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Interpretive Summary: Post-weaning management of modern dairy cattle genetics for beef production: a review

By: Jerad R Jaborek, Pedro H V Carvalho, Tara L Felix

The number of dairy steers contributing to the U.S. fed beef supply has increased from 6.9% to 16.3% over the last two decades. Raising dairy cattle breeds for beef production offers unique opportunities and challenges when compared with feeding beef cattle breeds. Dairy steers offer predictable and uniform finishing cattle performance (ADG, DMI, G:F) as a group and more desirable quality grades on average compared with their beef steer counterparts. Dairy steers yield less red meat compared with beef steers due to a greater ratio of bone to muscle, internal fat, organ size, and gastrointestinal tract weight. The use of growth-promoting technologies such as hormonal implants and β-adrenergic agonists can help improve finishing cattle performance and increase the red meat yield of dairy-influenced steers. In addition, beef × dairy crossbreeding strategies are being implemented on some dairy farms to increase the income generated from bull calves, while beef × dairy crossbreeding strategies can also improve the gain:feed and red meat yield of beef produced from the U.S. dairy herd. Successful adoption of beef × dairy crossbreeding in the cattle industry will depend on the proper selection of beef sires to complement the challenges and opportunities experienced with dairy genetics for beef production. Early calfhood management practices should be investigated further to determine their impacts on the subsequent finishing performance and carcass characteristics of calves produced by dairy farms for beef production.

Read the full article in the Journal of Animal Science.