By DOUG GRAVES
MOGADORE, Ohio – The idea of crossbreeding low genetic/productive dairy cows with beef semen has become a growing practice on dairies these days. The main reason for this growth is the increased value of the offspring when compared to the traditional dairy male calf.
The process is simply called “beef-on-dairy”. ABS Global, formerly the American Breeders Service, is one such artificial insemination company that sells frozen bovine semen to dairies throughout the Farm World readership area. ABS Global sells semen from dairy cattle breeds such as Ayrshire, Holstein, Jersey, Guernsey, Brown Swiss, Milking Shorthorn and Norwegian Red, and from beef breeds such as Angus, Brahman, Brangus, Charolais, Hereford, Gelbvieh, Limousin, Senepol and Simmental. Company spokesmen say the effort is gaining strength.
ABS Global is located in DeForest, Wis., and was founded in 1941.
“A lot of people are dabbling in adding beef genetics into their dairy cows through artificial insemination in order to create calves that could be sold for more money than male Holsteins,” said Zachary Berry, ABS Global’s district account manager for eastern Ohio. “That’s because the carcass quality of the beef dairy animal grades much higher than that of the dairy steers.”
Beef-on-dairy has been a focus of ABS Global and other similar companies for the past 10 years since dairies stopped keeping as many of their heifers as replacements, opening up the market for more to be bred with beef bulls.
“At first, dairy producers were leery of the beef-on-dairy effort because they were afraid to change what they were doing, but with so many in the industry suffering the past few years, many dairy producers are looking for ways to boost their bottom line,” Berry said.
Other artificial insemination companies include De-Su, EDG, Alta Genetics, GENEX, STgenetics and others. ABS Global is among those that are working to develop genetics that provide calving ease, fertility on the bull side, and a result in the animal that grows quickly, is fed efficiently and eventually worth more.
“Our beef-on-dairy sales grow every quarter,” Berry said. “There’s tremendous growth. Beef genetic fertility on Holstein is not the same as on beef, and we’re doing genetic testing to figure that out. It’s definitely a challenge because of 10 cows tested only one or two can get pregnant and grow the desired carcass.”
While the beef calf value is a real benefit, there are even more advantages, Berry says. The use of sexed semen on the top of the herd to create replacement heifers also increases the selection intensity and speeds up genetic progress. Proactively managing heifer inventory will avoid excess replacements and result in lower rearing expenses.
“Beef-on-dairy feeders typically sell for about $200 more than the dairy ones, and at birth are worth at least $100 more,” he said. “Some feel that those involved in this process will flood the beef market if all dairymen do this. But the idea is just to improve the quality of the carcass.”
Clay Fredericks, Beef on Dairy coordinator for STgenetics, agrees.
“Researchers from University of Wisconsin-River Falls found that the dairy sector contributed only 21 percent of the total U.S. commercial beef supply in 2018,” Fredericks said. “Instead of adding animals to market, the calves created with terminal crosses are simply replacing the inferior purebred Holstein steers, heifers and cull cows.”
Beef on dairy breeding is more than a trend, experts say, adding that it is a strategy that is here to stay. Those at ABS Global, for example, have multiple ways to support dairy farmers setting up a beef-on-dairy plan.
“Beef-on-dairy is not just a temporary fix for the dairy industry,” Fredericks said. “The future is promising for beef-on-dairy as we see evolution in not only genetic selection but with the opportunity of dairy farms as a feedlot. The dairy industry can retain ownership and created age source-verified cattle that produce a consistent genetic profile along with a steady flow of cattle into feedlots.”
For more about the beef-on-dairy process and strategies, contact ABS Global at 608-846-3721.