CONCEPTIONS Beef Cow-calf route newsletter March-April 2020
Of course it is. Perhaps some of the less popular continental breeds have genetic lines that are too similar to Holstein growth rates and frame sizes to be much different, but the modern Holstein’s dairy selection is so specialized that the ability of Holsteins to gain muscle efficiently from the typical beef cow-calf feeding sequence does not exist.
In fact, if you have not been to a deacon calf sale in the past two-three years, you would know that the market value of the Holstein deacon bull calf has fallen by over half. Any calf in the deacon pens that looks like it has Beef breed inheritance will bring twice the price of Holsteins. The calf buyers know from their experience, that those “beefy” genes in that calf will aid them in efficient feeding and an earlier age of marbling to market grade. Holstein steers from the modern, Genomic-selected “dairy type” breeding may have to be fed for 24-30 months to get the same marketing value from the quality of beef represented.
Of course, at that age, they will weigh more “live weight” (even if they cut out a lower percent edible). The Wisconsin packing industry is notorious for seeking extra-heavy carcasses such as a two-year-old Holstein steer usually represents. Good for them, if someone is willing to take a steer through two winters of stored feed – but this is exactly what the growing environmental movement (fixated on “global warming”) sees as wrong with our cattle industry, beef or dairy.
Taste rules in the freezer beef and “grass fed” marketing systems… Not carcass size. Many of our dairy customers who used to offer freezer beef by the half have quit, because no one has a freezer big enough to handle a Holstein side of beef. No one wants to store beef in a freezer longer than six months (a year at most) and no one wants to trim another 10% off prior to the frying or broiling or grilling (unless they have a kennel full of hungry dogs??)
It is expectations for taste and superior grilling properties that keep the buyers paying that 10% to 20% premium for the Beef breed steer over the Holstein steer. As for dairy-beef crosses, the one that wins all the “blind taste tests” and has a superior feed conversion as well, is Jersey x Beef breed. Here you can get natural finishing of the carcass by 18 months of age and also be just the right size to sell into the freezer beef market.
Are you operating a feedlot? If you have extra room, you have probably considered or tried out some of these Holstein x Beef cross deacons already. We would be greatly interested to learn what your experiences are with them.
The telling evidence, however, is that when anyone quits dairy and converts to beef, they also convert to Beef Breed momma cow stock. So what does that tell us? The advantages are so many—higher natural fertility, better maternal instinct, easier body conditioning while nursing a calf, better forage utilization. These are genetic selection qualities that should already be a part of your breeding program for replacement females. Holsteins are quite lacking today by comparison, in these genetic characteristics.
Mich Livestock Service, Inc ** Ovid, MI 48866 ** ph (989) 834- 2661