Show-Me Select sales show value of MU farm research

Duane Dailey

“Show-Me-Select Heifers” became a brand with value tied to the name. Missouri farmers collect dollars from replacement beef heifers that carry the name.

Building a brand isn’t a given. It doesn’t come from advertising or marketing. It comes from delivering a product that boosts value. Trust and reputation have value. SMS heifers add millions of dollars for Missouri beef producers.

Buyers of SMS heifers have learned the name means something. Value gains add up far beyond spring and fall Show Me-Select Replacement Heifer Sales which carry that name.

This fall, there will be six authorized sales of spring-calving replacement heifers. Next spring there will be sales of fall-calving heifers. Value grew far beyond what replacements sell for at auction. Value comes at calving time when offspring add value to purchasing owners’ herds.

The first value comes in calving ease. That goes beyond not having to call a vet to assist at birth. As I recall, in early stories, I learned that 19 percent of first-calf heifers needed assistance. Worse, a lot of those did not end in a live birth.

Farmers learn quickly calving season becomes easy to live through.

Over time, they learn those heifers become cows that stay in herds longer.

I recall producers who have cows that still work after 11 calves. Previous average age of leaving the herd had been half that.

Now SMS adds more value than just calving ease. The SMS program shows an example of what scientists call a shift from phenotype to genotype.

At first selection comes from how a heifer looks and walks. The second tells how a heifer looks on the inside. It’s in DNA or genomics.

The heifer sales show the animals, walking. But, buyers hold in their hands catalogs showing genetic potential. Now, this gets sticky. It took a while for farmers to understand EPDs or expected progeny differences.

Now, genetics become easier. Instead of dealing with many EPD numbers, buyers look at one number: A dollar index with multiple genetic indicators joined into one number. That number: A dollar value.

I sat with Jared Decker at lunch during MU extension annual conference last week. Decker, state extension genetic specialists, has his feet solidly on the ground in Missouri. Show-Me farmers benefit from what he teaches. More is coming.

Decker should have new numbers out before fall sales start. I’m waiting.

There’s still need for writers to translate science words into farmer talk, I believe. In cost cutting, administrators think scientists can write their own stories. One reportedly said Extension doesn’t have the luxury of writing about what state specialists do. Remaining writers will report on administrator success.

At annual conference, we learned that print publications are out. Farmers will get needed guides from the Internet. That new Extension web will be out next year. Employees stood up to say that their areas still have dial-up connections. That’s too slow to download guide sheets, they said.

“That’s being worked on,” administrators said.

No date for upgrades given.

The computer gurus may have a system installed and running next year. But, I heard no plan for getting readable content on the web for farmers. People needing information may not be skilled with the software.

And, specialists may not be trained to write for farmers. A teacher I know says that anyone who wrote a PhD dissertation needs reprogramming to write for us every-day Missourians. Future web content may use words like phenotype and genotype.

I’ve learned that scientists and bureaucrats by habit use words that confuse not teach common readers. Jargon thrives.

Deciphering obscurities isn’t a luxury. I call it economic development.

From the beginning, early adopters read about Show-Me-Select Heifers in local newspapers. Over time, they learned by looking at neighbors’ herds. Or, their veterinarian told them to use MU heifer protocols.

Vets, more than anyone, like calving-ease.

Write to or 511 W. Worley, Columbia, Mo., 65203.


(Duane Dailey has been translating science-speak into “farmer talk” for Missouri’s farmers for more than 50 years as a reporter for University Extension. The  bureaucrats have taken away his MU campus office space but they’ll not likely silence the old professor any time soon…we hope. — The editor).