Beef and dairy farmers alike attended Penn State Extension’s recent workshop on best practices for raising Holstein bull calves for the beef market. Beef and dairy farmers alike attended Penn State Extension’s recent workshop last month on best practices for raising Holstein bull calves for the beef market. These animals are not the same as beef breeds, due to the extensive breeding of dairy cattle for milk production and can’t be expected to perform in the feedlot as do native beef breeds.
But that doesn’t mean that Holstein beef can’t be a profitable venture. Instead, it means that even experienced beef producers, or dairy farmers seeking to diversify into raising their own beef steers, need to learn how to get the most gain, for the least cost, while producing a Holstein carcass that grades well. According to Cheryl Fairbairn, PSU Animal Science Educator, meetings on the calf-fed Holstein beef program, held during the past year on a regional and state-wide basis, have attracted approximately 800 producers. These meetings introduced the protocol and the results from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Livestock Evaluation Center’s (LEC) eight month calf-fed Holstein beef feeding demonstration.
“There is a mix of people who are already feeding Holsteins on a small level, those who are thinking about doing it, those who are dairying and want to look at adding this as another enterprise on the farm and those who are feeding native cattle and are thinking of possibly adding Holsteins” Fairbairn said. “The calf-fed Holstein program provides educational opportunities for dairy and beef producers to understand how to finish Holsteins on a grain based diet so they produce calves that are acceptable to packer and consumer. It also gives producers the opportunity to diversify their operations if they so desire too.”
The Holstein-Friesian is the most widespread cattle breed in the world; it is present in more than 150 countries With the growth of the New World, markets began to develop for milk in North America and South America, and dairy breeders turned to the Netherlands for their livestock. After about 8,800 Friesians (black pied Germans) had been imported, disease problems in Europe led to the cessation of exports to markets abroad. In Europe, the breed is used for milk in the north, and meat in the south. Since 1945, European national development has led to cattle breeding and dairy products becoming increasingly regionalized. More than 80% of dairy production is north of a line joining Bordeaux and Venice, which also has more than 60% of the total cattle.
This change led to the need for specialized animals for dairy (and beef) production. Until this time, milk and beef had been produced from dual-purpose animals. The breeds, national derivatives of the Dutch Friesian, had become very different animals from those developed by breeders in the United States, who used Holsteins only for dairy production. Breeders imported specialized dairy Holsteins from the United States to cross with the European black and whites. For this reason, in modern usage, “Holstein” is used to describe North or South American stock and its use in Europe, particularly in the North. “Friesian” denotes animals of a traditional European ancestry, bred for both dairy and beef use. Crosses between the two are described by the term “Holstein-Friesian”.
As indicated already, there are a range of production options using the early born Holstein-Friesian bulls. These can range from slaughtering at under 8-months of age (veal production), to 12 month cereal beef (barley beef), to 15, 18, 21 or 24 month slaughtering. Bull age can be a discriminating factor depending on the export market. High priced European markets tend towards bulls which are under 16 months. This paper summarises Holstein- Friesian dairy bull production systems at 12, 15 and 18 months of age. A steer beef production system, at 24 months of age, is also summarised.
Rearing and Feeding Holstein Bull Calf
The suitability of late winter-born Holstein/Friesian calves for bull production was examined in a series of experiments at Grange. Mean birth dates for calves used in these studies were typically mid-March. Currently, dairy herds are calving closer to mid-February (for Holstein/Friesian calves). The calves used in the studies reported here were purchased at livestock marts at about 7-14 days of age were reared indoors on a standard calf rearing regime and were approximately 12 weeks old when they moved to a high concentrate diet before starting the studies. Animals were housed on slatted floor sheds at a density of 2.5 m2/animal throughout.
Prices of Holstein Bull Calf