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Public Debate on Production Agriculture — What are the trade-offs on the decisions we make?

August 15, 2019 Industry News ASA
By Jackie Atkins, Ph.D., Director of Science and Education As I write this article, I am in the middle of a flurry of summer conferences where the animal science and beef cattle communities gather to share new findings, new innovations, and a highlight of…

EPD Movement:Change is Inevitable

August 06, 2019 EPDs ASA
Editors’ note: During the April board meeting, the Board of Trustees passed a directive to add possible change to the main animal page in Herdbook. Wade Shafer, Ph.D. This tenet certainly holds true when it comes to genetic evaluation. By now, all of us are…

The Rapidly Evolving Beef-On-Dairy Segment

Jerad Wareham               |

Our industry, like all others, is rarely stifled and free from the constant forces of change. Most are hardly felt and tend to pass unnoticed. Occasionally, conditions exist for conceivable game-changing evolutions to be championed. The rapidly evolving beef-on-dairy segment has an opportunity to be the next major example of our industry experiences.  

Supply chain development has long been an important component within most infrastructures developed for merchandising goods. The beef industry is migrating that direction faster than most think. The dairy industry represents the potential conduit for beef supplies to migrate that much faster. The innate qualities that already exist with dairies and calf ranches, will only enhance further development with these siloed infrastructures.

Dairy females are so tightly bred that consistency and predictability within beef-sired feeder groups will be substantially greater than those in the average beef herd. In addition to the ability to integrate swift genetic change, dairies offer an infrastructure that can facilitate traceability, as well as entire bundles of cattle programming seamlessly. More often than not, this type of logistical “value-add” presents a much greater challenge for the average commercial beef ranch due to a variety of reasons.   

The resulting feeder cattle populations can be fairly profitable with a much larger percentage finding its way into high-end retail and food service channels than you realize. Efforts, years in the making, are yielding refined lists of specific beef sires that ideally match Holstein performance and carcass deficiencies. This factor, however, presents the one glaring issue within the beef on dairy segment. 

The difference in value between genetically superior beef-sired dairy feeders from those spawned by inferior beef bulls is substantial. The difference is so drastic that poor-quality, beef-sired dairy steers are often more costly to feed and harvest than straight-bred Holsteins. With the well-documented current economic struggles in the dairy segment, the opportunities abound to cut corners to simply make any old solid colored Angus-sired calf as cheaply as one can. Look for fail-safe measures to counteract these “dirty Holsteins” to hastily gain steam. 

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