We’ve discussed it before: Not all beef sires are created equal when it comes to use on dairy operations. Selecting the wrong beef genetics to put in your herd could be detrimental to your operation and livelihood. The potential for increased calving difficulty, stillbirths, gestation lengths, or fertility issues could lead to decreased days in milk, longer stays in the maternity pen, or worse, damaged reproductive systems. Sounds like a dairy producer’s worst nightmare!
Okay, sorry! We’ll stop with the scary stories…
Instead, let’s consider the happy ending of a precise, strategic, and correctly implemented beef on dairy program. Beef on dairy has become extremely popular in recent years among dairy producers. Rightfully, so! This strategy has created an improved revenue stream for producers by replacing a previously low value product, a Holstein bull calf, with a product worth more in the marketplace, a beef cross calf. This means you can create an additional profit center for your dairy.
This is where the right genetic plan will help you avoid the aforementioned scary story but perform and profit in the happy ending. Again, the dairy industry is realizing that not all beef sires work well in the beef on dairy scenario. Your beef on dairy strategy needs to align with the overall business plan of your dairy. The amount of beef semen used, which cows or heifers are bred to sexed semen, and the number of replacement females needed differ across herds. Thus, a plan and the genetics used should be monitored closely and adapted accordingly.
Here are a few things to consider when developing your plan.
Know your Market
Today’s high quality beef cross calves command a premium in most regions. However, everything cycles, and the commodity beef market is no exception. Traditional beef on beef producers have been weathering the mountains and valleys of the marketplace for years. Being a beef cross calf does not necessarily make it worthy of a premium. Using any ol’ beef bull in your herd can actually be more expensive in the long run. After analyzing the market, select the right genetics to make profitable dairy cross calves.
Not too Little, Not too Much
Determining the number of heifers you need to produce and retain is vital to a successful beef on dairy program. With today’s sexed semen, it is much easier for dairy producers to strategically segment what portion of your herd you want females and what will get bred to beef or conventional product. Finding the right balance of heifers you need to replace cows culled from the herd while also maximizing efficiency is a delicate art. Having too few of heifers can cost you in terms of milk production and efficiency. On the other spectrum, too many heifers can cost you in more resources for rearing, labor, facilities, and feed.
Determine the Career Path for Each Herd Member
The genetic potential of each female in your herd should be used to determine what that animal’s role in your operation should be. Not every heifer or cow should have the same role. Low genetic animals should not contribute their genetics to the next generation; however, they can still have a productive life in your herd with producing milk and generating income. Utilizing beef on those low genetic heifers to create dairy cross progeny for another revenue stream. It costs the same amount to raise a poor genetic heifer as a top-quality genetic heifer, but those top genetics pay you back quicker. Identifying ways to maximize profit centers for each role impacts your profitability.
YOUR PLAN = YOUR PROFITABILITY
More than ever before, your business plan is all about how to maximize profitability. The balancing act of your cash flow statement takes time and analysis. Our goal at ABS is to help advise you on genetic selection that makes balancing your inputs and outputs a little easier. With our Winning Game Plan, you can implement a beef on dairy strategy with peace of mind. A strategy that marries Sexcel, our proprietary sexing technology, and our Beef InFocus program with sires that are designed and tested for success in a dairy. Partnering with ABS and using Sexcel and Beef InFocus is the winning game plan.
Learn more about planning a beef on dairy program by reading our article originally published in Progressive Dairy.