Entering the beef-on-dairy market
By Jordan Furnish, Calf and Heifer Specialist, Southwest Territory, [email protected]
The beef-on-dairy market is a booming sector of the dairy industry and the reward is there. A typical auction dairy calf can now become a more valuable beef cross, however, the process for entering this market requires careful, forward planning.
What to consider…
There are three avenues for raising and selling beef-on-dairy crosses:
- Selling calves at birth
- Raising calves through the wet phase and selling them at weaning
- Feeding cattle through to fat and selling as finished
An evaluation of your facilities, feeding program, personnel, time, and available outlets for selling will give you a sense of what you can and want to do based on farm capabilities and where the highest profit margin is for your dairy.
Facilities – Do you have the room to house more animals, if so, where and how? If your farm is operating at peak per head capacity, avoid overcrowding your calves and consider building new pens or adding temporary pens.
Feed Program – What do beef-on-dairy crosses need nutritionally? If you’re selling them wet or after weaning, the same milk or milk replacer diet as dairy heifers is fine. But beyond weaning, particularly around four months of age, beef calves require a different diet than dairy calves. Consider available commodities, feed storage capabilities, and what you're willing to feed to these beef animals to maintain profitability.
Management and Labor – Do you have the personnel to feed, care, and manage these new animals? Is there labor available to hire if needed? Have you talked through a plan with your on-farm team and off-farm team of nutritionist, veterinarian, and consultants?
Selling Outlets – Identifying your available retail or selling outlets will help determine how long you raise and care for the cattle. Recently, due to COVID-19 it’s been hard finding kill floor capacity. If you have finished cattle but haven’t made a forward contracting deal, it may be hard to do so on short notice.
Once you determine the right option, the next step is choosing semen. Both high- and low-quality genetics are available, and both can have varying effects on your ability to market and sell beef. In addition to choosing semen, take time to create your nutrition plan. Beef animals use energy and store fat differently than dairy animals and growing them efficiently and consistently will benefit your bottom line.
Having grown up on a beef operation, I’m excited to help develop this market and work with dairies to grow calves quickly and efficiently. You can contact me for more information at [email protected].