Missouri Extension Offers Cow/Calf Guidance

Growing demand for high eating-quality beef is causing many cow/calf producers to shift their breeding practices to produce more cattle that yield choice or prime grade carcasses, and states like Missouri are there to help.

Packer premiums for prime or choice carcasses exceed the premiums for various programs like grass-fed, antibiotic-free and humane-handling.  Program premiums are nice, and they do lessen the effect of the current extremely negative feeding returns, but the premiums for choice and prime beef are greater.

The trouble is, those quality-grade premiums are harder to control and repeat on a regular basis.  Certain breeds tend to produce more or fewer prime carcasses than others, but even then, a certain percentage of the cattle will always have lower-grading carcasses.

Cow/calf producers need a way to stand out from the crowd of other producers when they sell their calves, either for replacement heifers or as feedlot animals.




Increasing the percentage of high-end carcasses takes paperwork, attention to detail and a focus on replacement heifers.  The University of Missouri’s Division of Animal Sciences has developed the Show-Me-Select program to help Missouri producers attain their goals of greater quality and returns.

The fastest way to improve herd quality will be by artificial insemination from top, proven sires, said David Patterson, University of Missouri extension specialist at a forage and beef conference Monday.  Coupled with fixed-time artificial insemination, which adds uniformity to the calf crop, premium prices can result at the time of sale.

And while the Show-Me-Select program aims to improve heifer quality, it adds to the average carcass quality of all.

But for the cow/calf producer, adhering to the program’s protocols cuts costs and increases returns, attractive features in a highly competitive and often unprofitable business.  There will be more culling of heifers before they are bred, increasing the length of time they remain in the herd, which means fewer replacements will be necessary.




A look at the SMS requirements online shows they are logical, even if they could be called nitpicky by some.  They require measurements and records on each animal, proving their worthiness to be bred.  It includes such tests as a pelvic area exam to determine which ones will have trouble calving, vaccination and weaning records.

Sires must have a known Expected Progeny Difference, which is an estimate of the genetic value of an animal as a parent.  Differences in EPDs between two individuals of the same breed predict differences in performance between their future offspring when mated to animals of the same average genetic merit, according to Scott Greiner, extension animal scientist at Virginia Tech.

They also must be registered by their respective national breed registry.

But even if there is more work involved with programs like SMS, the results at sale time can be rewarding.

“Our best bidders are return buyers,” Patterson said.




Cash cattle markets Thursday were quiet with bids holding at $136 per cwt on a live basis, and offers from $140 to $142.  In Nebraska’s dressed market, bids were posted at $210 against asking prices of $218 to $220.

Cattle last week traded at $134 to mostly $137 live, up about $3, and from $212 to $214 dressed, up about $4.

The USDA reported its choice cutout price down $0.30 per cwt at $219.75, and select off $0.29 at $211.64.  The choice/select spread narrowed to $8.11 from $8.12, and there were 87 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.

The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Wednesday was $158.79 per cwt, off $0.29.  This compares with Mar’s Thursday settlement of $157.60, down $0.70.