Maine Farmcast Episode 10: Sire Selection Strategies to Maximize Beef on Dairy with Dr. Bailey Basiel

Dr. Glenda Pereira, Assistant Extension Professor and State Dairy Specialist for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, has a conversation with Dr. Bailey Basiel, who is currently a postdoctoral student at the Animal Genomics and Improvement Laboratory (AGIL). Dr. Basiel grew up in Connecticut and obtained her Bachelors in Animal Science from the University of New Hampshire. Most recently, she obtained her Ph.D. from Penn State University, where she conducted beef on dairy research with a focus on genetics.

Episode Resources


Glenda Pereira: 00:14

Welcome to The Maine Farmcast. This is your host, Dr. Glenda Pereira. I’m an assistant extension professor as well as a dairy specialist for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and an assistant professor within the School of Food and Agriculture. Today, we have a special guest on the podcast, Dr. Bailey Basiel, who recently defended her Ph.D. over at Penn State University. And she will be joining us today to talk about sire selection strategies to maximize beef on dairy. And doctor Bailey Bazil, would you, take it away and introduce yourself and give us a little bit of background about your work and where you’re from. And you actually have, roots in New England and the northeast as well. So if you don’t mind sharing a bit about that.

Bailey Basiel: 01:02

Absolutely. Thank you so much for that introduction, Glenda. So as Glenda said, I just finished up my PhD. I defended in February at Penn State University, and my PhD was focused entirely on beef on dairy strategies. Now prior to that, I also did a master’s degree at Penn State with Dr. Chad Dechow, and I did my undergraduate at the University of New Hampshire in animal science. I actually grew up in Durham, Connecticut, so I consider myself a born and bred New Englander and I hope to one day make my way back up to New England, but I’ve really enjoyed living in the northeast throughout. My mentors in my Ph.D. were Dr. Tara Felix and Dr. Chad Dechow. So I kind of stepped out from a background where I was focused primarily on dairy cattle genetics, which is what I studied in my master’s degree. I have a general background with dairy cattle pre or I did previous to that. And I moved into this new position working primarily with a feedlot nutritionist. However, most of my focus on those projects still had to do either they were somewhat rooted in the dairy industry or somewhat rooted in sire selection and genetic selection, so I could continue to pursue my passions related to cattle genetics.

Glenda Pereira: 02:24

The next question I’m going to ask you is what is a favorite place?

Bailey Basiel: 02:28

Originally, I think you asked favorite place I’d visited, and my my original answer was probably visiting the Netherlands a couple of years ago because I went to the World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production, I believe, is it’s a mouthful. But I got to attend that in Rotterdam and I went up a little bit early and stayed a couple days after, so I got to to spend some time in Amsterdam and my mom came with me. And my mom’s parents are actually were both immigrants from Holland, so it was really cool to be able to explore with her and that was 1 of my favorite places that I’ve ever been. But also to bring it back to Maine, my husband and I go to Acadia National Park every summer. So that is 1 of my other favorite places to be.

Glenda Pereira: 03:19

Yes. You’re right. It’s a remarkable place. And we’d love to have you in Maine to do some programming in the future. So let’s cover some some background of why you conducted this work. And then, you know, you know, beef on dairy has been a strategy that farmers have been using for a long time. It’s it’s not a new strategy, but maybe there wasn’t the data there to support this strategy or how to best implement it. Right?

Bailey Basiel: 03:45

Yeah. Absolutely. So like you said, like, beef on dairy has been happening as long as we’ve had beef and dairy cattle. Right? In the past, more maybe more so, it was like a 1 off. So, like, the farm I grew up doing 4 h on, every once in a while, if we had a a special show cow that maybe wasn’t getting bred back, she would get to go in with the neighbor’s beef bowl and we’d have a beef on dairy calf cow and we really wanted to get her pregnant. Right? And that’s kind of how it was for quite a long time in the US dairy production system. We saw a shift following 2017. In 2017, for the dairy farmers listening to this, you probably remember the point where you were getting no money or every once in a while you were getting a bill for sending your Holstein bull calves to the sale barn because the the cost the fees associated with the sale barn were more than what you were pulling for that calf. Now that happened for a number of reasons. Some of it had to do with the beef cow population as well as a major meatpacker deciding they were no longer going to be slaughtering Holstein cattle, but that devaluation hit hard and fast, and what we saw after that was this rapid adoption of beef on dairy mating. And I don’t think it’s going away because now we have what’s different from previous years or previous times in the cattle cycle where this may have happened. We have sex semen. So dairy producers are doing a really good job utilizing the strategies that have been developed at a number of different universities to figure out how many replacements they need to generate and then really generating the rest of their or getting the rest of their cattle pregnant utilizing beef semen.

