COLUMBIA, Mo. – Beef herd owners from four other states took home replacement heifers from the Show-Me-Select sale at Joplin Regional Stockyards, Nov. 17.

The 315 heifers—future mama cows—averaged $1,867, with top prices at $2,200 per head.

Top sale price often goes to only one lot. This time, three lots totaling 19 head from three consignors took sale top bids.

Top-price lots were from John Wheeler, Marionville; DJV Ranch, Edwards; and Marvin Phipps, Cassville.

Buyers came from Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Iowa, but mostly from southwestern Missouri. The Iowa buyer bid online.

This was the 37th sale, says Eldon Cole, sale coordinator and University of Missouri Extension livestock specialist, Mount Vernon. Sales, spring and fall, are organized by farmer members. All heifers are from Missouri herd owners taking part in the MU Extension heifer program.

The southwest sale average of $1,867 almost equaled the $1,872 average at the Kirksville sale the same night.

The sales draw repeat bidders, who often bid more when they know what they get, says David Patterson, MU Extension beef specialist. He brought the heifer program to Missouri 20 years ago.

Bidders know they get more than a pregnant heifer, which is guaranteed. They get data on genetics. That indicates performance of calves to arrive next spring. Catalogs with value-adding data are made day of the sale.

Not all heifers are of the same genetics. With DNA testing, more is known on many heifers, which adds value.

AI-bred heifers bring more than bull-bred heifers. A heifer class addition is for Tier II heifers, which are from top proven sires bred to top proven sires.

At Joplin, the premium bonus for Tier II AI-bred was $266 over sale average and a bonus of $377 over heifers bred by bulls.

The most recent class addition is Show-Me Plus, the heifers from herds with genomic tests. Those are for known breeds or commercial heifers. Different tests are used for each breed. Most top-selling heifers were Show-Me Plus.

Over time, consignors build reputations. For example, John Wheeler, after 27 sales and more than 1,200 heifers, is known for quality black-baldies. Those are Angus-Hereford cross heifers. The result is black heifers with white or mottled faces. Crossbreeding gives a genetic edge called heterosis.

The sale catalog gives an expected calving date for the heifers. Those bred by fixed-time artificial insemination (FTAI), all bred in one day, can have a specific birth date. Although that date can vary, as different cows can have different gestation days.

Now, ultrasound pregnancy checks give more accurate calving dates.

A short calving season appeals to buyers. Calving time takes day-and-night herd checks. Buyers know they can get more sleep, which is worth an extra bid.

The advantage most cited by buyers is calving ease. Prebreeding exams by veterinarians identify heifers with small pelvic openings. Those are not bred.

The prebreeding exams also improve herd calving percentages.

The two sales Friday night were first of six fall sales. Coming sales: Kingsville, Nov. 25; Fruitland, Dec. 2; Farmington, Dec. 8; and Palmyra, Dec. 9. The fall heifers will calve next spring, from February to April.

Herd owners wanting to boost quality and prices can join the SMS heifer program by contacting their county MU Extension center. For more information, visit

Many veterinarians promote the extension program for their clients. It reduces midnight calls in winter to pull a calf.