For Dairy Beef Calves, Feed Research Grows

Alyssa Seitz grew up on a dairy farm near Seymour Wisconsin. Her love of cows led her to UW River Falls and then on to UW Madison to start her master’s program. She’s been conducting research on feeding beef and dairy cross calves to make animals that aren’t just more profitable, but also healthier and tastier. 

From genetics to the initial milk and grain diets of the calves, daily feed intake measurements all the way through harvest, the study is an interdisciplinary look at dairy beef from conception to consumption. The goal is to look at how diet can be tweaked to get the final beef quality of these dairy cross calves as close to purebred angus as possible. Although the project is only about 75% complete at this point, there are some trends emerging. 

So far, calves fed one milk replacer have shown significant advantages in the group. Beyond the milk calf stage, so far the different finishing diets haven’t produced a clear winner, but one of the four feeding options in the research has shown to not produce the desired outcome. During the beef evaluation the diets have been producing 15” ribeyes and carcass grades at high choice on average. Maybe the best news yet is that the animals are reaching finishing weights at just over a year old and are not showing signs of health implications from a more intensive feeding program. 

With the harvest portion of the research project wrapping up soon, the next stages include data crunching and some help from the public. In order to compare the final product of each diet, Alyssa will be conducting sensory testing. In that testing the public is welcomed to taste test beef from different animals as well as visually inspect the cuts to give their opinion. If you’re interested in taking part in the sensory panel or following Alyssa’s research you can visit the Varsity Meats page on Facebook.