I have often felt there was an invisible wall between the beef and dairy industries, preventing them from communicating or learning from each other. This always baffled me because we are all farmers raising cattle, just for different end purposes. This past week while at the Junior National Hereford Exposition, I broke that wall down just a bit.
One of the biggest takeaways from an event such as this are the great conversations you have with fellow cattle enthusiasts. I expected to talk about the Hereford cow because, after all, that is why we were there. However, the discussions shifted into debates as to how I thought the Hereford industry could improve. This was my time to shine and exhibit my knowledge of both the beef and dairy industry.
One of the ways the Hereford breed markets their cattle is through the act of crossbreeding and the value of heterosis, and I thought they could capitalize on that by marketing more to dairy producers. In the dairy industry we have been discussing beef on dairy breeding opportunities for a while now. After reading an article recently published by Hoard’s Dairyman, I was frustrated to find out that Angus dominates as the beef breed of choice for dairy producers. I wanted to know why Herefords could not be a more popular option. This directly tied into how I thought the Hereford industry could improve.
Don’t get me wrong, I know black hides sell, and that is a big hurdle for the Hereford breed to cross if they want to be a contender in this market. What most dairy breeders don’t know is that Hereford cattle have traits that can support their production goals. Herefords are known for their good feed efficiency and strong fertility traits. Additionally, studies show they are a breed that can help reduce methane emissions. These are just a few of the long list of assets the Hereford breed offers dairy farmers who are looking to breed beef to some of their lower end dairy cattle.
What disappointed me about these conversations was that the Hereford breeders were not even aware that this breeding shift in the dairy industry was occurring. It was exhilarating to have the chance to talk about both the beef and dairy industry in one conversation and know I was bringing new information to the table.
The thought of breeding Herefords to dairy cattle is just one idea; we don’t have to stop there. The more important goal is to foster conversations between the two types of cattle raisers. We will not learn about possible collaborations or opportunities if we don’t know what is going on in other industries. These are conversations that I hope continue to be more prominent in the future because I think there are learning opportunities on both sides.
Madison Sifford is the 2023 Hoard’s Dairyman Editorial Intern. She is a student at Virginia Tech majoring in dairy science and communications. Madison grew up in North Carolina before moving with her parents and sisters to Goldvein, Va. Her family raises Holsteins on their Plessed-Rose Dairy, and they also have a small Hereford cow-calf operation.