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Victor Cabrera speaks about crossbreeding dairy cows with beef genetics.

PITTSBURGH — Dairy farmers have pushed for decades to make more milk.

But after several years of low milk prices, some dairy farmers are thinking they should actually make more beef.

Victor Cabrera thinks that’s a good idea — so long as farmers focus on more than making a quick buck.

“Let’s be concerned about producing a good quality animal,” Cabrera, a University of Wisconsin dairy science professor, said Nov. 14 at the Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council’s annual meeting.

Dairies around the world have been increasing their use of beef semen since 2008, but from 2016 to 2018 “this basically exploded,” Cabrera said.

The growth has been spurred by low milk prices, high feed costs, a desire to cut the number of replacement heifers, and the availability of sexed semen.

Farmers should select beef bulls that have dark hair, high calving ease, moderate frame, and decent carcass and ribeye area traits.

Beef buyers prefer a steer or a heifer with a solid black coat, no horns and good body condition.

Providing what buyers want gives dairy farmers the best shot at having a long-term beef market, Cabrera said.

The national beef herd has declined since the 2000s, punctuated by 2013’s major drought in the Western U.S.

Still, meat demand is expected to grow next year, and barring further trade disruptions, beef exports will likely continue to climb, he said.

Special Sections Editor

Courtney Love is Special Sections Editor at Lancaster Farming. She can be reached at 717-721-4426 or clove@lancasterfarming.com