would balance out with a combination of sexed and conventional dairy semen.

Next, a cost-effective option for segmenting your herd is to work with your trusted Alta advisor to rank the females in your herd based on your customized genetic plan using 2-generation or 3-generation parent averages. You will breed the top-ranking females on your own index to sexed or conventional semen to create herd replacements. You’ll utilize the lower ranking females as parents of the beef x dairy crossbred animals.

Lastly, you can also use genomic test results to help you segment which animals you should breed to each semen type, but only if the cost of testing falls within your dairy’s operating budget.

2. How much beef semen should I use?

That’s a loaded question – so we encourage you to follow it up with a couple more:

2a. How many cows do I want to milk in three years?

If you see expansion plans in your crystal ball over the next few years, you don’t want to fall short on replacements. Conversely, current market conditions also dictate that it’s not effective to raise more replacements than you need. So if expansion is not in your game plan, improve efficiency by feeding only the animals that will contribute to your future milking herd.

By accounting for dynamics on your farm now, you can develop a fairly accurate plan to manage future inventories – whether your goal is to maintain or grow your herd size in the next three years. Just be sure to consider the factors that affect your inventory, like conception rates by semen type, DOA rates and death loss, cull rates, and more.

2b. What are my options to sell beef x dairy cross calves?

Because the markets can be a roller coaster, we know that prices and premiums on beef x dairy calves can fluctuate. If you don’t have an outlet that offers you an attractive premium for those black beef x dairy crossbred calves, then you’ll want to evaluate fertility by semen type to see if beef semen is indeed a better strategy than conventional semen.

Whether you segment your herd by genetic rankings or lactation groups, it’s important to monitor and continually adjust the percentage of beef semen you use. Account for any seasonal or management changes so you’re always factoring in the current conception rates, cull rates, and changes in DOA rates or death loss.

3. Which beef bulls should I use?

Our parents or grandparents may have used beef semen as a last resort to get a favorite cow pregnant. We’re willing to bet the straw they used was cheap, clean-up beef semen for that cow’s one last chance.

Today, we can take a more targeted approach to beef x dairy semen selection. Not all beef bulls are created equal… And not all beef breeds are the same. Individual bulls vary greatly, so you’ll get what you pay for in terms of your genetic investment.

As with dairy sire selection, it’s imperative to consider your current situation and future goals. If your lone goal in using beef is simply to create a pregnancy that results in an easy calving, then a high fertility beef bull with good calving ease will probably do the trick. Yet, if your calf buyer only offers a premium for the black calves with an actual beef appearance, you will benefit most from considering additional traits like birth weight or ribeye area.

Or are you in a situation where you’re able to raise your beef x dairy cross calves past weaning, or even to harvest? If so, carcass and growth traits should be a key part of your plan, so you can capture the optimal premiums for those animals when you sell.

Regardless of your herd’s breeding strategy, it’s important to map out your own game plan first. Progress and profitability should be a goal now, and in the future. So work with your trusted Alta advisor to determine how best to use beef x dairy in your breeding program. Ask yourself these questions and weigh your options to align your game plan with your current situation and future goals.

Want more beef x dairy resources?

Download the PDF of this article, or visit articles that discuss two other topics to consider when adding beef x dairy as part of your genetic strategy.

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Beef x Dairy: Not all bulls are created equal

What are your goals with using beef x dairy as part of your genetic strategy? If you haven’t determined your direction, you might be missing out on what matters most to your farm’s bottom line.

In the same way you choose dairy cattle genetics, it’s important to select the right beef genetics to align with your farm’s current situation and future goals. We’ve created four different beef x dairy sire indexes so you can take the simplest approach to finding the right beef bulls to fit your needs.

FERTILITY FOCUS SIRES

Dairy farming is your primary business, and the majority of your income comes from your milk check. You know that your beef x dairy cross calves are simply a by-product of your strategic breeding plan to right-size your herd inventories.

You enjoy the premium that a black beef cross calf can bring over a Holstein or Jersey bull calf. But your primary goal with the beef bulls you use is simple and straightforward: get cows pregnant and avoid calving difficulties.

If this sounds like you, then Alta BULLSEYE Fertility Focus Sires are what you need.

BLACK CALF SIRES

Maintaining a herd of healthy, productive cows is your main focus. In addition, because of dairy market conditions in your region, you’re using beef semen on your lower end genetics, and you’re looking to get as high of a premium on those resulting beef x dairy crossbred calves as possible.

To get those top premiums, you know you need to create black calves with a beef look to them. And since the dairy animals in your herd are your top concern, you still want calving ease and high fertility sires.

In your case, Alta BULLSEYE Black Calf Sires will fit your goals.

FEEDER CALF SIRES

Your dairy farm is your focus, but maybe you also have a side operation raising feeder calves. This includes the beef x dairy cross calves that you’ve decided to create to manage your dairy herd inventory levels.

You’re looking to create calves that grow well to 300 or 500 pounds, so your own feeder calf operation maintains maximum efficiency. You also want to offer assurance to your buyer that the calves you sell to them will continue to perform well under their care.

If this is your situation, then the Alta BULLSEYE Feeder Calf Sires will keep your operational efficiencies high.

TERMINAL INDEX SIRES

You’ve got more than one cattle business venture. You produce milk and you also raise beef cattle through finishing. Among those beef animals are your beef x dairy crosses that result from your genetic plan and herd inventory management strategies.

Because part of your business is raising beef, you want to maintain efficient growth rates on every one of your beef x dairy cross animals. And you want to make sure your animals have the best combination of carcass yield and quality grade to earn top premiums at harvest.

When this is your business plan, Alta BULLSEYE Terminal Index Sires fit what you need.

Don’t miss out…

Work with your trusted Alta advisor to discuss where you’re at, and where you’re going. Use your own goals to determine your targeted approach to a beef x dairy strategic plan.

Want more beef x dairy resources?

Download the PDF of this article, or visit articles that discuss two other topics to consider when adding beef x dairy as part of your genetic strategy.

0 Continue Reading →
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