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Heifer Genetics Aid Gains in Missouri Beef Quality

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Farmers needing heifers to replace old cows, or sold cows, are at a good time. This fall’s Show-Me-Select heifer sales offer spring-calving replacements to build herds.

Recent declining profits and bad winters forced downsizing of the Missouri heifer supply. Recent price upticks add optimism to beef outlooks.

Growing demand for quality beef lends optimistic outlooks for 2020 cattle prices, says Scott Brown, University of Missouri Extension livestock economist.

“I see some crazy good price projections out there,” he adds. But he’s not going that far in spite of seeing growing demand. So much depends on the growing foreign trade. Other countries want high quality.

Watch price spreads for quality beef, USDA choice to prime grades, he says. “It’s quality that counts.”

In a recent week, boxed-beef price for prime beef was $257 per hundredweight while select was $208. That’s $49 more for quality.

Those prices work back to sales of feeder calves. But that takes farm records and marketing to capture gains. Raising and selling calves isn’t enough. Feedlot buyers learn farm reputations and bid more for quality calves. It takes management for producers to know their calf quality and market it. It’s more than round them up and sell them.

Missouri has advantages when it comes to beef quality, Brown says. He reflected on the coming six sales of Show-Me-Select replacement heifers.

Zac Erwin, MU Extension livestock specialist and Kirksville SMS sale manager, said bred heifers may be hard to find this year. “Most producers bred fewer than last year due to low profits,” he says.

Sale barn managers in his area say fewer bred heifers are being sold. “They are selling about 30 percent compared to two or three years ago.” Erwin adds, “As profits return, Show-Me-Select offers a chance to add top genetics to beef herds.”

The Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifer Program, taught by MU Extension, adds genetics and proven management. Bred heifers offered at the sales are from farmers enrolled in the SMS program.

Show-Me-Select adds calving ease to herds. That cuts death loss and labor at calving. Along with improved heifers, the steermates improve carcass merit in SMS herds. Those sell for premium prices.

Economist Brown says volatility in beef prices results from uncertainty on foreign trade. China and Japan offer big potential for importing more beef. However, trade deals are still in flux.

African swine fever losses in China play a part in beef demand. Pork prices have gone up, which has related increases in beef demand.

USDA outlooks show potential for 3 million metric tons of beef to China. That approaches almost a quarter of U.S. beef for next year.

U.S. can compete with other countries for that demand. The edge goes to U.S. beef quality.

Erwin says area beef farmers selling at the Kirksville Show-Me-Select sale picked their theme: “Prepare for the Future.”

Missouri beef producers need to think ahead. There is diminishing demand for select beef, Brown says. But in his outlook talks, he adds there’s always uncertainty. No one knows future weather, diseases, trade deals or politics.

Lists of Show-Me-Select sales are at