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Beef x Dairy Crossbreeding and Calf Management Practices on Wisconsin Dairy Farms

Applied Research

Ryan Sterry
Regional Dairy Educator
UW-Madison DIvision of Extension


Utilizing beef genetics on dairy cattle has rapidly grown since 2010. Extension Educators, with the assistance of USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative funds, surveyed Wisconsin dairy producers utilizing beef genetics about sire selection criteria and beef x dairy crossbred calf care. Survey questions asked about general farm production, sire and dam selection, breeding results, newborn calf management, milk feeding practices, and marketing. Surveys were collected from 40 farms. Participating producers had been using beef sires for an average of five years, and beef sire selection decisions were predominantly made by the farm’s AI representative (53%), followed by the farm owner or manager (40%). Eighty-five percent of farmers used Angus sires, 20% used Limousine or Simmental x Angus, and 17.5% used Simmental. Less than 12.5% used Wagyu, Limousine x Angus, Charolais, or Hereford sires. The “3 C’s”: conception rate, calving ease, and cost per semen straw were the leading beef sire selection criteria, with each identified by 50 to 75% of producers. Less than 20% of farmers surveyed also identified feedlot and carcass performance traits, including ribeye area, weaning and yearling weights, frame score, marbling, and using a terminal or all-purpose sire index as sire selection criteria. Opportunities exist to influence dairy producers to emphasize performance trait selection more. Respondents reported treating their beef x dairy crossbred calves the same as their replacement dairy heifer calves, except for neonatal vaccinations for scours and respiratory disease. Farmers retaining ownership of beef x dairy crossbred calves were more likely to administer neonatal vaccines than those selling them at less than two weeks of age. Ninety-five percent of farmers fed their beef x dairy crossbred calves’ colostrum within six hours of birth, and all fed colostrum within twelve hours. When asked about the amount of colostrum fed, 67% reported feeding at least 4 quarts at first feeding. Thirty-three percent of the farmers feeding less may be splitting colostrum feedings or feeding less than recommended amounts. We have identified colostrum management practices and transfer of passive immunity for beef x dairy crossbred calves as areas of future study.

Poster has NOT been presented at any previous NACAA AM/PIC

This poster is being submitted for judging. It will be displayed at the AM/PIC if not selected as a State winner. The abstract will be published in the proceedings.

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Authors: Ryan Sterry, William Halfman, Sandra Stuttgen, Heather Schlesser, Matt Akins
  1. Sterry, R. Regional Dairy Educator, University of Wisconsin Madison Division of Extension, Wisconsin, 54002
  2. Halfman, W. Beef Outreach Specialist, University of Wisconsin Madison Division of Extension, Wisconsin, 54724
  3. Stuttgen, S. Agriculture Educator , University of Wisconsin Madison Division of Extension, Wisconsin, 54451
  4. Schlesser, H. Agriculture Educator , University of Wisconsin Madison Division of Extension, Wisconsin, 54403
  5. Akins, M. Scientist, USDA-ARS Dairy Forage Research Center , Wisconsin, 54449