Raising dairy steers for beef requires responsible management

Dairy Steers have the genetic potential to produce well-marbled, lean beef. Producers should ensure a high quality product with responsible management practices.

Beef from dairy steers contributes a significant portion to the high quality grade beef available on the market. Dairy steers have genetic capabilities to produce high quality beef that is well-marbled with minimal backfat. Dairy steers may be bought and sold several times from birth to the final feeding stages. Each producer has the opportunity to positively or negatively impact quality such as creating injection site blemishes, slaughtering with volatile drug residue and a long list of other defects. Consequently, each owner must accept the responsibility of raising dairy steers with an emphasis placed on producing high quality beef without defects.

All farmers producing food for consumers should have a commitment to quality of the final product they produce and understand the impact of their management on that final product. Utilizing the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program is an ideal mechanism to develop management techniques to ensure the production of high quality beef. Beef producers across the country have embraced BQA and implemented proper management techniques to improve profitability. The BQA program covers all aspects of management including animal health.

A valid Veterinarian-Client-Patient-Relationship (VCPR) should be a vital part of any animal health management regime.

Several factors are critical in the implementation of a VCPR:

  • Veterinarian assumes responsibility of clinical judgments of animal treatments and client agrees to follow veterinarians' instructions;
  • Veterinarian has sufficient knowledge of that farm’s animals;
  • Veterinarian is available for follow-up evaluation;
  • Veterinarian provides oversight of treatment, compliance, and outcome;
  • Patient records are maintained.

Veterinarians should be used to develop preventive health care protocols rather than only for emergency situations. Preventive health care practices are critical. Sanitation and ventilation, along with dry bedding, including straw during cold weather, are important factors to ensuring that calves have a comfortable environment that ensures fresh air without drafts.

An appropriate vaccination program is also important and should be designed with the assistance of a veterinarian. Care should be taken to minimize stress during castration and dehorning and steer calves should be implanted with a growth promotion to increase weight gain and improve feed efficiency. Educators and specialists from Michigan State University Extension recommend the use of these management practices to improve production efficiency.

The Food and Drug Administration will be implementing the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) beginning October 1, 2015. Producers wanting to purchase feeds containing antibiotics deemed medically important in human medicine will need to be actively participating in a VCPR. Antibiotics will only be allowed in livestock feed through a VFD order from a veterinarian. Examples of feeds that will need a VFD order include medicated milk replacer, antibiotic water medications and supplemental feeds that contain antimicrobials such as medicated protein pellets.

Producing high quality food without quality defects should be an objective for all farmers. Concerns’ regarding antibiotic use in livestock production is a hot issue. For more information regarding responsible beef production practices contact Frank Wardynski, Ruminant Extension educator with Michigan State University at wardynsk@anr.msu.edu or 906-884-4386.

Did you find this article useful?