The BreedCast - innovative dairy breeding in your ears

Episode 06 - Cut the biggest slice of Beef on Dairy

September 20, 2021 VikingGenetics Season 1 Episode 6
The BreedCast - innovative dairy breeding in your ears
Episode 06 - Cut the biggest slice of Beef on Dairy
Show Notes Transcript

Estimates show that up to 60% of all dairy cows will be inseminated with beef semen by 2030. But how do you make the most of Beef on Dairy in your herd? How do you generate the highest profit and run the most sustainable business?

Two experts on the subject will help you navigate the new Beef on Dairy world. They’ll guide you through how to get started and what beef breeds to consider.

Reni Hvam Nielsen, Product Manager for VikingBeef, VikingGenetics
Sébastien Clairand, Beef Manager, Evolution-XY

Louise Rønn Svane

The use of beef genetics on dairy cows is increasing rapidly around the world. Estimates show that up to 60% of all dairy cows will be inseminated with beef semen by 2030. But how do you make the most of beef on dairy in your herd? To help us navigate the new beef on dairy world, I've invited two experts to join us. Reni Hvam Nielsen, product manager for VikingBeef at VikingGenetics. And Sébastien Clairand, Beef Manager at Evolution-XY. You're listening to the BreedCast produced by VikingGenetics. I'm your host, Louise Roenn Svane. Hello and welcome, Reni and Sébastien, Thank you for joining us today. Thank you. You're welcome. Nice to see you here in the studio, Reni. And joining us from the western part of France is Sébastien. Hello. Hello. Wonderful to have you. So, beef on dairy is really on the rise around the world. According to a recent story in Beef Magazine, we've gone from beef on dairy being largely experimental to actually having reached a tipping point. We're looking at a significant increase in beef on dairy calves that are coming to market in the next three to five years. Reni, let's start with you. What is fueling this growth? Well, the main thing has been the use of sexed semen, because when you use sexed semen on the best of your herd - the best cows, then you can get your replacement heifers. And then there's room for using beef on the rest of the herd in order to get some added value to their calves. So, that's what's really fueled the increase in use of beef on dairy. What other factors might have played a role? What's happening in the world right now that's sort of pushing this interest in beef on dairy? Yeah, of course, you always want to add value to your business. And the dairy producers, especially some of them have been struggling a little bit. So, in order to make added value to the product of calves, they see this as an opportunity to get an increased price for them, and also an increased interest because some of them have struggled to find calf rearers or beef producers who would take their calves. So, this is a higher quality product. And we actually have a question from one of our farmers out there. This is from Steve in Kansas, USA. He's listened to the BreedCast and he sent us a message on Facebook. Steve writes, how can beef on dairy improve the salvage value on calves, not used for replacement? Well, the calves have a higher value because they have an increased growth with the crossbred calf and they have more muscles, so more meat. So, it's called carcass conformation, and that's typically better at a crossbred calf than a purebred dairy calf. So, a lot of extra value and normally the beef producer pays extra for those calves, and he specifically demands those crossbred calves. And thank you to Steve for that question. If any of you out there have questions for the show, we’d love to hear from you. Write us a note on Facebook or visit the BreedCast at So, Reni, if you can summarize what are the advantages of beef on dairy for the farmer, the cows, the beef producer and the consumer? Well, first of all, for the dairy farmer, he gets added value for his beef calves. And then next in this chain, you get the beef producer or the calf rearer. He has a higher quality product. It grows faster. The calf grows faster so he can finish more calves in a year, make more money. And also for the consumers. Well, they have a higher quality product because the meat is often more tender. It has more fat marbling. Some of the breeds are very good at making that at least better than the dairy breeds. So, I think that beef on dairy really adds value to the whole chain. Yeah. And the beef producer, what's in it for them, so to speak? Yeah, well, when the calves grow faster on the same feed, obviously, that's a business case for him. So, he pays extra value or he pays extra to the dairy farmer for those crossbred calves, and he gets paid extra and he finishes them earlier so they can go to the abattoir. And we're also looking at less waste because we've seen cases where the bull calves, they might be simply too small to be suitable for beef. Historically, we have had to cull some of the bull calves because there simply was not enough value to finish them. And that's ethically a waste. So, to use them to get a higher quality product, that's just a win-win situation. Wonderful. Joining us from France is Sébastien. And Sebastian, how big is beef on dairy right now, not just where you are in northern Europe, but around the world? Yeah, in Europe, the percentage of beef on dairy - beef bulls used on dairy cows - is nearly 25% It can be different from different countries if you consider France or Nordic or Germany, but the average is not far away from that point - that figure. If you look on the other side of the Atlantic in North America, the percentage is more near between 30 and 40%. So quite higher than in Europe, but we are increasing year after year and months and months and this market is really growing fast. And I know you have 25 years of experience in the beef world. How has beef on dairy evolved historically to reach this tipping point where we are today? This beef on dairy