Feeding Dairy-Beef Cross Calves for Top Performance

Feeding Dairy-Beef Cross Calves for Top Performance

Over the past few years, dairy farms have been benefiting from crossbreeding their dairy cows to beef bulls. Angus bulls are usually the breed of choice in these programs, however, I have seen a variety of other beef breed bulls used with similar results.  When compared to straight bred Holstein calves, dairy-beef cross calves have better gains and feed conversion rates, and ultimately, a higher selling price. These preferred gain results are due to hybrid vigor created when crossbreeding dairy and beef cattle. The only caution of dairy-beef crossbreeding programs is the utilization of the Jersey breed. Jersey-beef cross calves may have reduced gains as compared to their Holstein-beef cross counterparts, as well as the potential of discounts for yellow fat. So, do we feed these dairy-beef cross calves differently from straight Holstein steers? The simple answer is no. It is best to feed them just like Holsteins steers by putting them on full feed with a properly balanced ration from the start to promote rapid and efficient growth. Using whole shell corn in a self-feeder is a great option that fits many operations. Another good option for producers is using a bunk and total mixed ration (TMR) with high moisture (HM) corn or earlage. The key when feeding these calves is keeping energy high and the ration balanced with Kent® Precision Dairy Beef (PDB) Finisher (Kent product #1594 – PDB Finisher ZP 320R 100T). The Kent Precision Dairy Beef Program is formulated to be fed with high corn rations with locked in formulas, including Sodium Diacetate to help stabilize rumen pH, Zinpro organic trace minerals to help improve performance, as well as balanced proteins designed to utilize the energy of corn efficiently. Every ingredient has a purpose to help calves perform and grow. Advantages of feeding whole shelled corn with PDB supplements are:

  • Provides some scratch factor to help maintain rumen health
  • Contains fewer fines which can lead to digestive issues (bloat)
  • Results in less incidence of acidosis as a results of safer digestion
  • Improve digestion and utilization efficiency

The PDB program is simple to feed because it is only corn and pellets, however, it does requires more management to keep the cattle healthy and performing. The way I like to describe the management portion of the PDB program is by calling it the Three C’s of cattle: calories, consistency and comfort.

    1. Calories or Corn. Every ration for cattle is balanced and evaluated for energy with corn being the main energy source for cattle. So, when you think of this ‘C’, understand your ration make-up and what to expect for cattle performance.
    2. Consistency. Cattle perform their best when everything is consistent.
      • Keep the ration the same with little change in feedstuffs.
      • Feed at the same time every day and the same way as much as possible.
      • Bed the cattle the same day of the week with the same bedding.
    1. Comfort. There is a lot of research showing cattle that are bedded properly to stay dry and clean, eat more and are more efficient. Cattle need to be comfortable in their pen area and have easy access to feed and water. The effects of weather affects should be minimized with windbreaks and other forms of protection. The main objective is keep them clean and dry!

The Kent Precision Dairy beef program is a complete feeding program with products such as a milk replacer, starter, grower and finisher feeds designed specifically for dairy and dairy-beef cross calves to get the best results. Kent also has a projection program to calculate your breakevens and help estimate your cattle profitability. If you have any questions or interest in increasing your bottom line with the Kent Precision Dairy Beef program, please contact your local Kent dealer or representative or visit kentfeeds.com.

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