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Producers gain premium prices when selling quality beef from planned-breeding programs

Media contact:

Duane Dailey
Writer
University of Missouri Extension
Phone: 573-882-9181
Email: DaileyD@missouri.edu

Published: Monday, July 29, 2013

Story sources:

David J. Patterson, 573-882-7519
Logan Wallace, 417-256-2391

WEST PLAINS, Mo. – Quality beef pays. Technology to produce quality is on the shelf, ready to use, said David Patterson, University of Missouri Extension beef reproduction specialist.

He spoke to the South Central Missouri Cattlemen’s Association in West Plains, July 25.

“There is increasing demand, domestic and international, for high-quality beef,” he said. “Markets recognize value and pay for quality.”

Quality beef becomes a way for U.S. cow herds to compete in a growing world market. “We can’t compete by producing commodity beef,” he added.

U.S. cow numbers are the lowest in decades, but prospects for lower feed costs make profitable herd expansion possible.

Since arriving in Missouri, Patterson led statewide adoption of the Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifer Program. The program improves performance genetics in beef herds.

At base, the heifer program uses sires with proven high-accuracy genetics. Increasingly, those genetics are delivered by fixed-time artificial insemination (FTAI). Patterson developed and proved protocols in research at the MU Thompson Farm in Grundy County. They were tested in farm herds across the state.

Success in heifer breeding led to Quality Beef by the Numbers, a new MU Extension program. It helps market steer mates of superior heifers.

Patterson showed recent analysis of economic returns at heifer sales.

At baseline, bull-bred heifers brought an average of $1,549 per head. But AI-bred heifers averaged $1,695, an increase of $146.

Over time, Show-Me-Select added Tier Two heifers, which require higher-accuracy sires. Those heifers bred natural service brought $1,786, an increase of $237 over baseline.

Tier Two heifers bred AI averaged $1,906, adding $357 per heifer.

“Prices paid show that buyers recognize proven AI genetics,” Patterson said. “At the sales, repeat buyers bid up prices. They know the value.”

Reproductive management stacks genetics, which brings more money, Patterson said.

Technology that boosts value in heifers also adds value to genetically superior steers. That’s the foundation for Quality Beef by the Numbers.

As in the heifer program, a computer database of herd performance will aid QB development.

Quality breeding requires a system. “It requires sticking with a plan through generations,” Patterson said.  He explained the programs include more than genetics from proven high-accuracy sires.

With timed AI, all cows in a herd can be bred on the first day of breeding season. That groups calves into uniform lots sought by buyers. Also, early-born calves gain more weight over the longer growing season, adding pounds to herd production.

In addition, early-born replacement heifers stay in cow herds longer, producing more calves.

In heifer development, pre-breeding exams and early pregnancy diagnosis play a part in management. Local veterinarians help.

Initially, the main aim was calving ease. Those genetics added more live births. Now, breeding at MU Thompson Farm uses $Value Indexes. An index allows multi-trait selection, expressed in dollars per head. “This simplifies genetic decisions,” Patterson said.

Steers from Tier Two breeding at Thompson Farm grade 34 percent prime at the packing plant. The national average for prime is 3 percent.

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.

AI protocols are suited for small herds, or large. Producers who work off-farm can set FTAI breeding to fit with work.

Logan Wallace, MU Extension livestock specialist, West Plains, arranged the program. He also helps area herd owners develop breeding programs.

Beef research and extension are part of the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, Columbia.