Global food systems

Extension programs improve sale price, quality of beef cattle herds across state

 

MU Extension oversees two statewide programs that are having a major effect on the quality and value of cattle herds across the state.

Rebuilding a herd of beef cattle to capture record-setting prices means more than saving heifers to breed.

Dave Patterson, University of Missouri Extension beef specialist, said heifers need management and new breeding technology. Patterson, who developed the Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifer Program, said management and genetics add value to heifers. In managed care, more heifers become pregnant, producing live calves and staying in a herd longer.

The program also emphasizes reproductive goals aimed at improving breeding performance during the heifers’ first breeding period.

Photo: Chancellor Loftin and Vice Provost Ouart stand in front of a farm building talking to an extension client.University of Missouri Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin and Michael Ouart, vice provost and director of MU Extension, speak with Glen Birk about his work with the Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifer Program.

Livestock operations are seeing the fruits of such labor. At a May 4, 2013, auction in Fruitland, Mo., the average per-head price for Show-Me-Select replacement heifers was $1,822. At the same auction this year, beef herd owners paid a record average of $2,644 per head — a nearly 50 percent increase over last year’s average.

The top lot of four heifers sold for an average of $3,200. All had superior genetics and management. Increasingly, top-selling lots are bred by artificial insemination, which Patterson says people are realizing more and more justifies the higher sale price.

“Quality and genetics on the heifers in this sale were the best we have had,” said Roger Eakins, Show-Me-Select coordinator for southeastern Missouri. “Producers realize most risk has been eliminated and heifers add value to their herd.”

The Show-Me-Select program has been so successful that other states are using it as a template for programs of their own.

“The system works,” Patterson said. “There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Other states starting heifer programs base them on the Missouri Recipe.”

Patterson also heads another program aimed at helping beef cattle herd owners add value to their herds: Quality Beef by the Numbers (QB).

 

“Quality and genetics on the heifers in this sale were the best we have had. Producers realize most risk has been eliminated and heifers add value to their herd.”
– Roger Eakins

 

QB seeks to expand technology adoption, reward industry adopters and increase supplies of high-quality beef. Technology that boosts value in heifers also adds value to genetically superior steers.

Where Show-Me-Select focuses on breeding in particular though, QB emphasizes a host of production practices and management techniques to increase the percentage of beef sold that reaches the two highest grades: choice and prime. The higher grade the beef, the higher the price for the farmer.

Prime-grade premiums remain the highest and most consistent bonuses paid. However, other premiums are gained as well. Quality-beef programs require more management, but that can result in less time and labor at breeding and calving times.

Implementation of the QB program expanded significantly in FY 2014 to 30 herds in three states with more than 14,000 cows.

 

The Missouri Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifer Program recently created a Tier Two classification that distinguishes heifers from high-accuracy sires. Tier Two Show-Me-Select heifers carrying natural-service-sired pregnancies sold for an average of $125 more per heifer. Tier Two Show-Me-Select heifers carrying AI-sired pregnancies sold for an average $383 more per heifer. Producers from 103 of Missouri’s 114 counties have enrolled heifers in the program and sold 26,977 heifers.