Beef on dairy competition drives consistency and elite seedstock demand
The competition to beef wrought by the fake meat trend and foreign imports may be secondary to the competition being mounted by dairy producers improving the performance of calves headed to feed through the use of beef bulls.
Troy Marshall, TITLE, said semen sales to dairymen have increased as of late by about 40 percent, due in part to fertility challenges within many dairy herds requiring multiple AI attempts to result in a pregnancy.
Historically, he said, dairy feeders have been severely discounted from a retail yield standpoint because they weren’t competitive from an efficiency or quality standpoint. With the increased use of beef bulls on dairy cows, he said that’s no longer the case and the resulting calves are good quality. The majority are being bred to Angus bulls but he said some dairies are electing to use Limousin or LimFlex, Charolais, Simmental and SimAngus to make a product competitive with conventional beef, maybe even more so given the uniformity and consistency of the dairy cow base.
“Because of the integration and the size and scope of the dairy industry, those cattle from a traceability and record-keeping standpoint have a tremendous amount of information,” he said. “They calve on a year-round basis and we tend to be spring or fall.”
The amount of information on the cattle paired with the year-round supply adds up to an advantage, especially when value added programs are at play.
Marshall said he welcomes the competition and understands the motivation for the dairy industry to add value to calves that, in the past, have been somewhat of a byproduct. It’s been a boon to the seedstock industry in terms of the increased number of straws required per cow and to meet the demands of a production system that is nearly entirely dependent upon AI.
“On the elite end of our genetics, it’s really pushed those terminally, carcass-oriented genetics higher,” he said. “With the dairy industry being the biggest buyer of some of those bulls, the AI industry is buying bulls and cattle to fit that market.”
In the long term, he said he remains a little concerned about the messaging in the industry pushing people to select solely for terminal genetics to earn a premium. He said while growth, marketing and ribeye are traits to value, the industry needs to keep the cow base in check through selection for maternal traits to balance.
“The net result will be more high-quality product and there’s going to be more tonnage on the market than before without increasing cow numbers,” he said.
Whether or not it’s good for the beef industry is open to interpretation but Marshall said it’s toothpaste out of the tube now, with little likelihood of returning.
The majority of these beef sired cattle are being fed, he said, in the central Plains region. While they still are remaining on feed longer than beef cattle, most of the major feeder complexes and packers have beef on dairy programs in place to assure market access with a premium.
From a quality grade and yield standpoint, the beef on dairy carcasses are competitive, he said, though disadvantages in feed efficiency remains but it is improving. From a uniformity and consistency standpoint, they have an advantage.
“The elite beef genetics are still a far superior product but when you take that beef on dairy product that used to be at a significant discount and inferior, it competes pretty fairly with the average beef carcass,” he said.
The irony, he said, lies in the genetic leaps and bounds made in the beef industry have now made it possible for the dairy industry to utilize those genetics to compete.
Jay Hill, a rancher who works for Select Sires, told the American Simmental Association publication his business has shifted since he began in 1995 from 100 percent beef to 10 percent beef and 85 percent dairy, that with a growing beef market.
The association launched the HOLSim program which he said is being used on retained ownership cattle sired by Simmental bulls. Hill said rather than hurting the beef industry, he anticipates the opposite with added consistency. ❖
— Gabel is an assistant editor and reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (970) 768-0024.
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