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Determining Dairy Farm Profitability When Using Beef Semen

By Sandra Stuttgen

Advances in dairy reproduction coupled with improvements in calf management have made it possible for many dairies to sort their heifers and cows for breeding to dairy or beef. The best dairy genetics on the farm may be bred to dairy sires to reach future herd production goals, while the dairy genetics of lessor value to the farm may be bred with beef sires. Producing dairy x beef cross calves has the potential to increase market value of these calves compared to straight bred dairy bull calves.

Victor Cabrera, Ph.D., Professor, UW-Madison Division of Extension Specialist in Dairy Farm Management and Wen Li, MS Student have developed an online decision tool a farmer may use for making profitable decisions about mating to beef. As part of the Dairy Management Tools, the Premium Beef on Dairy Program is designed to illustrate the profit expected according to semen breeding strategies. The program is based on the total number of replacement females needed and the opportunity to obtain premium dollar from dairy and/or beef calves.
The Premium Beef on Dairy Program User’s Manual describes how this online spreadsheet calculates the Income from Calves Over Semen costs (ICOSC, $/month) as an indicator of farm profitability when using beef semen (combined with sexed and conventional semen) in a dairy reproduction program. This tool calculates the Female Calf Balance (head/month) from the following calculation:
female calves per month = female calves required for herd replacement subtracted from the female calves produced by the defined semen strategy
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