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Dairy producers are currently facing the challenge of low milk prices and low heifer prices, prompting them to explore new strategies to generate income and optimize their replacement heifer inventories. One solution that has proven to be profitable is the implementation of beef-on-dairy. Simultaneously, the native beef herd is experiencing a 60-year low, primarily due to drought and rising production costs. According to the USDA, it is unlikely to return to normal until 2026. This situation presents a significant opportunity for dairy producers to maintain full capacity in both feedlots and packers.

To address these issues and foster collaboration within the industry, Purina Animal Nutrition recently organized an event at their Animal Nutrition Center in Gray Summit, Mo. The gathering brought together industry leaders from various parts of the supply chain, and it was sponsored by Elanco Animal Health, Kemin Industries, and ABS Global.

Troy Wistuba, the Vice President of Feed and Additive Technical Innovation for Purina, highlights the remarkable growth witnessed in the beef-on-dairy category over the past five years. However, he emphasizes that with rapid growth comes challenges. To fully capitalize on the value of these animals and meet the increasing demand for high-quality protein among U.S. consumers, all sectors of the dairy and beef industries must prioritize best production practices.

The discussions held during the two-day event centered around the unique requirements, opportunities, and challenges presented by dairy-beef animals. Some of the key takeaways include:

  1. Mindset shift: Dairy-beef cross animals should not be regarded as byproducts but rather as premium products. This shift in mentality will influence decisions related to genetics, health, and nutrition.

  2. Data capture: Collecting and analyzing data across all stages of the supply chain will be instrumental in driving advancements in the dairy-beef cross industry.

  3. Early life nutrition: Meeting the nutritional needs of dairy-beef crossbred animals is crucial for optimal performance efficiency and overall value in the competitive marketplace.

  4. Efficiency matters: Dairy-beef cross animals offer the advantage of requiring fewer days on feed while yielding increased carcass yields, making them a more profitable production option compared to purebred dairy calves.

  5. Research on liver abscesses: Liver abscesses continue to be a concern throughout the supply chain, but there is currently no consensus on the underlying causes or effective solutions. Further research is needed in this area.

Despite significant market changes driven by inflation, beef remains the preferred choice for meat consumption among consumers. Throughout the discussions, the consensus was the need to unlock the greatest potential of dairy-beef animals.

In conclusion, dairy producers are turning to beef-on-dairy as a profitable solution in the face of low milk and heifer prices. The current low levels in the native beef herd present a unique opportunity for the dairy industry. By focusing on best production practices and addressing the specific needs of dairy-beef cross animals, producers can maximize their value and contribute to meeting the growing demand for high-quality protein in the United States.