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Beef x Dairy: Mapping your Strategy

Photo at Bluestone Herefords

From 1st of June 2023, Fonterra suppliers need to ensure all non-replacement calves enter a value stream eg beef, veal, or petfood. Planning for this change starts this coming mating season.

World Wide Sires has a range of beef bulls to suit your requirements. Start mapping your beef strategy by considering the three questions below.

1. How many replacements do I need?

This question largely depends on the planned direction of your farming business over the next 10 years – specifically whether you’re wanting to grow or reduce your herd size. The number of required replacements is also largely hinged on theur pregnancy rates and general attrition levels of your herd. You need to work out many cows per annum you are losing due to being empty, from mastitis, lameness, somatic cell count or physical breakdown - then work backwards from there.

Is mating your heifers an option? It’s become increasingly common to synchronise and breed rising 2yr heifers to Sexed Semen. This allows you to increase genetic gain through breeding replacements from your most advanced genetics, as well as reducing the number of replacements required to be born from the milking herd. It’s worth noting that heifer calves also need to enter a value stream.

2. Which animals in my herd will I breed to beef?

There are multiple ways to identify cows to breed to beef. This could be done by sorting your herd using production or fertility performance, physical traits, age or by index, be it an industry index like Production Worth or a custom index designed specifically for your system. The number of replacements required, general reproductive performance and whether you’re able to artificially inseminate your heifers allow you to establish culling intervals. A culling interval is effectively a level whereby if an animal is below that point she is removed from the target group – in this case the group being targeted to breed replacements from.

Your World Wide Sires Breeding Consultant can help you work through this process to derive a strategy, culling intervals and ultimately a mating plan.

3. What beef product should I use?

Throughout the country the demand for beef x dairy animals at birth, weaning and later in life varies. Generally, within an area, one breed will be in more demand than others, largely dependent on large calf rearers, growers and ultimately the Livestock Agents who the animals will pass through during their lifetime.

A good starting point would be to talk to your current calf buyer, Livestock Agent and other farmers in your area to determine what breeds are in best demand.

Contracts for certain breeds may also be an option in some areas, but it’s worth considering the fixed commitment of these contracts and whether the beef breed itself complements your system. Breeds with longer gestation, or more difficult calving can quickly erode the financial premium offered by the resulting contracted calf.

Breed specific traits should also be front of mind:

- Calving Ease

- Gestation Length

- Growth Rates

- Ease of Rearing

- Colour Marking

A calf worth $140.00 at 4 days old which may have been a week overdue is an expensive proposition compared to a calf worth $100.00 born 3 days early. The 10 days difference not only affects milk in the vat, but the time the cow has to settle into her lactation and prepare to be mated again.

There is also merit in using multiple beef breeds during the mating period as it spreads the risk not only at selling time, but also bull specific performance be that conception rate, calving ease, gestation length or growth rates of resulting calves.

Dairy farms across the country vary greatly, but the objectives when it comes to calving should not. The main objective should be to maximise your individual cow’s and herd’s productivity from the resulting lactation. Selecting mating options appropriately is a direct contributor to this.

Difficult calvings cause greater risk of metritis, retained placenta and damage to the cow herself resulting in loss of days in milk, greater use of antibiotics and potentially poor mating performance. Gestation, as outlined above, also contributes directly to days in milk, and time between post-partum and mating.

Regardless of your herd’s breeding strategy it is important to have a plan, and to map out your business goals both now and in the future. With the new regulations from Fonterra, beef semen could become an integral part of your operation.

Contact your local WWS Breeding Consultant to discuss your breeding strategy, alternative options or to simply bounce ideas off. World Wide Sires has a range of beef options for every system, location or objectives. Get in touch.



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