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University of Missouri Extension
Published: Friday, April 1, 2011
Al Kennett, 573-985-3911
HANNIBAL, Mo. – As tested beef breeding stock continues to gain in value, producers in Northeast Missouri gathered to honor their stock buyers Thursday night, Mar. 31.
After a record setting sale the NEMO Beef Cattle Improvement Association bought dinner for their buyers.
The 45 performance tested bulls sold for an average $3,546 at the sale Saturday, March 26. “That’s about $1,000 more than last year,” said Al Kennett, MU Extension regional livestock specialist, New London.
In the sale nine bulls sold for over $4,500. The top bull brought $5,250
This sale’s record follows a record-setting NEMO fall sale of Show-Me-Select replacement heifers. Then 174 heifers averaged $1,665 with a top of $2,100.
“We’ve not seen anything like this,” Kennett said.
The annual bull sales have been held since 1973. At the first sale 32 bulls averaged $959.
The bull sales introduced a novel concept. Sires were evaluated on performance for weight and average daily gain. The bulls are also graded on soundness as well as conformation. All have been in the Missouri On-Farm Testing Program or another certified test.
Before testing, the bulls were judged on appearance. The on-farm tests are supervised by MU Extension livestock specialists when bulls are weighed at weaning and at the end of the feeding test.
The performance tested bull sales are held in other regions, however the NEMO group is the group that gets together to honor buyers.
“This is a very social group,” Kennett said after the banquet. “They like to get together and talk about what they do.”
Testing programs have evolved. The first performance tested bull sales were held in Columbia at the University of Missouri Trowbridge Center on the agriculture campus. State extension livestock specialists crossed the state to grade all bulls entered in the program.
Those sales were held for about 10 years before the program grew to where sales were held in each region.
The sales offer a catalog with not only the pedigrees of registered stock but also performance data. That includes birth weight, 205-day (weaning) weights, 160-day on feed gains (average daily gain) and 365-day yearling weights. Buyers get information with their bulls.
The most important change, Kennett said, has been adding of EPDs (Expected Progeny Differences.)
In the catalog, Kennett explains. “EPDs proved the best means of comparing genetic merit of animals within the breed.” The index incorporates the individual animal’s performance but also that of its offspring.
The catalog lists EPDs of the animal’s ancestors. The EPDs also show the expected accuracy. The more offspring that have been tested the higher the accuracy of the predicted genetic merit.
The accuracy is a decimal number between zero and one. The higher the number, the better the expected performance.
By looking at EPDs for any given trait, buyers can select breeding stock that will enhance the weak points in their own herds.
All of that educational work on performance testing bulls made it easier to introduce the Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifer Program, Kennett said. “Our longtime producers of tested bulls were the first to grab this new idea,” he added.
The SMS heifer program was pilot tested in Southwest Missouri and Northeast Missouri in 1997. The heifer sales have now spread statewide.
The banquet is more than social, Kennett admitted. “We use it to get feedback. I send out surveys to all buyers which help us learn how our heifers performed and the buyer satisfaction.”
“The producers get that information on their heifers,” Kennett said. He also gives feedback to veterinarians helping in the program. “They learn how well they did in determining pregnancies and predicting expected calving dates from the pregnancy checks.”
Some buyers return their forms at the dinner. “We have buyers who come a long way,” Kennett said. “It’s not the free dinner, but they want to meet the people who produced the stock. And, they find out what is coming next sale.”
The records show progress. Average weaning weight of all bulls in the sale in 2002 was 656 pounds. This year, they hit a record 707 pounds for that 205-day weight. At the same time, the average age of the bulls has dropped.
Paying attention to performance improves efficiency. The sales also improve income, Kennett said.
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