Jamie T. Courter
Assistant Professor, Beef Genetics

Daniel Mallory
Field Specialist in Livestock

Missouri Show-Me-Plus logo.

The Missouri Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifer Program is an on-farm heifer development and marketing program that has improved the quality of replacement heifers both in the state of Missouri and across the country. Its long-standing criteria are designed to ensure beef producers are offered valuable replacement females that are set up for success and will continue to be profitable throughout their lifetime. To receive a Show-Me-Select ear tag and be eligible for sale, a heifer must check multiple boxes in relation to growth, overall conformation, and timely puberty attainment. All characteristics known to be correlated to a heifer’s reproductive success and overall lifetime profitability.

More recently, a secondary classification known as Show-Me-Plus has been introduced as an additional marketing opportunity alongside Show-Me-Select. This distinction certifies that Show-Me-Select heifers, either Tier I or Tier II, are being sold with additional genomic information available to the buyer. This information is delivered in the form of either genomically enhanced expected progeny differences (GE-EPD) or commercial genomic test results. This MU Extension guide serves as a resource for producers interested in participating in Show-Me-Plus, including information on the importance of genomic testing and its ability to identify genetic variability and ultimately potential for profitability.

Screening process in the Show-Me-Select replacement heifer program – an overview

In the Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifer Program timeline, an initial screening of heifers will take place at the prebreeding exam (30 to 60 days prior to breeding). At this time a University of Missouri Extension livestock field specialist will record individual identification (farm ID and official ID), color, breed, weight (optional), reproductive tract score (RTS) and pelvic measurements (provided by veterinarian) as well as vaccinations. During this initial examination the heifers are also screened for blemishes, disposition, and feet and leg conformation. These criteria will be observed each time the heifer is examined (prebreeding, pregnancy check and final pregnancy check/tagging). Heifers that meet all requirements undergo one further evaluation at sanctioned sales and are evaluated by Missouri Department of Agriculture graders for muscling and frame, weight, and body condition.

These standards are designed as a “Black and Gold Standard” that all producers should consider when retaining or selling potential replacement heifers. More detailed information on these criteria and how to assess heifers can be found on the MU Extension publication G2093, Screening Criteria for Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifers guide sheet.


Once a heifer is on track to qualify for Show-Me-Select, there is only one additional step needed to designate them as a Show-Me-Plus heifer – they must be genomically tested on a panel approved by University of Missouri Extension. This simply requires a DNA sample be taken and submitted for testing a minimum of two months prior to her sale date. Once results are received, they must be sent to both the MU Extension livestock field specialist and State Beef Genetics Extension Specialist prior to tagging. It is important to note that Show-Me-Plus can be added to either Tier I or Tier II heifers.

Once qualified, heifers sold with genomic information will be designated in the sale catalog with the Show-Me-Plus logo. While not a requirement, heifers can be grouped into sale lots based on similar genetic merit should the producer choose. Interested producers should contact an MU Extension livestock field specialist for assistance.

The value of Show-Me-Plus, it’s more than a logo

Illustration of the shuffling of chromosomes that occurs during sperm formation.
Figure 1. Illustration of the shuffling of chromosomes that occurs during sperm formation. The first column represents the bull’s two sets of Chromosomes. Chromosomes inherited from the bull’s sire are in blue. Chromosomes from the bull’s dam are in pink. The other columns depict possible combinations of paternal and maternal chromosomes in individual sperm cells.

There is no arguing that the requirements put in place to qualify heifers for Show-Me-Select are invaluable guidelines proven to increase lifetime productivity. However, all these screening criteria are phenotypic, or based on what producers can see or measure. The value of Show-Me-Plus lies in its ability to provide insight into what cannot be seen – her genetic potential not only for fertility, but other economically important traits. Why does this matter? Because not every heifer sired by a ‘great’ bull will result in a ‘great’ cow. Genetic variability, termed Mendelian Sampling, impacts the genetic material passed from sire and dam to their progeny.

For example, a bull calf inherits 50% of its DNA from its sire and the other 50% from its dam in the form of a sperm or egg. When that calf becomes a sire, each sperm produced is a random sampling of the 30 pairs of chromosomes he inherited. As shown in Figure 1, if chromosomes from the sire’s father are blue and those from his mother are pink, there are over 1 billion possible combinations of chromosomal inheritance. In full sibling instances, the same is true for the egg received from the dam. Therefore, there are over (1 billion x 1 billion) 1 quintillion possible combinations of genetic inheritance that creates the variability in each full sibling calf crop. This variability results in differences in genetic potential for traits like calving ease, weaning weight, and many more. For more information on genetic variability and Mendelian Sampling, see "The Random Shuffle of Genes: Putting the E in EPD" by Dr. Jared Decker.

