New quality heifer sales help improve beef cow-calf herds


Being in the beef business is not a get-rich-quick career. Building a quality cow herd takes time; requiring breeding cows, waiting nine months for a calf and then the calf is raised to be sold. All takes time.

Adding quality beef takes longer.

Missouri herd owners using Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifer Program learn timing. But, they earn big bucks using MU Extension Show-Me-Select protocols.

Fall sales of spring-calving SMS heifers are half over. Three remaining sales offer lessons for those thinking of making more money. The sales benefit sellers and buyers. Nearest is Farmington, Dec 13.

Top heifer producers add $500 per calf to their herds. Long-time sale consignors gain repeat buyers who know the value they gain.

With popularity growing, six sales are not enough. Two MU Extension area livestock specialists will change that. Northwest Missouri and Central Ozarks have been under served.

Now Anita Ellis in Callaway County is well on the way for a spring sale a Vienna, Mo., auction.

Jenna Monnig in Mercer County is getting started for Northwest. Beef herd owners can step forward to help make a sale happen in the region.

The recent SMS sale at Kirksville shows the time frame. It’s been going five years there. “We’re gaining traction,” said Zac Erwin, their local MU livestock specialist. Repeat buyers add to a sale. That was learned going back over two decades of SMS sales. It takes time for buyers to learn the huge value from calving ease, fewer deaths and better DNA. Genetics is only part of heifer improvement.

At SMS sales, buyers gain more than a strong heifer that can push out a calf. They buy data. Sale catalogs tell EPDs, the Expected Progeny Difference, or genetic potential.

Raising quality beef heifers takes new learning. Only heifers from herd owners enrolled in the year-long program sell in the trademarked sales. The black-and-gold ear tags add value. It can be big bucks. Some producers have been in the program from the beginning over two decades ago. They build their herds.

At the Joplin sale, John Wheeler continues to gain from his black-baldies, or crossbred heifers. He uses an old-fashioned but proven approach. Crossing Angus and Herefords gives heterosis, the gains from crossbreeding. That method kinda slipped away. Expect to see more people copy Wheeler’s style.

Missouri has a huge cow herd that would benefit from heifer protocols taught by MU Extension. Those continue to build from research at MU Thompson Farm, Spickard.

At some Thompson Farm Field Days, I’ve seen times we had more herd owners from south of the Missouri River attend than from nearby counties.

Local owners should have an edge in learning, I’d think.

The sale at Vienna will be next spring for fall-calving heifers. That fits the Ozarks which has longer grazing seasons and shorter winters.

Up north, winters are harsher and longer, not as good for raising baby calves. With warming winters in the past decade, fall calving moved north.

The new north sale talk starts with a meeting to be in Trenton, Dec. 16, at 6 p.m. at Barton Farm. Watch for details. Attend, to get in on the ground floor.

I’ve seen some early participants expect to gain top dollar in their first year. Added dollars come from growing reputations. Buyers learn the value of Show-Me-Select. But, some drop out after one year. Don’t give up quickly. Quality builds over time. Prices go up in time.

At a recent sale, SMS heifers averaged over $200 more than bred heifers selling at local sales. That’s a first step up.

Many learn the steermates gain value also. They don’t create quality cows. They make superior Prime beef carcasses at the packing plant. Those steers gain bonus prices.

If left free of politics, Missouri beef producers sell that Prime beef abroad. The world loves our beef.

To join, contact Extension field livestock specialists. Or start at the local office. Ask me at


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