Superior genetics add $211/ha

Results from the Beef + Lamb Genetics’ dairy beef progeny trial (DBPT) builds a compelling case for dairy farmers to use high genetic merit beef bulls across their herds. But how does this benefit finishers?

In Livestock5 Minutes
When used across dairy cows, superior beef genetics can improve gross margins for finishers and improve feed conversion efficiency.

Results from the Beef + Lamb Genetics’ dairy beef progeny trial (DBPT) builds a compelling case for dairy farmers to use high genetic merit beef bulls across their herds. But how does this benefit finishers?

A recent report summarised the findings of a whole-farm modelling process where the progeny of the highest ranked beef bulls from the trial were compared with the progeny of average bulls.

These showed a 15% growth advantage at 400 and 600-days compared to the average bulls. This would improve gross margin returns by between $172 and $211/ha and improve feed conversion efficiency by 10%. This in turn would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The report, by farm consultant Bob Thompson, says modelling demonstrated that when the top 10-15% trial bulls for marbling (intramuscular fat) were compared with the average trial bulls there was a 20% improvement. This correlated with an increase in the strike rate with beef quality supply programmes, although with a price premium of 30c/kg carcaseweight (CW), this only increased the gross margin by another $22/ha.

The modelling also compared one and two winter finishing policies and highlighted clear advantages and disadvantages to both. The ranking of DBPT bulls did not change between the two policies.

Compared to the two-winter, the one-winter system occupied one third less land area with 15% more feed conversion efficiencies.

The disadvantage was in lighter carcaseweights (160-220kg CW) when processed between November and February. These weights were outside targeted beef grading and associated payment schedules.

Building a connection

The report noted a disconnect between dairy farmers and beef finishers and the advantages for both parties to address this.

Working with a dairy farmer who is investing in superior beef genetics gives the finisher the opportunity to benefit from significantly improved growth rates and carcase attributes.

This disconnect has come about because finishers tend to prefer to buy dairy-beef weaners in autumn rather than rear them over summer. In drought years, there is little difference in the price between autumn and spring calves.

Dairy farmers producing high quality calves often felt frustrated with variable and inconsistent demand from beef finishers.

Bobby calf policies – a reason to change

Dairy farmers will likely be faced with a no bobby calf kill policy within the next few years and will either have to produce calves that have value as a beef finishing animal or reduce cow numbers to accommodate the rearing of surplus calves.

“Either way, the value of the surplus calves can be raised significantly by dairy farmers utilising high genetic merit beef bulls over the dairy cows which are not required to generate their dairy replacements.”

The high genetic merit beef bulls identified in the DBPT are proven performers and their genetics are only available in commercial quantities through artificial insemination.

Analysis has shown that the actual cost of beef AI in dairy herds is slightly less than natural mating and generated many more advantages. These included shorter gestation length, proven easy calving and calves which will grow faster and to heavier weights for finishers.

There was also better biosecurity and work safety associated with AI.

Dairy beef progeny test

The purpose of the DBPT, which began in 2015, was to identify high genetic merit beef bulls that would benefit both dairy and beef farmers. Over the course of the programme, detailed and comprehensive phenotypic data has and continues to be collected, analysed and reported for a range of traits including gestation length, calving ease, growth rates, carcaseweight and carcase quality.

The trial includes a number of beef breeds with around 20 new bulls being progeny tested every year. The most up-to-date report showed the top five bulls ranked on carcase weight represented five different breeds.

The weights of all the calves are recorded at 200, 400 and 600 days.

Calves are run in four groups after weaning (two groups of heifers and two groups of steers) for finishing and are DNA-verified to Progeny Test sires.

  • Supplied by Beef + Lamb NZ