Dairy beef programs in Australia have been an after-thought for many years. Dairy farmers either used a live bull, or low-cost semen purely to get the cows pregnant.
Now that so many farmers are embracing sexed semen to make their replacements and the value of beef is strong, the dairy beef program represents an opportunity to create a significant income stream to the Dairy business.
As such, we need to give more thought to the sires and breeds we use, and the effect they will have not only on the beef enterprise but also the impact on the dairy enterprise.
These are the minimum requirements of our Dairy-Beef bulls:
- The calf must be born easy to minimise the impact on the cow.
- The calf needs to be vigorous, keen to drink and be healthy to maximise survival.
- The calf should be able to grow and finish (mature) to fit market specifications.
- The pregnancy must not increase pressure on the cow to re-breed and remain in the herd’s breeding window.
The effects of prolonged calving patterns
Prolonged calving patterns make it difficult to manage milking cattle. While in some dairies we have individual ID, multiple feed heads into the dairy and feeding ration flexibility according to the number of days in milk for each individual, the reality is in most dairies we do not have this.
We need to change feeding rations based on the average number of days in milk across the herd. If the calving window is long, feeding accuracy and efficiency are compromised. Other preventative veterinary treatments can also be compromised.
Tight calving will also significantly improve the efficiency of the breeding program with more cows inseminated each day. Many farmers do not realise that gestation length is a variable we can manage.