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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Madison, Wisconsin » U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center » Environmentally Integrated Dairy Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #402554

Research Project: Improving Sustainability of Dairy and Forage Production Systems for the Upper Midwest

Location: Environmentally Integrated Dairy Management Research

Title: Beef x dairy crossbreeding and calf management practices on Wisconsin dairy farms

item STERRY, RYAN - University Of Wisconsin
item HALFMAN, BILL - University Of Wisconsin
item BORCHERT, ERIN - University Of Wisconsin
item Akins, Matthew

Submitted to: Extension Publications
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/22/2023
Publication Date: 3/1/2023
Citation: Sterry, R., Halfman, B., Borchert, E., Akins, M.S. 2023. Beef x dairy crossbreeding and calf management practices on Wisconsin dairy farms. Extension Publications.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: The use of dairy x beef crossbreeding has increased significantly in the past several years as dairy farms choose to breed a portion of cows to beef sires to help control heifer inventories and increase the value of calves sold. To help understand the management of dairy x beef crossbreeding in 2021, UW Extension educators surveyed 40 dairy farms known to be using beef sires to breed dairy females to assess their beef x dairy sire selection criteria, selection of dairy females to breed to beef sires, newborn calf management, milk feeding practices, and how they market their beef x dairy cattle. There was significant use of beef sires with a mean of 45% of calvings on dairy farms being dairy x beef crossbreds but with a very large range (3-100% of calvings). Farms made decision to use beef sires on dairy animals based mainly on reproduction (AI services/fertility), genetic/genomic data, cow age, and production. A large majority of dairy farms reported using Angus sires (34 of 37 farms reporting) with Simmental, Simmental x Angus, and Limousin also being used on 8 farms each. A major management issue identified was the selection traits used for beef sires with most farms using conception rate, calving ease, and price for sire selection and few using carcass traits (muscling, marbling, or terminal indexes) which are critical to help improve dairy carcass traits. Newborn crossbred calf management was similar to dairy heifer calves for 88% of farms, but an area for improvement was the colostrum amount provided with 20% of farms feeding 2 L or less at the first feeding, however time of feeding was good with 95% of farms feeding colostrum within 6 hours of birth. Overall, dairy x beef crossbreeding is prevalent on dairy farms but there are management areas to improve that should result in greater animal growth and carcass yield.