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:
- The quality and quantity of colostrum is the most vital nutrition the calf will receive.
- 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.
- Weaning dairy-beef cross calves at 8 weeks, rather than 6 or 7, can maximize the pre- and post-weaning efficiency.
- 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.
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. https://doi.org/10.3389/fanim.2021.730356
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.
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