MOUNTAIN GROVE, Mo. – Beef farmers can improve the quality of their herds—and get paid for it. The technology is proven, ready to use and waiting on the shelf.
Now beef farmers must seek out and collect premiums that are available for improved cattle. Dave Patterson, University of Missouri Extension beef specialist, explained the possibilities to board members of the Missouri Beef Industry Council.
“This technology explosion allows beef improvements not possible 10 years ago,” Patterson told the group at its educational meeting. “In the pipeline, genomic research is on the way from the University of Missouri.”
Adoption of research results slowed for many reasons, he said. One stumbling block was a fear that producers wouldn’t be paid for quality.
“You have seen the results of MU research in the Show-Me-Select Heifer Program,” Patterson said. He showed a chart of higher premiums paid for heifers bred with artificial insemination to proven high-accuracy sires.
In the last year, those heifers, called Tier Two, sold for average premiums of $259 per head. Show-Me-Select heifers bred by bulls, most likely without accuracy records, received average premiums of $160.
“Premiums were added above prices that averaged almost $1,500 per heifer,” Patterson added. “Buyers of replacement heifers are learning the value of improved genetics. Once they see the results, they come back and pay more at the next sales.”
So far, emphasis has been on raising superior heifers. “Now we must ratchet up a notch,” he said. “Marketing efforts will increase to collect added value from steer mates of those heifers.
“As producers learn the basics of improved reproductive management and herd health, the focus shifts to improving genetics.
“This is not breed-specific,” Patterson said. “All breeds can adopt the ideas for improving their herds.
“Anyone can do this. It is not rocket science.”
Herd genetic improvement comes at a time of growing demand for quality beef.
Patterson told producers of expected increased interest in quality replacement heifers from buyers in Texas, Oklahoma and other states hit by years of drought. Ranchers in those areas downsized cow herds.
“Once the drought breaks, they know where to find quality heifers,” he said. “But they are not rebuilding herds, yet.”
Missourians have time to raise more replacement heifers this year.
“Recent visitors from Texas told of big rains earlier this spring,” Patterson said.
Missouri producers outside of the Show-Me-Select program are adopting the protocols. Many local veterinarians use what has been called the “Missouri Recipe” with all of their beef cow-calf clients.
Patterson cited quality advances in the beef herd at MU Thompson Farm. For three years, the calves fed out in Kansas have graded 100 percent choice or better and 31 percent graded prime. Those quality grades draw premium prices. Of those, 25 percent qualified also for Certified Angus Beef (CAB) premiums.
Thompson Farm, Spickard, is part of the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, Columbia. It is in the Agricultural Experiment Station, MU’s statewide system of research farms and centers.
Other states are asking for assistance in starting replacement heifer programs, Patterson said.
For young farmers interested in beef cattle, it is a good time to enter the business.
“Beef herds are profitable and the demand for high-quality beef is growing. However, producers must adopt new technology to be in business 20-30 years from now,” Patterson said.
“It’s time for Missouri producers to look to the future. With the Show-Me attitude, producers can see benefits from the proven reproduction protocols.
“Embrace it,” Patterson said.
Find more information about the Show-Me Select program at http://agebb.missouri.edu/select/.