Beef market options deliver added benefit for dairy-cross calves

There’s been no shortage of interest in the dairy-beef calves hitting the ground at Kevin and Claire Wines’ farm this spring.

The couple were filling their calf shed at Ecklin South with the ABS Beef InFocus™ animals as their spring calving draws to a close.

“We haven’t completely decided what we will do with them,” Kevin said.

“We’ve got people asking, ‘will you sell them to us?’, but we have options.”

“We can keep them ourselves and grow them out to eat them, sell them off at one or two years old or there’s the people asking to buy them now – they are good looking calves.”

“If all that dries up, we have the ABS Beef InFocus plan – they are bought at either 10 days old or 110kg when they are weaned.”

The Wines milk up to 225 cows and calve their heifers in August and the rest of the herd from August through to mid-November.

This was the first year they used Beef InFocus semen.

While they are thrilled the dairy-beef product gave them an opportunity to diversify their business, it wasn’t their primary motivation for including the semen in their breeding program.

“We wanted to get the late cows in calf, but also during calving I’m off the farm contracting with Mum and Dad and it leaves Claire here,” Kevin said.

“The beef are a bit easier to calve – most of the time – and they are a lot better drinkers. By the end of the season we’ve gone through the bulk of the cows calving with Friesians and by the time the last six weeks come we are like ‘we are done with this, we just want it to be an easy calving’.”

According to ABS, Beef InFocus has a lower incidence of stillbirth and calving difficulty compared to the global standard beef- dairy product. It’s also the only beef-dairy cross product with validated dairy calving ease data.

Beef InFocus also has proven higher calf survivability than the average dairy-beef product used throughout the world.

Claire rears all the calves.

“They are good drinkers, they are gutses,” she laughed.

“They do come into the shed with a bit of meat on their bones and they are going well.”

About 30 Beef InFocus calves will arrive this spring out of Jerseys, Friesians and one Brown Swiss cow. Another 30 will be born in late February – early March as Beef InFocus was used to join their cows with troublesome fertility.

Tightening their calving pattern and retaining replacements from their most productive and fertile animals has been a priority for Kevin and Claire.

They use a breeding consultant and genomic data to determine their best cows and also those they want to use to breed replacements. Two rounds of conventional semen deliver the replacements from the top 150 cows and then Beef InFocus is used in conjunction with short gestation Friesian semen for the rest of the herd.

“We get the better calves up front and that knocks-out the lower-end, so we don’t breed from them,” Kevin said. “If we put beef in them, we can’t keep the heifer as a milker.”

Beef InFocus™ also enables them to save money on semen costs.

“The later cows, the ones that are really hard to get in calf, we are not going to waste Friesian semen on them,” Kevin said. “With Beef InFocus we can spend $12 on a straw and because they are high fertility (straws) it gets them in calf – it works.”

ABS Beef InFocus semen contains three proven high fertility Angus bulls and the product has a proven short gestation.

Kevin said the shorter gestation played a role in tightening the calving pattern as cows returned to the dairy faster and healthier because of their easier calving.
“We have just noticed that they come back in and are on heat, like they should be,” he said.

While breeding dairy-beef is “still a work in progress” for Kevin and Claire, they are pleased with the flexibility Beef InFocus delivers for their business as it eliminates the need to sell dairy bull calves for low returns.

“There’s always someone wanting some beef,” Kevin said.

“Although we might not get the $500, we would get for a Friesian heifer calf, with beef you can get $200 for a heifer and bull calf.”