Show-Me-Select helps farms boost beef quality, prices

Duane Dailey

Missouri is cow country, not the image seen in western movies. Those cattle films don’t show grass, but sand and sagebrush. Here, hills are grass covered.

Missouri’s forage supports cows.

Western cow herds shrink as Missouri shows up as No. 2 in U.S. cow numbers.

Another trend grows more vital. We’re gaining in cow quality also. The dollar growth goes to our better quality calves when we send them to feed yards west of us.

There’s a lot of economics behind these not so obvious trends.

Quality drives wellbeing in the cattle business. Consumers have caught on that USDA Prime beef tastes better than low-grade beef.

Price spreads between USDA Choice and Select grades keep growing. Consumers pay more for juicy, tender, tasty beef. So quality competes with quantity in beef. Other meats also compete. There’s huge competition with pork, which abounds and grows. Chicken once led.

In this season, maybe I shouldn’t mention it but turkey demand has slumped in comparison. Soon, I will eat my annual share of turkey for the year.

But, a recent market report I saw told that beef-rib demand jumped as the holidays approach. How does a standing rib roast of Prime beef sound for a feast, holiday or not?

There’s a whole lot of beef-promotion dollars spent on spreading the word. Have you heard “Beef: It’s what’s for dinner.” Maybe you saw an ad or a bumper sticker. That’s from the Cattlemen’s Association They do a whole lot more as well.

Certified Angus Beef (CAB) promotes quality beef in a big way. But more important, they pay premiums to farmers or feed yards when carcasses sell at packing plant. CAB grid premiums are big. CAB led the way in teaching that a premium is paid above daily market prices. Premiums paid for calves grading CAB add income.

Chefs at the high-price coastal steak houses know the value of CAB steaks on the grill. Those consumer dollars help cow-calf profits all the way back to Missouri pastures. I need to brag a bit on another point of pride. Your University of Missouri land-grant university helps big time on Show-Me beef quality.

Research from the MU Thompson Farm, Spickard, gets applied on more and more Missouri farms. The Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifer Program comes from those breeding studies.

There are multiple gains to farmers from SMS heifers. First getting attention is the jump in production from calving ease. A calf that’s too big to be born can’t arrive without lots of help. It’s easy, if SMS protocols are followed.

In the more than two decades I’ve written about this program, lots of improvements were added.

Calving ease cuts high death losses at calving time.  That comes from management at breeding. Also, planned breeding brings better genetics.

Herd owners learn genetics make major boosts in quality beef. Calving ease and quality are controlled by genes. Now, lots of attention is being given to genomics.

That means buyers at the coming SMS heifer fall sales must study their catalogs. Those printouts contain rich data. Genomics is the new quality trend in Missouri herds.

Poultry producers improved genetics long ago, big time. Now beef producers do the same. They learn genomic testing.

We still don’t make enough prime beef. Nationally, only six percent of calves grade prime. It’s not uncommon for SMS producers to get two-thirds of their fed steers grading prime.

Export sales pay even more for prime, which balances our trade deficits.

Producers needing to upgrade cow herds can learn the protocols and genomics. Or, they can buy proven replacements at six heifer sales this fall.

Sales are Nov. 16, Joplin and Kirksville; Nov. 24, Kingsville; Dec. 1, Fruitland; Dec. 7, Farmington; Dec. 8, Palmyra. Search the web for MU AgEBB on your computer for details. Type in AgEBB Show-Me-Select. Read the catalogs before the sale.

For farmers, look for heifers to fill herd holes. Don’t wait to grow your own.