Invited review: Beef-on-dairy—The generation of crossbred beef × dairy cattle
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CitationD.P. Berry, Invited review: Beef-on-dairy—The generation of crossbred beef × dairy cattle, Journal of Dairy Science, Volume 104, Issue 4, 2021, Pages 3789-3819, ISSN 0022-0302, https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2020-19519.
AbstractBecause a growing proportion of the beef output in many countries originates from dairy herds, the most critical decisions about the genetic merit of most carcasses harvested are being made by dairy producers. Interest in the generation of more valuable calves from dairy females is intensifying, and the most likely vehicle is the use of appropriately selected beef bulls for mating to the dairy females. This is especially true given the growing potential to undertake more beef × dairy matings as herd metrics improve (e.g., reproductive performance) and technological advances are more widely adopted (e.g., sexed semen). Clear breed differences (among beef breeds but also compared with dairy breeds) exist for a whole plethora of performance traits, but considerable within-breed variability has also been demonstrated. Although such variability has implications for the choice of bull to mate to dairy females, the fact that dairy females themselves exhibit such genetic variability implies that “one size fits all” may not be appropriate for bull selection. Although differences in a whole series of key performance indicators have been documented between beef and beef-on-dairy animals, of particular note is the reported lower environmental hoofprint associated with beef-on-dairy production systems if the environmental overhead of the mature cow is attributed to the milk she eventually produces. Despite the known contribution of beef (i.e., both surplus calves and cull cows) to the overall gross output of most dairy herds globally, and the fact that each dairy female contributes half her genetic merit to her progeny, proxies for meat yield (i.e., veal or beef) are not directly considered in the vast majority of dairy cow breeding objectives. Breeding objectives to identify beef bulls suitable for dairy production systems are now being developed and validated, demonstrating the financial benefit of using such breeding objectives over and above a focus on dairy bulls or easy-calving, short-gestation beef bulls. When this approach is complemented by management-based decision-support tools, considerable potential exists to improve the profitability and sustainability of modern dairy production systems by exploiting beef-on-dairy breeding strategies using the most appropriate beef bulls.
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