That directive led to an expansion of the concept.
Wulf Cattle now is partnering with Genex Cooperative, Inc. of Shawano, Wis., in a program called “Breeding to Feeding” to take the concept to other dairies. Genex collects and distributes semen from Wulf Limousin bulls and makes contractual arrangements with dairies. Consultants from Genex work with each herd to develop a breeding strategy that fits their genetics program and long-term goals. The dairies agree to send their crossbred calves to a Wulfapproved calf ranch, and then are guaranteed purchase by Wulf Cattle at a premium price.
“Breeding to Feeding is a conception-to-consumption strategy that fits current trends in both the U.S. dairy and beef industries,” says Roy Wilson, associate vice president for national accounts at Genex. “The U.S. beef cow herd is shrinking, and the country’s nine million dairy cows can play an important role in maintaining our beef supply demands.”
Indeed, USDA data indicate that the U.S. cattle inventory dropped last year to its lowest level since 1952, after a year of severe drought in the Southwest. Add to that this year’s Midwestern drought, plus stiff competition for land and other resources, and it is clear that the U.S. beef cow herd may not be rebuilding any time soon, if ever.
At the same time, many U.S. dairy herds are becoming static in their growth goals. Embryo transfer, sexed semen and excellent reproductive efficiency make it possible for herds to generate all of the replacement heifers they need with just a fraction of their highest-quality females. Selling surplus heifers is one way to capture additional income, but that often leaves herds at the mercy of the fluctuating export market, and is a longer-term payoff.
“Dairies have to raise heifers for many more months to sell them as replacements, compared to selling them as feeder calves,” says Wilson. “Lenders now are advising producers to carry inventories of 0.9 heifers for each milking cow, compared to previous recommendations of 1.2 to 1.5 heifers. They want dairies to trim the overhead required to feed extra heifers in a climate of very high feed costs.”
Also considering the minimal to no value for Jersey bull calves, it is easy to see why dairy producers are readily embracing the program. Wulf and Genex currently have Breeding to Feeding arrangements with dairy herds in six states, and the list is growing.
A host of benefits