Glenda Pereira: 05:32

Yeah. Absolutely. You’re totally right about that. And I I think, like you said, you know, as cost of production continues to increase, heifer costs. So raising the adequate amount of heifers and then sort of relying on those other strategies to produce another income. Right? Because I think you hit on that. So if if we’re strategic in generating these animals that enter the the meat supply, then we can have another source of income on the farm because many dairy farmers are seeking strategies to produce additional income because sometimes the milk check just isn’t cutting it.

Bailey Basiel: 06:10

It’s really interesting right now too because this is kind of the 1st year since the adoption of beef on dairy where we’re seeing now the value of these replacement replacement springing heifers for the cheap, they might be herding a lot of replacement springing heifers for the cheap, they might be hurting a little bit right now. But I do think overall for the entire industry, it is better because can now afford to raise their heifers and break even. Right? So and right now, the value of these dang day old beef on dairy cows hopefully can make up for some of that potential lost income if you need to buy a couple of extra heifers.

Glenda Pereira: 06:55

Yes. So let’s let’s talk some about that. Kind of walk us through what the objective of the study was and kind of what what did you find?

Bailey Basiel: 07:04

Absolutely. So I conducted, a number of studies for my PhD as as we all in academia do. But today, I will primarily talk about 2 studies I worked on. The first of which was focused, again, utilizing all of my interest in the dairy industry. I used a whole bunch of records from participating dairy herds that were willing to share with me backups of their management softwares. And all of these herds were Holstein herds, and they were using some amount of beef semen in their mating protocols. What I did then was after going through all of these records and cleaning them up, right, because sometimes things don’t get entered quite right and you see something and you’re like, That that isn’t a health event. That’s just gibberish you typed into the system. After getting all of that cleaned up, I was interested in looking at how beef sires were impacting these dairy cows that were carrying these beef sired calves. Right? So I looked at dystocia in the form of calving yeast score. I also looked at stillbirth, gestation lengths, and then milk production and health events of the dairy cow that carried a beef on dairy calf right after she calved, so in that subsequent lactation. And really, the big general conclusion of all of that research, and I broke it down by individual beef breeds as well, where we had most records for Angus, but we also had a number of records for other sire breeds like Simmental, Limousine. We even had some records for breeds like Wagyu mixed in there. But really ultimately for the most part beef sire breed is not negatively impacting your dairy cow when you compare it to other multiparous cows that are having Holstein sired calves. Now I don’t, I haven’t looked at data for Jersey, I think that is research that will be coming in the future as well as research maybe including some first parity animals. So we were only doing second calving and up Because typically when we think about our beef on dairy mating recommendations, you’re usually mating all of your first calf heifers to sex semen while the older cows that are less genetically valuable are getting beef semen. So based on that data at least there was really no difference in dystocia or stillbirth, which was great, really exciting. And there was no future milk production loss components as well as no risk of any health events being increased when you compared it to cows that had Holstein’s hired caps. Where we did see some differences were in gestation length where beef sire breeds just generally increase, So Angus will probably add about a day on average, which probably not a big deal, not something you would necessarily care to manage for, but when we consider the limousine and Wagyu breeds, limousine, I think added on average about 5 days, Wagyu added over a week. So when you think about that, you might want to consider changing your dry off management strategies if those are breeds you’re using in your beef on dairy protocol. I do think the limousine breed offers EPDs, which are the equivalent to a PTA when you’re doing a dairy selection for gestation length because they know that long gestation is common in that breed. So you could select for sires that on average will produce a shorter gestation length but you can also just manage for that knowing knowing those data. So, that was kind of the the big conclusions of 1 of that first study. My second study, which I think is more relevant when we’re talking about sire selection because we didn’t see any dystocia issues, maybe calving ease selection doesn’t need to be emphasized that greatly.

