Aug. 24 2023 03:01 PM

The following is sponsored content created by Tom Earleywine Ph.D., Director of Nutritional Services at Land O’Lakes Inc.

Dairy-beef crossbreeding can introduce a value-added revenue stream for producers and help meet the needs of a high-demand beef market. Historically, raising dairy steers has been a way for producers to add profit to their operation, but now with dairy-beef crossbred calves, producers can capitalize on this production practice to deliver a higher quality product to the beef supply chain and increase profit potential in a volatile dairy market environment.

Dairy-beef crossbred animals are not native beef animals, nor are they purebred dairy steers. There is a large opportunity with dairy-beef crossbred animals, but it will require a shift in mentality from being a byproduct to a premium product. Therefore, proper attention to colostrum management, early-life care and a strong pre-weaning nutrition program, much like a typical replacement heifer calf program, is crucial for a successful dairy-beef crossbred program.

Research has shown biological responses to nutritional intervention early in a calf’s life may permanently alter physiological outcomes later in life.1 During the pre-weaning stage, calves are going through many important development processes, including gut and immune system development, muscle development and adipocyte – cells that store fat that later become marbling – development, which all determine the calf’s ability to grow and meet its maximum genetic potential.

Even with prices at an all-time high, high-quality beef continues to remain king in meat consumption for consumers. Therefore, we must strive to bring out the greatest potential of our dairy-beef crossbred animals in order to help keep a stable beef supply.

From our research at the Purina Animal Nutrition Center, we have discovered that to take advantage of the genetic potential of a dairy-beef crossbred calf, producers should consider a program that will meet the unique needs of the calf. Our research shows that:

  1. The quality and quantity of colostrum is the most vital nutrition the calf will receive.
  2. Dairy-beef crossbred calves fed more total milk replacer may perform better when fed a higher plane of nutrition. Crossbred calves fed 1.5 to 1.8 pounds of milk replacer per day were found to decrease cost per pound of gain than when fed a lower plane of nutrition i.e., 1 to 1.2 pounds of milk replacer per day.
  3. Weaning dairy-beef cross calves at 8 weeks, rather than 6 or 7, can maximize the pre- and post-weaning efficiency.
  4. Crossbred calves need a high-protein milk replacer and a starter feed, which should contain at least 20% to 22% protein until 12 weeks of age to support efficient weight gain and muscle growth.

The Purina® PrimeStartTM dairy-beef cross feeding program is designed to deliver nutrition specifically formulated to maximize the potential of your dairy-beef crossbred calves and support their unique needs to support growth, vigor, and profit potential. When calves are started, fed, and managed in alignment with research-supported guidance, you can solidify this value-added revenue stream for your operation and a high-quality product for the beef supply chain.

Ready to take your dairy-beef crossbred calves to the next level? Talk with your local Purina representative today or visit


1 Harvey, K. M., Cooke, R. F., & Moriel, P. (2021). Impacts of Nutritional Management During Early Postnatal Life on Long-Term Physiological and Productive Responses of Beef Cattle. Frontiers in Animal Science, 2, 730356.

Data in this article is from research trials conducted at the Purina Animal Nutrition Center: studies CT-02-20, CT-09-20, CT-13-20, CT-02-21, CT-04-21, CT-08-21 CT-11-21, CT-16-21.

© 2023 Purina Animal Nutrition LLC. All rights reserved. PrimeStart is a trademark of Purina Animal Nutrition LLC. Because of factors outside of Purina Animal Nutrition LLC’s control, individual results to be obtained, including but not limited to financial performance, animal condition, health or performance cannot be predicted or guaranteed by Purina Animal Nutrition LLC.