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Dairymen weigh in on Angus and Wagyu crosses

Progressive Dairyman Editor Peggy Coffeen Published on 31 March 2014

Two more dairymen joined Wulf in the discussion of breeding dairy cows to beef during the World Ag Expo panel. Find out why they are doing it, how they are implementing a breeding plan and what they do with their calves.

arlin vander woude



Arlan Vander Woude
Vander Woude Dairy, Merced, California
3,200 cows
Dairy breed: Holstein
Beef breed: Angus

jack Pirtle

Jack Pirtle
P7 Dairy, Roswell, New Mexico
3,000 cows
Dairy breed: Holstein
Beef breed: Wagyu


Why did you choose a beef-on-dairy cross?


VANDER WOUDE: The reason we got into the beef breeding … we wanted to have fewer heifers. Two years ago, we met with our semen company and came up with a plan to get down to about 2,200 heifers for a 3,200-cow dairy. We figure we are most efficient when we have about a 30 percent cull rate, and that was the number we wanted.

PIRTLE: I do have extra feed that I don’t feed to my own cattle or sell to my neighbors. I thought this was a good opportunity to create another market for some of the left-over barley silage and corn silage – another animal I could run it through.


What beef breed do you cross, and why did you choose that breed?

VANDER WOUDE: We wanted something we knew we would be able to market, so we went with Angus. We are very happy with that. The market is extremely strong right now. It worked out well. If something comes up that would be easier to market, we may change, but I don’t think we will ever go back to breeding everything Holstein.

PIRTLE: I was approached by a guy about nine months ago about breeding Wagyu. He said he had a market for the finished product – a Wagyu-Holstein cross. (His first Wagyu-Holstein calves were born in February.)



Which females do you breed to beef semen?

VANDER WOUDE: We are breeding the top 60 percent of heifers (based on genomic numbers) to sexed semen to try to get that next generation out of them. The bottom 40 percent are bred to Angus. The top 50 percent of our cows are bred to conventional semen, while the bottom 50 percent are bred to Angus.

Once a cow gets to four breedings, she goes automatically to Angus. Our tough breeders are getting the Angus breeding over and over again, so their numbers look worse than they probably are, but I consider it to be about the same conception rate.

PIRTLE: We’re breeding Wagyu on fourth or fifth service. I switched [earlier this year] to third-service and fourth-service heifers as well. We are doing sexed semen on first-service heifers to generate the heifers we are losing to the Wagyu.


What do you do with your calves?

VANDER WOUDE: We are about 17 months into it, and we have gotten about 1,600 Angus calves out of it. Grimmius Cattle Co. is picking the semen and currently buying the Angus calves back at around 7 months old, around 550 pounds. We get them back from the calf raiser at 4 to 5 months, and we have them for 70 days. It costs us $2.20 per day at the calf ranch.

Part of the system is that we are feeding less heifers so we have extra feed. We feed them to grow fast. We bank on 3 pounds a day of gain on these animals, once they get back to our place, and they have easily converted that no matter what time of year it is.

PIRTLE: I don’t ever own these calves. The guy pays me the day they are born. I am going to custom-raise them to 600 to 800 pounds.


How much are these dairy-beef calves worth?

VANDER WOUDE: As an Angus, we figure we are making about $250 to $300 per head. We are turning over every seven months, $250 per head. If you want to raise a springer, it’s going to be more like $300 per head over two years. The value, we think, is turning it over quicker and getting it three times in two years. But you are feeding them different; your goals are different raising a dairy heifer versus a steer.

PIRTLE: [The buyer’s] deal with me is $100 over the market price of a bull calf that day. Our bull calves right now at a day old are $180, so I should be getting $280 for every Wagyu calf. For every heifer, it is $75 over the market price.


Do you foresee a long-term market for dairy-beef cross calves?

VANDER WOUDE: Yes, there is a premium offered for beef-cross animals. It depends where you are, but we have been offered a premium for them as day-olds. Since we have the feed, we raise them. We think we make more money raising them up to 550 pounds, but that is an option. Since we have the feed, we are going to raise them.

PIRTLE: I look at it as trying to generate another animal I can feed my feed to without buying another dairy. I’ve got 3,000 cows now. I don’t know if I want 6,000 cows, so I am going to start breeding it to my heifers.

Whether I stay with Wagyu or if I try Angus or Limousin, I think I am going to move forward and produce more beef and less milk cows. PD

peggy coffeen

Peggy Coffeen
Progressive Dairyman