Current requirements put in place for Show-Me-Select help to inform producers of the phenotypic variability in traits related to fertility and overall conformation. The use of Show-Me-Plus and genomic testing allows for the identification of the genetic variability that is also economically relevant but cannot be seen.

Show-Me Plus approved genomic tests

There are two pathways for obtaining genomic information on an animal. The first applies to registered cattle of various breeds in the form of a GE-EPD. The most accurate form of genetic prediction, GE-EPD combine the pedigree of an animal with reported phenotypes and genomic information (DNA) to predict the performance potential of an animal for many traits of interest. These traits will vary by breed association. If a producer is consigning registered females through Show-Me-Select, Show-Me-Plus would only require the purchase of a genomic profile and submission of a DNA sample to their breed association and GE-EPD would be made available to them for submission. Today, GE-EPD are available to all major beef cattle breeds in the United States.

The second pathway for receiving genomic information applies to commercial producers who do not have the ability to register cattle. In this case, to enroll in Show-Me-Plus a DNA sample can be taken on an animal and submitted to a secondary industry entity with commercial genomic profiles available. The current list of approved commercial profiles includes GeneMax Advantage, Igenity Beef, Inherit Select, Method Choice, and Red Navigator. Again, these products differ in the traits delivered, but more importantly, they differ in which breeds are recommended for use (Table 1).

Table 1. Additional information on commercial profiles that can be used to qualify a heifer for Show-Me-Plus, including the provider for purchasing, breeds recommended for use, and what is delivered after purchase.

Profile Provider Breeds recommended Deliverables Phenotypes included
Genemax Advantage Zoetis >75% Angus 17 traits, 3 indexes N
Igenity Beef Neogen Crossbred 17 traits, 3 indexes N
Inherit Select Zoetis Crossbred 18 traits, 3 indexes N
Method Choice Method Genetics 75% Angus 6 traits, 3 indexes Y
Red Navigator Red Angus Association >75% Red Angus 13 traits, 2 indexes N

Getting the most out of the investment

Whether selling registered or commercial females, genomic information provides additional value in being able to identify the genetic variability that exists among a calf crop, or even a whole herd. This provides countless opportunities to the producer including:

Replacement heifer selection – The most expensive venture for any commercial cattleman, understanding the genetic potential of an animal helps producers make more informed selection decisions, ensuring that the females selected as replacements are representative of their breeding goals and objectives.

Tool to inform next seasons breeding decisions – Once selected for breeding, understanding where each female in a herd excels and where she falls short can help producers design complimentary matings, potentially resulting in a more uniform calf crop.

Terminal traits to help make marketing decisions – For producers who retain ownership of calves to place on feed, genomic information can help highlight animals with more genetic potential for carcass merit than others who may be better suited as replacements.

Parentage – Most, if not all, of the products approved for Show-Me-Plus qualification come with complimentary sire verification. Using this information, especially in multisire pastures, provides insight into which bulls are siring the most/least calves, ones that may be causing calving difficulties or genetic abnormalities, and many other things.

The biggest difference between other requirements for Show-Me-Select and Show-Me-Plus is that running genomic testing on replacement heifers can assist producers in making decisions after the regional sale is complete, or before. These predictions provide producers a snapshot of the impact of their selection and mating decisions. Instead of assuming each calf inherited the best DNA from their sire of choice, producers now have information to rank and differentiate heifers before and on sale day based on their actual genetic inheritance.

For example, if a producer has a herd of 30 cows, it is expected that 15 heifers would be born every year. Of those 15, with a 15% replacement rate, he would need approximately 5 heifers to keep for himself, with the other 10 being consigned to Show-Me-Select. If genomic information were available, it could be used to determine which of the 15 possible replacements best match his breeding program and the objectives of his operation. In turn, providing the genomic information on the 10 heifers placed in the sale may bring in new buyers whose breeding objectives they do align.

In addition to maternal and growth traits, many of these profiles also include predictions for carcass traits of interest. Therefore, if a producer retains ownership of cattle for a branded beef program, the results could inform which heifers would be better suited for such a program as compared to being developed into a replacement heifer. Referring to the last example, maybe the same producer keeps 5 heifers with maternal and growth traits of interest as replacements, retains 5 heifers that excel in carcass traits but have little or no maternal traits as feeder calves, and then sells the last 5, with genomic information, through Show-Me-Plus.


Obtaining a clearer understanding of the genetics a potential replacement heifer inherits from her sire and dam provides irreplaceable information to a current or future owner. Ultimately, it can be viewed as insurance to both the buyer and seller. This only elevates the existing standard of excellence for which the Show-Me-Select brand is known. For more information on how to enroll females into Show-Me-Plus, visit the Show-Me-Select webpage at or contact the MU Extension livestock field specialist in your region.