Beef on dairy: Which breed sires the best?

Which male breed should be used to sire calves in dairy cows?

Angus Cattle Feedlot
Nordroden |

Beef on dairy is a newly found resource of quality beef for the U.S., although this is not so new for Europe. In fact, it has been going around for a long time as European continental beef breeds are super-lean (low marbling) and in general the European beef herd is not sufficient to cover the requirements for lean yet tasty beef cuts.

A study published in the Journal of Animal Science in October 2023 answered a very important question: Which male breed should be used to sire calves in dairy (almost invariably of Holstein breed) cows? From this study, I will keep the Angus and Charolais – widely used breeds – as representatives of two extremes. The U.S. Angus breed is known for its low mature body weight and for its excellent marbling qualities. On the other hand, Charolais is a super heavy continental breed that is known for its lean (almost zero marbling) meat quality.

Calves born to Holstein dams from these two breeds gave some very interesting results. Calves were transferred at about 10 months of age to a feedlot, where they were finished for 3, 4 or 5 months. They all had the same high-energy ration, something with which I do not entirely agree, but it was important for this experimental design. In general, the feed efficiency ratio was not different in any of the breed crosses. Angus-sired calves entered the feedlot heavier (they are early maturing) and finished sooner than any other breed. Surprisingly, sire breed had no effect on marbling score. As expected, Charolais-sired calves had the lowest proportion of Yield Grade 1 carcasses.

I would have liked to continue this experiment with these two opposite breeds in a 2x2 design where the second factor would be different nutrition to allow for marbling differences to appear. In addition, we should mention here that the potential for marbling is developed early in life, and these calves entered the finishing feedlot after this period. So, perhaps, we should be looking at young calf nutrition for marbling tissue development.

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