Frank J. Buchman

Cowboy • Horseman • Writer

Research To Increase Meat Quality of Beef-Dairy Cross Cattle

Creating beef from dairy supply chains is not a new concept.

For the past seven years, Penn State University research programs have emphasized dairy progeny as part of the beef supply chain.

And due to their tight genetic makeup, consistency of product from purebred dairy cattle, particularly Holsteins, made them a known commodity for the beef industry, said researcher Tara Felix.

Discussing optimal beef genetics for Holstein cows is a recent and critical need. The use of beef semen to breed Holstein cows has risen sharply in the U.S. Domestic beef semen sales skyrocketing by over 350 percent since 2017.

The rapid growth of beef semen use in dairy herds has added value to beef-dairy progeny. But packer complaints about the inconsistency of beef-dairy carcasses came early and often in those first few years of beef-dairy production.

This is logical because the commodity beef industry has product specifications, or “a box” for native beef cattle and “a box” for fed Holstein cattle mostly steers that are well established and meet specific customer demands and expectations.

These boxes allow industry to package beef effectively and efficiently for cold transportation around the globe. However, beef-dairy crossbreds were not fitting in either box.

The challenges facing the packer during the early rise of beef-dairy “boom” were real-world issues that required rapid solutions because these crossbred progenies are being generated specifically for terminal markets.

Europe data, which predates U.S. data on beef-dairy crossbreds by several decades, suggests that the meat from crossbred calves was more valuable than the meat from purebred dairy cattle.

Likewise, crossbred calves from late-maturing breed types like Charolais, Limousin, and Simmental had better average daily gain and carcass characteristics than their counterparts from early maturing breeds.

European markets routinely employ the use of beef breeds known for heavy muscling Belgian Blue, Limousin, and Galacian Blonde in their Holstein cows to increase meat yield.

While compelling for the European marketplace, the beef breeds selected in these previous research studies are known in the U.S. for poor carcass quality. That is not producing tender beef and not marbling well, little fat deposited in the muscle.

In a market that lauds tender, USDA Choice and Prime, poor carcass quality just won’t cut it, Felix summarized.

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