Growth performance, carcass traits, and feeder calf value of beef × Holstein and Holstein feedlot steers

M. Pimentel-Concepción, J. R. Jaborek, J. P. Schweihofer, A. J. Garmyn, M.-G.-S. McKendree, B. J. Bradford, A. Hentschl, and D. D. Buskirk

Applied Animal Science 2024 40:56–68
https://doi.org/10.15232/aas.2023-02454

Holstein cattle are a dairy breed that represents approximately 23% of the US fed beef supply from surplus heifer and bull calves. Dairy-type cattle, especially Holstein steers, typically produce USDA Choice or better carcasses and provide a year-round supply of beef. However, dairy-type cattle can have reduced feed efficiency, muscling, and dressing percent compared with beef-type cattle. Compared with beef-type steers, dairy-type carcasses receive greater discounts due to their reduced red meat yield, and the decision of a major US packer to stop buying Holstein fed steers further decreased their value.

Recently, the use of beef sires to breed dairy dams of low genetic merit for milk production has increased substantially in the United States with the aim to increase calf value and overall economic return. From 2017 to 2023, US beef semen sales increased by almost 6.5 million units, whereas Holstein semen sales decreased by around 6.3 million units. These data support the observation that increased beef semen sales are largely attributed to the greater use of beef sires to breed dairy females.  This study was to compare feedlot performance, carcass traits, and value of beef × Holstein and Holstein feedlot steers.

Materials and Methods:  After a 21-d acclimation to the feedlot, steers (60 beef x Holstein and 60 Holstein) were blocked by body weight into 10 pens per breed type.  Steers were slaughtered at a commercial abattoir on day- 245 for beef x Holstein and day-266 for Holstein, after reaching an average carcass empty body fat of 30.0%. Following a 48-hour chill, carcass data were collected.

Results and Discussion: The beef x Holstein steers tended to have 5% greater gain compared with the Holstein steers but similar dry matter intake. The beef x Holstein steers had 4% greater feed efficiency compared with Holstein steers. Cost of gain was 14% less for beef x Holstein compared with Holstein steers ($1.22 vs. $1.28/lb). Although final live body weight tended to be less for beef x Holstein compared with Holstein steers (1371 vs. 1399 lbs), carcass weights were similar between breed types (804 vs. 809 lbs). The beef x Holstein steers had greater loineye area, greater backfat thickness, and a lesser average calculated USDA Yield Grade (2.9 vs. 3.2) than Holstein steers. The beef x Holstein and Holstein steers had similar average marbling scores and USDA Quality Grades. Based on abattoir prices, carcass revenue was greater for beef x Holstein ($1,836/carcass) when compared with Holstein steers ($1,800/carcass).