Rising Prices Draws Producers To Heifer Plan

Rising Prices Draws Producers To Heifer Plan

A shrinking beef-cow herd will drive calf prices higher in 2012, according to a University of Missouri beef economist.

Any additional beef demand on the consumer side could lead to "shockingly high cattle prices this year," says Scott Brown, MU Extension economist.

Another boost to prices comes from premiums paid for high-quality calves, continues Brown.

The Show-Me-Select program adds quality to herds.

"Cattle prices hit resistance at the $1.25 per pound level," notes Brown. "But we will overcome that resistance with any additional recovery in the general economy.

"You prefer prices driven by demand, not short supply, but cattle numbers are low and continuing to decline. This trend has continued almost uninterrupted since 1996."

Brown spoke at producer meetings in Savannah, Maryville and Gallatin, Mo. The meetings were requested by herd owners wanting to start a Show-Me-Select heifer sale in northwest Missouri this fall.

Last fall, SMS replacement heifers set record prices, topping at the Palmyra, Mo., sale in December, where 255 bred heifers averaged $2,012. Prices ranged from $1,700 to $2,450.

The heifer development program started as a way to cut death losses at birth in cow herds. Now heifers are bred to calving-ease bulls to reduce assistance to heifers at calving time.

Many sires with calving-ease genetics also carry higher EPDs (expected progeny differences) for weaning and yearling weights. This improves prices paid for steer mates of the replacement heifers. EPDs also improve marbling, which boosts the USDA quality grades on calves. Marbling appears as flecks of fat in choice and prime grade steaks.

Dave Patterson, MU Extension beef reproduction specialist, developed breeding protocols for Show-Me-Select heifers at Thompson Farm, Spickard, Mo., part of the Missouri Agricultural Experiment Station.

Breeding protocols sheets, called "The Missouri Recipe," are available free at MU Extension centers. "Be sure you have the 2012 edition, as the information is updated every year," notes Patterson.

A farmer-directed nonprofit organization oversees the Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifer Program. The board approved the new rules in January.

Interested beef producers can enroll in early February. Joining now allows producers to consign heifers in 2012 fall sales. Membership fee is $5, with a $2 fee per heifer to be charged later.

The existing four fall sales are near capacity, according to Patterson. That brings renewed interest in starting a sale in northwest Missouri.

If enough producers join Show-Me-Select, more meetings will be held to set time, place and location for a fall sale. The sales are organized by participating farmers.

Herd owners can join by contacting their regional livestock specialist through the local MU Extension center. Producers statewide may join.

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