In the March-April 2014 issue of Best of the West, there is an article about producing beef cattle by breeding dairy cows to beef bulls. At the Midwest American Society of Animal Science meetings in Des Moines, Iowa, Kent Anderson of Zoetis discussed this practice and how genomics plays a part in selecting the animals used in these crosses. A dairy producer can use a genomic prediction test, such as Zoetis' CLARIFIDE®, to rank the cows in their herd. The producer can breed the top portion of their cows to dairy sires to produce replacement heifers. The use of sexed semen increases the efficiency of this strategy, as ~90% of these matings result in heifer pregnancies. Then the producer can breed the bottom portion of the cows to a beef sire to produce calves that will be marketed as beef feeder cattle. It is important to select beef bulls that excel at rib eye area and yield grade, as these are the main weaknesses of dairy steers. Research is underway to develop genomic EPDs for feed efficiency, another weakness of dairy steers, so that beef bulls with superior feed efficiency can be used in dairy-beef crosses.
Dairy cattle make up 20% of the beef production in the United States. By using available technologies, dairy producers can increase their income and provide the type of cattle feedlots and packers need to market.