Wise grass use, better breeding brings better beef to consumers

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Missouri Beef Farmers gain a huge edge in producing high quality beef at lower production costs. Many farmers do know what it takes to combine higher returns with lower expenses.

It takes learning, changing ideas, timely management and optimism. Oh, and some uncontrolled good luck makes a difference. That waiting for good luck, or better markets, takes some optimism.

In my years in Extension News, I’ve seen and written about that learning and change. Not all farmers have read and learned. Help by the local livestock specialists is nearby.

I lucked out to be trained by some outstanding MU state specialists. They tolerated my ignorance of science. I grew up with a beef cow herd and learned some basics. Not all journalists know the difference between cows and steers. I still read news stories about cows that are not cows. Not all bovine are the same.

When I first traveled Missouri, I popped over a hill on Highway 19 to find cattle resting on the warm blacktop. The Ozarks was free-range country. The main management was turning the herd out in unfenced country. The second job was rounding up any calves born and that survived on their own.

Now herd owners using Management Intensive Grazing (MIG) check cows every time they move the herd from one grazing paddock to the next.

That doesn’t take work. Just open the gate or lowering the hot wire. Cows move themselves. The chore becomes checking each animal in the herd, looking for health signs and body condition scores.

I was shocked at a recent Texas Tweet. A rancher offers big reward dollars for whereabouts of his 500 steers. He turned them out on range months ago to graze. When he went for roundup, they were gone. He had no idea when they were stolen. Whew! That’s a cost of lack of management. We don’t do that here, do we?

Changing grass management was the first big boost. Grazing schools continue to teach how. It’s not intensive grazing, but intensive management. Cows graze, farmers manage. The practice boost yield per acre by a third or more. Same grass makes more beef, which lowers land costs.

Bigger gains in price come from making high-quality beef animals. That applies to heifers and steers. Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifer program did more than improve calving ease. With more live calves and fewer dead heifers, there’s more beef to sell. That adds cow-herd profits.

An unexpected bonus came from high-quality beef in heifer’s steermates.

In run of the herd steers, you get maybe 6 percent USDA Prime Grade. With carcass genetics, which come with calving-ease genes, two-thirds of fed cattle bring premium prices at slaughter.

This takes intensive management. But, help is available from veterinarians who now push SMS breeding. Area Extension specialists help with heifer development and sales.

More than one beef farmer told me an amazing statement: “You made me rich.” I learn from feedback, even if exaggerated. They add how they read about Show-Me-Select heifers and went to a sale.

I hear praise from both sellers of improved heifers and the buyers. Quality adds value. It’s common to learn how a farmer converted from a herd of “sale-barn cows” to genetically superior cattle. They bought better replacements.

Show-Me-Select is about buying data as well as quality animals.

From now until early December there will be five Replacement Heifer sales across the state. These sales provide great places to buy guaranteed replacements. With the trademarked black-and-gold ear tag you get data with heifers. Data adds money. Just going to a SMS heifer sale starts learning. That may lead to change.

Go to learn first, but get a bidder number. There may be bargains, as cattle prices are down; but in cattle cycles things seem to get better.

That’s where optimism helps value.

I still tell stories about added value. Write to me at: duanedailey7@gmail.com.  Tell a cow tale.

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