COLUMBIA, Mo. – The sale was small, but 70 registered bidders lifted the average price to $2,374 for 133 Show-Me-Select heifers at Fruitland (Mo.) Livestock Auction, Dec. 5.

“The sale started slow, but bidding wars added mid-sale excitement,” said Erin Larimore, University of Missouri Extension livestock specialist, Jackson, Mo. “There were strong prices the last third of the sale.”

“Consignors continue to bring top-quality heifers,” she added. “I think consignors were pleased with prices.”

Eleven consignors brought replacement heifers to the sale. Of the bidders, 32 of them took bred heifers home.

“The majority of the heifers returned to farms in southeast Missouri,” Larimore said.

The top-selling heifer brought $3,900. It was consigned by Turner Farms, Belgrade. The registered Angus went to Cunningham Farms, Bonne Terre.

The largest consignment of 33 heifers came from Birk Cattle Co., Jackson.  Of their 14 lots, eight lots were bred by timed artificial insemination. The other lots were bull bred. AI breeding gives access to the top sires in their breed. Also, timed breeding gives a more precise calving date.

Buyers like the reduced labor at calving time. The fall-sale heifers calve in the spring.

All the heifers are from farms enrolled in the MU Show-Me-Select replacement program. The year-round educational program promotes use of proven genetics and prescribed management.

The original focus was on improved calving ease and reduced death loss at birth. Now, better genetics brings heifer calves with other strong maternal traits. Steer calves from the herds bring higher prices as feeder calves or fed cattle with their improved carcass quality.

Dave Patterson, MU Extension beef specialist, has noted that the best bidders are those who are repeat buyers. “They know what they are getting,” Patterson said.

Larimore noted there was great concern going into the sale about prices. In recent weeks, prices of commodity cattle have slipped from record highs.

In all four sales so far, consignors and sale organizers were surprised by strength of demand for quality heifers. After decades of decline in cow numbers, the U.S. cow herd owners are rebuilding.

Patterson tells beef producers, “Rebuild your cow herd with quality, not just numbers.”

The SMS heifer program was developed from research at the MU Thompson Farm, Spickard. New heifer protocols were developed by Patterson. The MU herd now produces fed cattle that top the market when they grade USDA prime.

Nationally, about 5 percent of steers grade prime at packing plants. From the Thompson herd, two-thirds of the steers meet that mark. By retaining ownership of their steers, owners collect premium prices on the grid.

The next, and last, Show-Me-Select sale is Saturday, Dec. 12, 12:30 p.m., at F&T Livestock Market, Palmyra.

Only heifers that carry trademarked black-and-gold ear tags can be sold as Show-Me-Select.

At the sale barn, heifers are checked on arrival by graders from the Missouri Department of Agriculture. They must meet fitness standards. All are sold guaranteed pregnant.

Information on enrolling in the Show-Me-Select program is available from regional extension livestock specialists through local MU Extension centers.

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