Thursday, May 26, 2011

Dairy Producers Are Beef Producers Too!

Dairy cattle produce milk. Beef cattle produce beef. Yes, you are probably thinking that this is common sense, but is it? Most people only view dairy cattle as producing milk and beef cattle only beef. Dairy cattle are more than just milk. Dairy cattle play an important role in the beef industry. 

In fact, according to the Beef Checkoff, dairy beef accounts for 20 percent of the total beef supply in the United States. Even though beef makes up only 6-8 percent of a dairy farm’s income, it is still an important part of the farm.  Dairy producers produce beef when they sell their calves for the market or cull their cows on the farm.   The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association has counted approximately six million dairy calves that enter the beef industry as well as three million dairy cows and three million Holstein steers processed yearly.  

So what does all of this mean for the producer? Well for the dairy producer, this means shared responsibility with beef producers with regards to quality assurance. It means changing habits, practices, and management so that beef quality and cattle stewardship is improved. For the beef producer, this means working together with the dairy producer to make sure they are providing a quality product for the market. Proper management in both beef and dairy herds are needed to improve consumer confidence in the beef industry. 

Proper management consists of implementing practices that focus on both beef quality and stewardship. Practices to consider could be minimizing injuries due to rushing and slipping, decrease aggressive driving of cattle, administering injections correctly according to Beef Quality Assurance principles, culling cattle before they are thin or lame, preventing bruises and injection-site lesions and always having accurate records to verify proper practices. These practices should be implemented in both beef and dairy farms. 
Consumer confidence is key in the beef industry. The reality is that dairy and beef producers ultimately have to please their customer, the consumer. This can be accomplished by ensuring the safety of the beef products. Dairy producers are constantly concerned with producing a safe high quality milk product. Let that be the example for the beef industry. We should be treating beef cattle how the dairy producers treat their milk products. 

The Beef Checkoff has funded research that has shown dairy beef’s contribution to the beef industry. The industry has valued the dairy contribution so much that many new value added products have been created using dairy beef animals, such as the Flat Iron Steak.  In fact, 44 percent comes from dairy beef providing steaks, roasts, filets, and strips. 

By this point in the year, you should already know that it is Beef Month.  A month filled with promotions and celebrations for the beef industry in Pennsylvania. Common sense tells us that beef cattle produce beef, but we also need to keep in mind that dairy cattle produce milk and beef. So this month also should celebrate the dairy producers for they are a part of the beef industry as well. May beef month, certainly transitions nicely to June dairy month, because dairy cattle are beef cattle too!


cowgirl said...

Most people don't realize what happens to dairy cattle when they go "out of production". A good example is Braum's Ice Cream shops. They have their own dairy herds for ice cream and other dairy products. Eventually many of their herd are used to make their delicious burgers. Very efficient use of resources.

Morgan Firestine said...

Great point! Dairy cattle are very much beef cattle.

Austin Bouck said...

A professor here made a similar point talking about biosecurity at poultry and swine farms being intense, and at beef farms almost non-existent. Dairy is a little better, but beef really needs to step up a little bit.

Morgan Firestine said...

You have a great point, Austin. I think all animal agriculture producers really need to evaluate their management practices and make sure they are doing what's right for all parts of the sector: the animal, industry, consumer, and of course the farm business.