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Beef x Dairy – Dairy’s Impact on the Beef Supply

Dairy cattle are becoming a regular part of the mix in today’s beef marketing chain. With the evolving dairy climate, the practice of crossbreeding dairy cows with beef genetics is becoming common on dairies. As a result, between 2.5 million and 5 million beef x dairy cross calves will be born this year and likely to continue the same levels in 20231.

Dairy steers have been fed for beef production for years, so the trend is not significantly changing the number of calves and feeders in the feedyard, but what is changing is the meat quality. For dairy producers, they are seeing higher market value for those calves, and consumers both here and abroad get more Choice and Prime-graded beef products.

Dairy cattle still remain a significant contributor to the U.S. beef supply. In addition to dairy and beef crossbreds, dairy finished steers, cull cows and finished heifers all produce beef for the total supply. Here’s the percentage contribution of each animal type to the entire U.S. commercial beef supply2.

  • Finished dairy steers contribute 12.6 percent
  • Cull dairy cows contribute 7 percent
  • Finished dairy steers contribute 1.5 percent

Since 2002, the percentage of dairy beef contribution to the total U.S. beef supply has ranged from 18 to 24 percent2.

Both the beef and dairy industries work together to create a successful beef marketplace. All dairy producers selling cattle and calves pay to the Beef Checkoff a $1-per-head. Their contribution helps further beef promotion, research, education and information, helping to drive demand for beef.

  1. Brooks, Rhonda “Beef-Dairy Crosses Continue to Earn Their Way.” February, 2022.
  2. Natzke, Dave “Let’s Put Dairy-Beef Numbers in Perspective.” May, 2019.

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