Country tour shows problem of short beef pasture grasses

Duane Dailey

Heifer tourism got my attention Saturday going to Kingsville (Mo.) livestock auction. The third of six Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifer sales took me on the road. I was grounded too long by my knee surgeon.

The broken knee cap slows an old slow guy.

The surgeon said I was lucky. My knee grows back together without added hardware. He said if it heals itself, we like that. One more x-ray in a couple of weeks should free me.

I dressed for winter. Long ago, I learned holding pens of a sale barn can be cold on fall sale days. But I was toasty even after shedding my winter coat.

I can’t count that as “Global Warming.” But it was the warmest I’ve been in that auction barn on November day. Temps in the 60’s. Back in the barn, I heard the first word of a blizzard.

I took that as an exaggeration. Later, checking my cellphone e-mail I read that MU leaders took it serious. Dorms and cafeterias were opening early after the holiday. Scholars were urged to return early.

Back in the barn, I saw the best sale of the season, higher prices. Three more sales to come: Fruitland, Farmington and Palmyra.

In the olden days, two decades ago, I attended, wrote and photographed all of the sales.

One of the first greetings in the barn was, “Where’s your camera?” I had to say that photojournalism is for young persons with good knees. Yep, good photography requires getting up and down changing the angle. Physical activity is part of making good photos.

In my photo classes, I told students they didn’t need telephoto lenses. Beginners always think the way to shoot is with a long lens.

I believe the best way to get close-ups is to walk closer.

Now, with so many selfies shot for Facebook, I’d say, back up and include background scenes. SMS heifers are easy to approach close.

Using the new trait of “exit speed” these heifers were A+. (Like Trump grades himself.)

They’ve been handled a lot and were calm in the sale ring. That is all, but one. She came in head high circling the ring. It was explained that she had been sorted in a pen of one, alone for a day. She was anxious to get out.

The heifers looked great, mature pregnant heifers.

This year, body condition scores weren’t as high as usual. They’d encountered some short, dry pastures. Supplemental feed was limited.

That feed shortage concern has worried bidders, keeping prices low at the first two sales.

As part of tourism theme of the day, I was a backseat rider, looking at landscapes. I saw the farmers’ concern. Beef cow herds were on short pastures, all but one. A herd north of Warrensburg had good pastures. Other herds grubbed bites from thin grass.

I saw herds still gleaning stalk fields later than usual it seemed. With early corn harvest, cows still on stalks have eaten all the goodies.

Cornfields give feed for a while. Once fallen ears and shucks are gone, it’s not good. Corn stalks alone won’t provide energy to maintain pregnancies.

A common report from consigners told of lost pregnancies this year. Hot weather after breeding aborted conceptions.

With more open cows, decisions needed on what to do with them. The auction barn had a big run of cows in two days before Saturday’s heifer sale.

There’s a lot more to learn about SMS heifers. They carry more genetic data reported in the sale catalog printed for sale day.

Some heifers come from herds that retain and feed the steers. Those SMS steers grade high in Choice and Prime. That’s where dollar premiums stack up. Quality beef makes heifers worth more.

Also, heifers come guaranteed pregnant. They’re preg checked ahead of the sale, twice. If they’re not with calf, they’ll be replaced or money returned.

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