market, has evolved in the last ten or 15 years and you can consider that in fact, last century, the beef on dairy crossbreeding was considered as an opportunity by the dairy breeders, now we can say that it is considered a strategy… We are part of the genetic strategy of farm and as Reni says, that the best cows are inseminated with pure breed with sexed semen. And that's what these create an opportunity for the breeders to use crossbreeding on the poorest dairy cows. What are some of the reactions to beef on dairy around the world? Are all farmers excited and embracing this new opportunity? Or what are you hearing out there? Yes, this new market… But it's not exactly new markets, but a new opportunity for the breeders are exciting because they are asking more questions about the level of the genetics they want. They want to get it. They want to use it. They want to have higher genetic level, in fact, and to ask for more easy calving, ask for more growth potential or for more carcass potential. But we also have new traits like survival, like colour of hair, carbon footprint efficient, etc. So that dairy farmers really want to improve the crossbreeding with good genetics and of course, with revenue on the farms. No doubt that the use of beef on dairy is going to increase even further in the future. Now let's take a look at how to make the most of this breeding method. Reni, what are some of the first things you recommend looking into when a farmer tells you that he or she is considering using beef genetics on dairy cows? Well, the first thing you have to do is make a strategy for your herd. How many replacement heifers do you need? Do you need some extra ones? Do you have potential for selling some? So, that's the strategy that you need to have in place before you start. And then you have to look at which bulls to use for the beef semen. You can't just use any bulls. You have to use bulls that are specifically bred or bought for beef on dairy so that you ensure the easy calving that Sébastien is talking about. Because that's crucial. Easy calving, a calf that has a high survival rate and then growth as a third quality parameter that you're looking for. So, before you start, have a strategy. How many cows are you going to use this on and how many do you need for replacement? So that's the first step when using beef on dairy. So, you've previously worked as a calf rearer advisor? More specifically, what is it that the beef producer or calf rearer is looking for, in sort of, the perfect bull calf? Well, they want the more muscular calf than the purebred dairy calves because they don't grow fast enough and they don't put on those muscles that they need when they're going to finish the calves. So that's what they're really looking for. And when the market is providing those, they sort of like, think:, Okay, the neighbor is going to have those calves. I want them too. So, the purebred dairy cows are not very high in demand and that goes, I think, worldwide. So, the beef on dairy calves are worth more to the beef producer because they finish sooner. So, how do I go about selecting the right bulls and approach for beef on dairy? Well, most semen selling companies do have some beef on dairy bulls that are bulls that are bought and reared only to make semen for the beef on dairy. So, they have a focus on easy calving. And growth potential as second. And also calf survivability. A strong calf. You can't use any bull, just a random bull. You need specifically beef on dairy bulls. In the Nordic region, we have the NBDI index, which is the Nordic Beef on Dairy Index., And this index tells you, how does this bull rank in terms of easy calving? Does he have a very good index for that? And that's how you should choose the bulls. This index is made across breeds, So, it doesn't focus on a specific breed. You can choose a breed if you want, but if you don't care about what breed to use, then just look at the index. Yeah, and of course, the more calves this bull is the father of, the more reliable his indices are. So, you can take a look at that as well. Sébastien, what are some of the most popular beef breeds for beef on dairy around the world? Yes, around the world, if we can consider the kind of big five, what are the most important breeds in the world. And what if we start in Europe, it’s the blue – the blue breed. It can be Danish blue or Belgian blue It’s very popular with the higher level of market share. If you go to North America, it’s more Angus, which is the most popular. If you go to Asian region and Australia and New Zealand Limousines, Simmental and Charolais are also popular. So, this is the five main breeds we can find all over the world. This is the Charolais, Limousine, the Danish blue, Belgian blue and also Angus, who are the five main breeds, used by the breeders on their dairy cows. And the farmers you speak to, what are they asking for? What are they looking for in the different bulls? Oh, the things they ask are quite similar between the breeds. As we said before, it’s the easy calving. We cannot negotiate on the easy calving. They want easy calving. They want, also, good semen fertility from the bull They want gestation length - they want. As they said, as we said before, growth potential with carcass and some new traits, as I said, like beef carbon, etc. But the main characters are easy calving and survival. And fertility of the semen. The most important for the breeder is to get some revenue from the beef on dairy. But with no negative impact on the dairy production, we always have to keep in mind that a dairy breeder is a dairy breeder. His main revenue, his main job is to produce dairy and the beef is just an added value and not… The breeder don't want to have a negative impact to use beef on his dairy cows. Reni, are you recognizing what Sébastien is saying? Are you seeing those trends, so to speak, in the requests that you're receiving? Yes, totally. And that's why we do progeny