Bailey Basiel: 11:01

I wouldn’t say under emphasize it either, but calving ease maybe shouldn’t be your number 1 criteria because these beef on dairy calves ultimately their purpose is becoming beef. And especially early on in beef on dairy, so when those first group of calves after the popularization were starting to be slaughtered around 2020 and 2021, the meat packers were not necessarily thrilled about what we were seeing originally. I think as an industry, after those first few initial years, there were some big shifts, especially within the stud companies and breed associations that are promoting bulls for beef on dairy. But originally, it certainly was that dairy farmers were all of a sudden asking their semen salespeople for beef semen, and the studs had what I like to call the the bottom of the tank semen, the semen that never really sold to the beef producers. So all of that got used up in those first groups of animals and produced some fairly inconsistent animals on the feedlot.

Bailey Basiel: 12:04

They maybe weren’t growing consistently and then produce some inconsistent carcasses, which was disappointing, especially when you compare it to what they were previously feeding from the dairy industry which was Holsteins, Holsteins steers. Because 1 of the advantages of Holsteins steers actually is consistency because carcasses that are pretty high quality. Right. So thinking about getting that quality and that best of both worlds when you add in the beef genetics in those first couple of groups, it was concerning.

Glenda Pereira: 12:35

And you’re right. Even even when we, you know, I’ve obviously I did a lot of work in crossbreeding and, you you know, Les Hansen’s philosophy and and what he always emphasizes is you have to use the top genetics within that breed to be able to make an impact. And and so it it doesn’t surprise me when hearing, you talk about how if we’re using the worst beef sires, there is gonna be so much inconsistency because they’re they’re not, you know, they’re not the best sires that are being used within the breed. And so we to to transmit those genetics, we wanna make sure we’re using sires that that are the best within the breeds.

Bailey Basiel: 13:13

When you’re choosing a beef sire to use for beef on dairy, the most important thing is considering those EPDs that are relevant to how that calf will grow and how that calf’s carcass will perform.

Glenda Pereira: 13:28


Bailey Basiel: 13:29

So how that calf will finish. Right? So what when we think about those EPDs, what most breeds provide related to growth are are weight EPDs. So yearling weight is 1 that is that we commonly utilize, can be a really good indicator of growth. And typically, when I’m going to look at selecting some bulls with a farmer, what I consider most really is how that bull ranks within his own breed for EPDs.

Bailey Basiel: 13:59

Right. And if you have 1 1 or 2 bulls you really like and you can get enough semen from them to use those great 1 or 2 bowls, then absolutely try to do that. That has been a challenge, and we found it was a challenge and even when we designed our experiment, we worked with select sires. They were really generous with us. Match up semen to different producers and semen from bulls that we were interested in using, right?

Bailey Basiel: 14:25

Those bulls with those high genetic merit. But it was challenging because semen availability was relatively low compared to what you could get on your average jersey bowl. And so something I learned, again, coming in with very little knowledge on the beef industry side is that beef bowls actually produce less semen.

Glenda Pereira: 14:47

Oh, I didn’t know that.

Bailey Basiel: 14:49

So if you have your number 1 Angus bull, you’re probably not going to get the equivalent number of units of semen out of him as you would the number 1 Holstein Bull. So, he’s in really high demand and he’s producing as much as he can but it’s not equivalent in volume at least. Right. Which, yeah, really interesting and and makes it a little bit harder and I think that’s why part of the reason we’re seeing a lot of these heterospermatic semen straws coming onto the market as well where you’re buying a straw that is a mix of 3 different bowls. I know those are also supposed to help with your fertility. So, that’s one potential advantage of using that.

