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Learn More About Your Cow Herd

By Eldon Cole, MU Extension

Do you really know all you should about your beef cows?  Chances are most cattle farmers think the answer to that question is a no-brainer.  They know whether the cow had produced a calf to sell in the last 15 months or so.  Beyond that indicator of the cows’ production merit, most owners fall short when it comes to knowing the true performance strengths and weaknesses of their cows.

I totally agree, the single most important thing to know if whether a cow breeds regularly and weans a marketable calf every 12 months.  However, cattlemen should go a bit farther.  I’m referring to the next owners of your steer or heifer claves.  Do you have repeat buyers wanting your calves the next year?

If you’ve never participated in some type of retained ownership program on all or a portion of your calf crop, you should at least do it a time or two.  University of Missouri Extension makes it fairly easy by offering the Missouri Steer Feedout twice a year.  The next opportunity is for steers born after July 1, 2019.

Entries are due by May 10 along with the $20 per steer entry fee.  Steers will be delivered to a pickup site on June 2.  The usual locations are Joplin Regional Stockyards, Carthage and the Paris Veterinary Clinic, Paris.  Steers must be weaned at least 30 days, preferably 45 days, before the pickup date.  Steers are preferred to have been castrated pre-weaning.  Horned calves should be healed.  Do not implant the calves at weaning.  Two rounds of modified live vaccines are required.

Five steers are the minimum entry.  Larger cow herds should enter more in order to get a better idea of their average production.  Herds with 10 or more head may request an advance payment after the cattle arrive in Iowa.  Participants do not have to make periodic payments for feed, medications, etc. as it’s all deducted from the final check.

The Missouri Feedout steers will be sent to a southwest Iowa feed lot that is part of the Tri-County Steer Carcass Futurity.  Participants will learn how their cattle grade as feeder calves which will be done at the pickup points by a Missouri Market News reporter.  During the 5 to 6 months they’re in the feedlot you’ll learn how their gains compare to other calves in the pen.  Also, you’ll find how they do from a health and treatment standpoint.

At harvest time you’ll get a complete report on their profitability during the feedout and whether they grade well enough to earn carcass grade premiums.  A desired target is to have 80% or more grade Choice with no discounted carcasses.

The feedout data can open your eyes and should help you market herd mates in the future.

Feedout entry information may be found at: in new window)

For added information, contact the Extension field specialist in livestock nearest you.