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9 Feb 2022

What sort of beef on dairy do you need?

Switching to beef on dairy sounds a simple enough process and it’s estimated that up to 60% of dairy herd inseminations will be made to beef by 2030. But achieving the best outcome for your business requires a careful assessment of the farm’s goals and a review of outlets for the beef x dairy stock.

Reni Hvam Nielsen, product manager for VikingBeef, says: “Using beef on dairy can add massive value to a business and improve its cash flow, but there needs to be a strategy before the process starts.”

Beef on dairy calves

Review your own position and outlets

The obvious questions include how many dairy replacement heifers you need and whether you have a market for any surplus you produce. Once these are accounted for the remainder of the herd can be bred to beef and it’s then a matter of making the best choice of beef on dairy sire.

It’s recommended you choose a bull that has been specifically bred for beef on dairy, as these have been selected for:

  • easy calving (which should be non-negotiable)
  • high calf survival rates
  • fast growth rates
  • outstanding carcase conformation.

NBDI compares within and across breeds

Using the Nordic Beef on Dairy Index (NBDI) will facilitate this process and help produce high-value calves, as this index wraps up birth, calf and carcass traits into one, at-a-glance figure.

As an across-breed index, NBDI compares breeds against one another, helping you to choose the best performing sire for your needs, irrespective of its breed.

After selecting your key requirements, it’s worth drilling down through the bull’s figures to consider other traits. These could include semen quality and gestation length, the latter potentially being particularly useful in tight block-calving herds.

Modern traits for efficiency and welfare

Secondary factors can then come into play, including modern traits such as feed efficiency, methane emissions and the polled gene. All of these are influenced by consumer pressures for high environmental and welfare standards and are likely to become a more important part of buyers’ demands.

Whatever choice is made, it’s important that you keep sight of the fact that dairy production remains your primary business, so the beef revenue must be achieved without any negative impact to dairy production.

However, whatever choice of beef on dairy is made, business agility is built into the system, as the strategy can be changed every year in response to market demands.


Sexed male or female beef on dairy semen

Just as with dairy breeding, sexed semen can be considered, but the choice of male or female is not always clear-cut, and both are available. Your production system and facilities may suit female animals or you may prefer to rear males, to more quickly meet your buyer’s goals and carcass requirements.

The outcome of choosing the right beef on dairy strategy will be to consistently achieve high-quality beef for your buyer and the consumer, and if you do it well, you can add significant profits to your farm’s bottom line.


Listen to more detail on the Beef on Dairy BreedCast (Episode 6) 

Read more about VikingBeef
Beef on dairy heifers