Glenda Pereira: 15:30


Bailey Basiel: 15:31

Availability. When we talk about EPDs for carcass traits within beef on dairy, again, we don’t have a lot of data to support if selecting these EPDs are really helping the carcasses. There’s a lot of anecdotal data, right? But the things that you would think about selecting for, again, similar to yearling weight, you could select for carcass weight. You can also select for ribeye area, which was a big focus when we were selecting sires for our study because 1 of the big deficits in Holstein carcasses is typically muscularity and rib eye shape.

Bailey Basiel: 16:06

So trying to produce a rounder ribeye if you select for larger ribeye area, hypothetically, you’re going to get more consistency in those revised when you compare it to what we call a native beef animal or a pure a a totally beef breed animal. Yep. We don’t like to say purebred because in the dairy industry where Glenda doing her crossbreeding research is kind of less than the norm of having crossbred dairy dairy animals. Most commercial beef animals are somewhat crossbred.

Glenda Pereira: 16:37

Right. Yeah.

Bailey Basiel: 16:41

So you just call them native beef.

Glenda Pereira: 16:43

Okay. I’m learning so much, and I know listeners are, too. We’re learning a lot, from you today, Bailey. And and speaking of growth traits, was there a study where you looked at how calves finished out?

Bailey Basiel: 16:56

Yeah. So we used a number of beef breeds to sire beef on dairy calves on a bunch of commercial dairies over 3 years. So we fed out our first group of steers in 2021 and our last group last year in the summer of 2023. Those calves were sired by, I believe, 7 different sire breeds. So we had some Angus sired calves.

Bailey Basiel: 17:23

We had a number of Charolais sired calves, Hereford, limousine, red Angus, Simmental or Sim Angus sired calves, and then some Wagyu sired calves as well. So when we compared those calves in their growth traits, generally, again, all of these sires were selected based on their their EPDs that were positive for both growth and carcass traits. Generally, what we saw was growth performance was similar among most breeds. However, the Wagyu sired calves and the limousine sired calves had lesser average daily gain. So they were not putting on as many pounds per day.

Bailey Basiel: 18:07

Those calves that were sired by breeds like Angus or Sibmental. So they were they were at a little bit of a disadvantage. When we looked at feed efficiency and we were simply calling feed efficiency the conversion of feed intake to gain, it was actually similar across all sire breeds, so they were all similarly efficient. However those breeds that had the lesser average daily gain therefore took more days on feed to finish. So when we talk about efficiency on a large commercial feedlot, we have pens of cattle and turning pens over, having a group of calves that are less consistent in that pen.

Bailey Basiel: 18:45

So, if you had a pen mixed of Angus and Wagyu sired calves, there would be a disadvantage there because those Wagyu’s would either finish underweight or those Angus would finish way too fat, right?

Glenda Pereira: 18:57


Bailey Basiel: 18:58

And at the at the commercial meat packers, there actually is something called a heavyweight discount where if you have a carcass that exceeds a certain amount of weight, I think it’s usually £10.50 as a dressed carcass, so not as a live animal, you’re taking a discount per on price per pound because it’s this kind of big unmanageable carcass. Right?

Glenda Pereira: 19:21

Right. But I think that’s a so that’s a good but I think this data helps in you know, helps folks inform their decision making. Right? If people maybe have a management system that requires some animals to finish longer, you know, there there might be that scenario that folks run into, then they can be strategic and say, hey. I can use maybe Wagyu in limousine, and that’s gonna benefit my production system. Whereas folks that maybe have a setup where or or a market where they’re, you know, trying to turn over animals, more more quickly, then they can rely on Angus and the other breeds.

Bailey Basiel: 19:59

And I think New England is such an interesting case study for that because, again, born born and bred New England, if you have beef cattle in New England and you decide you wanna grow out some of those beef on dairy yourself, the closest packing plants, commercial large scale packing plants are in Pennsylvania.

Glenda Pereira: 20:18


Bailey Basiel: 20:19

So I know a lot of folks in New England have instead local butchers that they work with and market their beef locally, which is a great way to add value on the farm. Right? So, really, yes, working that to your management system. And I do think as well, if you decide to grow out your own beef cattle on your dairy dairy production facility, think a little bit and do some reading on on the management of feedlot cattle. Because again, the the old fashioned way of doing things is is you put them in with the heifer pen and they grow and you get weight on them eventually.

