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Is Dairy Crossbreeding Right for You?

Nancy Glazier, Small Farms & Livestock
Northwest New York Dairy, Livestock & Field Crops

May 14, 2018
Is Dairy Crossbreeding Right for You?

Each farm will need to come up with its individual plan. One of the first questions that will need to be answered, are you hanging on to cows that should be shipped? If so, count them out as culling will shift the number at the bottom. The goal is to breed the top cows to dairy, most likely sexed semen for improving the genetics, and bottom end cows to beef semen from bulls best suited for crossbreeding. These percentages will need to be worked out on each farm. The middle cows will be bred as usual. You will need to determine how many replacement heifers your farm needs, generally 80-85% of the herd. The rest of the calves can leave the farm as beef.

How do you figure out which cows have low genetic potential? One way is through genomic testing, which can run in the $45 range. Another is through pedigree review. Your semen company can help you; either option accurate recordkeeping is critical. You want to make sure semen gets used on the proper cows.
When choosing a beef bull, it should complement the traits of the dairy cow. Dairy breeds are known for their marbling, but are lighter muscled with less desirable muscle conformation as compared to beef breeds. Select beef bulls with calving ease, moderate frames, heavy muscling, and above average rate of gain. Crossbreeding works with all dairy breeds, not just Holstein.
There seems to be a difference of opinion on the conception rate using beef semen. Fertility may be diminished with the tail enders, while some feel beef semen improves the rate. Quality beef semen may cost more, but will be recouped.
Each and every calf born on the farm needs to be treated like a replacement: quality colostrum in a timely manner. As with replacement dairy heifer, immunity is critical when calves are to be raised as quality beef. Droopy calves will not bring a good price! These crossbreds also tend to be thriftier calves and may consume a lot of milk. Be aware they may want to hit the ground and get right up and want to nurse!
Calves will need to be identified as crossbreds to gain a better price than straight Holsteins. ABS has specific ear tags for their crosses, different color tags for calves from Holstein or Jersey cows. An observation has been the calves that look "beefy" will bring a better price, too. Though not part of the reports, demand has been high and steady with little price fluctuation, according observations of two of Cornell/USDA Market News reporters. Reports can be found here.

This concept has been around for several years, but is now gaining momentum. Some of the pieces are still coming into place. There are discussions underway with auction markets to hold special sales for these crossbred calves. There is also potential for pooling these calves or even holding graded (by USDA certified graders) sales. There are opportunities for farms to raise them, either as another income stream or a new enterprise. Some farms are utilizing old heifer facilities or old freestalls after exiting the dairy business. Options include raising them to weaning, up to 500 lbs. and to finished weight.
For additional information:

For more information about Beef Quality Assurance program contact Katherine Brosnan (  or Mike Baker (, or check out the website.

Dairy Crossbreeding (pdf; 396KB)











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Upcoming Events

Weed Resistance Management Demonstration and Plot Tour

Event Offers DEC Credits

July 23, 2019
1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Waterloo, NY

Come join us on July 23 in Seneca County at Quinten Good's farm for a demonstration and walking tour of 16 different pre- and post-emergence treatments in soybean and 12 different treatments and combinations in corn.
  • Tall waterhemp and marestail are two weeds that are resistant to glyphosate and ALS herbicide modes of action in the WNY and Finger Lakes regions.
  • Each year the number of acres with resistant weed populations expands.
  • For herbicides to be an effective tool in weed management, we have to know what chemistries & application timings are most effective against these resistant weeds.

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Income and Real Property Tax Primer-A Learning Circle for Women Non-Operating Land Owners of Ag Land

July 24, 2019
9:00 am - 3:00 pm
Portageville, NY

For many of us taxes can be a mystery, let's have a conversation with the experts about the tax considerations agricultural landowners need to think about. 
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Pasture Walk with the Finger Lakes Graziers-Cancelled!

July 29, 2019
12:45 - 4 pm

The Finger Lakes Graziers pasture walk has been cancelled due to some scheduling conflicts. 
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RMA Announces Additional One-time Changes to Prevented Planting Provisions

June 29, 2019

RMA Announces Additional One-time Changes to Prevented Planting Provisions
for 2019 Crop Year

In response to delayed and prevented planting resulting from above average rainfall and wetness, the USDA Risk Management Agency has made a one-time change to the 2019 crop year prevented planting rules that effectively allows silage corn, if planted as a cover crop following local agricultural expert guidelines, to be acceptable as a post-prevented planting cover crop. Under this one-time rule change, producers are allowed to produce this crop while retaining their prevented planting payment. This change couples with previously announced one-time changes to the prevented planting rules - including expanded acceptable uses for post-prevented planting cover crops and a change in the cover crop haying and grazing start date rule - serve to help those struggling to meet their forage needs due to the weather.

Read the full article from the New York Crop Insurance Education Program.

The USDA-RMA states that "For crop insurance purposes, a cover crop is a crop generally recognized by agricultural experts as agronomically sound for the area for erosion control or other purposes related to conservation or soil improvement." PRO-DAIRY specialists Joe Lawrence and Karl Czymmek and Dr. Quirine Ketterings, Professor and Director of Cornell Nutrient Management Spear Program have released a letter stating "Corn on Prevented Planting acres meets these objectives."

New Guidance for Mortality Disposal Issued

NYS Department of Ag and Markets has posted guidelines on disposal of livestock carcasses, in response to reports that some rendering companies have halted pickups from farms.|1