Dairy Steer Production

Beth Ellen Doran, beef field specialist

From 1997 to 2002, dairy expansion exploded in northwest Iowa. One of the by-products of the industry was dairy steers. However, in 2002, dairy steer production was estimated to account for less than 15% of the fed beef production in NW Iowa. Two years ago, the Iowa Institute for Cooperatives and the Iowa Corn Promotion Board approached ISU Extension about expanding the feeding of dairy steers in northwest Iowa.


An Extension survey, sent to 635 beef producers, indicated several major challenges with dairy steer production: reduced market access, poorer feed conversions and increased housing requirements. Results of this survey, Opportunities and Challenges for Dairy Steer Production in Northwest Iowa, were published in the 2003 Beef Research Report Summaries (AS-649).

In the summer of 2002, I shared the results of the survey with Joel Brinkmeyer, Executive Vice President of the Iowa Cattlemen's Association. At the time, the Iowa Quality Beef Supply Network was conducting informational meetings about a proposed beef packing plant at Tama. Looking to increase their market potential, the Iowa Quality Beef board felt they should expand their harvest beyond fed beef steers. Encouraged by the survey, they decided to commit 15% of their harvest to dairy steers. This created another market outlet and welcomed news for a market that was currently pretty narrow.

On September 3, 2002, a meeting was co-sponsored by the Rock Rapids Farmer's Cooperative, the Iowa Institute for Cooperatives and ISU Extension. Ten Lyon County feedlot producers were linked with a professional firm, specializing in dairy steer marketing. Four producers explored this alliance, but felt that the basis was too wide.

In an allied agricultural meeting, Ron Orth presented the results of the survey to industry personnel. This group decided to commit funding to ISU and the University of Illinois to conduct Holstein steer feeding trials investigating the potential for ethanol co-products in dairy steer rations. In an Extension feedlot meeting on January 14, 2004, Dr. Allen Trenkle presented the results of this research. He concluded that wet or dry distillers grains with solubles can be fed to growing or finishing Holstein steers without affecting performance or carcass value. In the feedlot meeting evaluation, over 80% of the respondents indicated that they had an increased understanding of ethanol co-products and how to use them in dairy beef rations.

Page last updated: July 9, 2006
Page maintained by Linda Schultz, lschultz@iastate.edu