Bailey Basiel: 20:59

But there are a lot of feedlot management practices and technologies that can be used to kind of really improve your efficiency that you can use for marketing, saying I’m I’m doing this and this is scientifically verified that these cattle are more efficient or simply that it’s economically going to be more feasible for you to feed these calves out, like feedlot animals rather than heifers. Right.

Glenda Pereira: 21:24

So was there anything else that you wanted to share with us regarding any of the studies that you conducted? I think we covered quite quite a few good strategies that folks can be thinking about when they are considering implementing maybe a different way to to look at beef on dairy.

Bailey Basiel: 21:40

Absolutely. So I think I’ve summarized most of the important facts from our research. And if you’re more interested on some of those specific studies performed, they’re all published on the Penn State Extension website. I think we also have 1 that is coming out in Hoard’s Dairyman either I think probably for June. I don’t think it came out in May. I’m a bad dairy person, and I don’t have my Hoard subscription up to date right now. So Yeah. Couldn’t tell you for certain. But and we are always happy at Penn State Extension to answer more questions related to this kind of data. And I know you all in Maine have Glenda as a great resource as well.

Glenda Pereira: 22:19

So Bailey, do you have a skill or tool to share with farmers that can help improve their bottom line and obviously related to your research?

Bailey Basiel: 22:27

Absolutely. So, this is from another extension team at the University of Wisconsin Madison, and I think it is called the UW Premium Beef on Dairy Program. And what it is is it’s an online tool where you can go into their page and enter all of your herd statistics. So things like your, conception rates and pregnancy rates, your, price you’re getting for beef on dairy calves at the time, and it will generate for you, how many beef calves you’ll be generating or how much beef semen you should be using, in relation to, how much sex semen you should be using in your herd as well and how much profit you can get from utilizing that strategy. I think that is a really fantastic tool that has been designed by some extension specialists that I would highly recommend.

Glenda Pereira: 23:28

Great. And I’ll add it to the show notes so folks, can, click on it and and go from there.

Bailey Basiel: 23:36


Glenda Pereira: 23:36

And, Bailey, where can folks maybe kinda follow-up with the research you’re conducting and learn more about the work you’re doing.

Bailey Basiel: 23:44

So I’m about to begin a postdoc at the USDA Animal Improvement and Genomics Lab, AIGL, and that is located in Beltsville, Maryland. So we just moved to Maryland. So I am sticking with my northeast environment for now.

Glenda Pereira: 24:04

Yeah. So you’ll have a new email, but but maybe folks can just look you up and look up Agile and kind of follow the work you’re doing there.

Bailey Basiel: 24:13

I’m on ResearchGate. I keep that very up to date. I’m less active on LinkedIn, but I’m trying to get better.

Glenda Pereira: 24:24

That’s a great resource to have, and, I’m very excited for you and your next venture working with Dr. Paul VanRaden over at Agile.

Glenda Pereira: 24:33

He he’s a fantastic geneticist. I mean, so I know you’ll learn a lot.

Bailey Basiel: 24:38

I’m really excited, and we are planning on continuing some of that impact of beef on dairy on the dairy cow work. The Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding also, I think, has an intern this summer that’s gonna be doing some of that work. Great. So so more research is to come. And I’m sure when that is ready to be out, we will be doing some additional kind of hordes art articles and other science communication because the reason we do everything at Agile is for the US dairy producer.

Glenda Pereira: 25:08

So, Bailey, with that, thank you so much for entertaining all of our questions today. I was very excited to talk about this topic because I love talking about anything related to genetics. It’s something that I’m very comfortable discussing, and so it was great to catch up with you. And we’ll have to have you back on to learn more about your work

Bailey Basiel: 25:30

at Agile. Absolutely. Thanks so much for having me, Glenda. Happy to ramble any time. Alright.

Bailey Basiel: 25:36

Thank you, Bailey. See you soon.

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