testing of the bulls. So, to see how he does with easy calving, because that's priority number one. And yeah, no compromise there. We need that. What I'm gathering is that in order to get the best results with beef on dairy, I need a solid strategy, as you were saying, Reni. I need to pay attention to indices, the bulls I choose… And I love the point about still understanding that this is still for dairy farmers. The dairy business is still in focus and this is an added value that the beef semen is giving. Now let's take a look at the future of beef on dairy. Sébastien, where will beef on dairy be in five to ten years? OK, I will try to ask my crystal ball, but it is difficult, but anyway, in countries like North America, but also in Europe and in, especially in the U.K., we see some positive trends about the beef on dairy. And we estimate in our group that the beef on dairy will represent 50, maybe 60% of the AI on dairy cows for the five or next ten years. The result will be between these two figures. And the majority of the dairy cows will be inseminated with beef bulls in maybe five or ten years from now. And as Reni mentioned in the beginning of the show, you both talked about part of what's driving this development is also the requests from consumers. What are the consumers going to ask for In the future when it comes to beef? Yes, in the discussion, we talk a lot about the demands of the dairy farmer, but we would keep an eye and ear on the demand that comes from the consumer. Then we think that the consumer will ask from us three main things: to get some local meat. We think that will not appreciate meat which is coming from South America or far region linked with the first point is to have meat with a lower impact on the environment. And so that means local meat and efficient meat. And the last point is not the least is to respect the animal welfare. So, that means for us to, for example, to be able to offer to the market polled bulls and to avoid the farmer to dehorn the animals, for example, it's just an example that we have this strategy. We have this in the creation program we wanted to integrate this point in order to be able to offer these polled bulls to the market to market in the different breeds. Yeah, I know polled bulls, that's a big trend and we're going to talk about that in some of the other BreedCasts as well. Reni, there's a lot of talk about climate, climate impact from the dairy industry. How does beef on dairy support a better climate and lower emission? Yes. Well, first of all, as Sébastien said, meat produced locally will mean less transportation of the meat, and that's good for the environment. So, that's one factor. And also being more efficient in producing more meat from an animal because a crossbred animal produces more meat than a purebred dairy calf does. So, that's two factors contributing to a better environment. And also in the dairy business, they're looking at methane emissions and they're looking at feed efficiency. And of course, in time, that will come to beef on dairy as well. I remember you telling me some stories about it. Also some farmers in the Nordic countries being quite innovative, thinking about this in new ways of something around some heifers and some trials that I thought that might be interesting for our listeners to hear a bit about that. Well, the use of beef on dairy is a bit different from region to region. And in Denmark, we produce a lot of veal. That means that they have to grow fast. So, we use male sexed semen in order to get those bull calves growing very fast. But in some regions in the Nordic countries, it's the dairy producer himself that rears these calves. So, it's inconvenient for him to have bull calves because he has his own dairy heifers. And then he can use female sexed semen in order to get heifers instead and then finish them himself. So, there are different strategies. It also comes down to what slaughter concepts, what does the abattoirs offer in terms of pricing? Is it beneficial to have young animals slaughtered at ten months? Or is it more in the consumers' wish to have red meat? So, you need an animal that's 20 to 30 months of age. So different concepts in different regions and countries? So, there are a lot of ways to to utilize this beef on dairy system. Sébastien, what other trends are you seeing in the market around the world related to beef on dairy and this whole evolution going on? The trends are quite similar. Depends on the country, the strategy or the activity of the breeders. But another positive point we can say about the cross-breeding that we just can change the strategy at every gestation. That's means that a farmer can use... If the market is better for Danish blue, he can use the Danish blue one year and for the next gestation, he can change his mind or can change the bull or to the type of bull in order to answer better to the market. If you want to have an opportunity to produce veal, to produce meat. So it's another opportunity for the dairy farmer and for the market to be adapted, to be able to adhere to the market and to be reactive in general in terms of genetics and not like in pure breed, be obliged to follow the same genetic year after year. The crossbreeding permits to change and adapt the strategy year after year. Thank you. Thanks for joining our BreedCast today. We've looked at the rapidly growing trend beef on dairy and how you can make the most of it in your breeding plan. If you'd like to learn more, you can visit our beef area at I'd like to thank Reni Hvam Nielsen and Sébastien Clairand for sharing these valuable insights with us, and I want to thank all of you out there for listening. If you have an idea for a topic in the world of cattle breeding that you'd like us to focus on in the BreedCast, please visit or send us a message like Steve from Kansas did on our VikingGenetics Facebook page. My name is Louise Roenn Svane. Please join me for the next BreedCast episode.