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Replacement Heifers Becoming a Bigger Investment

January 9, 2012
By: Kim Watson Potts, Beef Today
heifer auction
A recent Show-Me-Select heifer sale saw record prices.  

Bonus Content

Learn more about Missouri's Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifer program here. 

Just last month, the Show-Me- Select heifer sale in Palmyra, Mo., set a new price record, with the top lot averaging $2,450. And all the fall special Show- Me-Select heifer sales throughout the state saw prices climb. It’s expected that higher replacement female prices will become more common for commercial producers as demand for quality replacementfemales increases.

For those with sticker shock, the idea might be to raise your own replacement. Either way, heifers are an investment. The draw for buyers at the Missouri heifer sales is that the program’s criteria help to ensure that the heifers meet certain standards prior to sale. Most heifers that go through the program end up staying in the herd; others are sold for a premium at special Show- Me-Select heifer sales throughout the state.

The premise of the program is to guarantee buyers that heifers are sound, bred-to-quality bulls with EPD information available and have gone through certain animal health protocols. These protocols are based on research that shows a return on investment and improved production for the animal.

"In our region, we have many producers who have been in the program long-term," says Roger Eakins, a University of Missouri Extension livestock specialist in Jackson, Mo. Some producers drop out because they aren’t willing or don’t have the ability to manage the heifers according to the criteria.

"You have to manage them, and there’s an investment associated with that," Eakins says. But, he adds, those doing the management are seeing higher value and receiving higher prices for their heifers. Since all heifers going through the sale are guaranteed to be pregnant for 30 days, they are pregnancy checked twice: within 90 days after breeding to determine calving date and within 30 days of the sale. There are three criteria that give buyers assurance: health, reproduction and genetics. Evaluating those criteria can help you whether you are purchasing or raising replacements.

Your veterinarian is a great resource for determining a protocol that fi ts your operation. "Purchasing or raising replacement heifers and how we introduce them into our cowherd has implications for years to come," says veterinarian Dan Goehl, owner of Canton Veterinary Clinic. His recommendations for getting a heifer started on the right hoof include:

  • Two doses of modified live vaccine (five-way), two doses of Lepto and proper deworming.
  • Pelvic measure and track score prebreeding.
  • Keep nutrition up to par.
  • Ear notch test for persistently infected BVD animals.
  • Ensure that environment and diet are consistent pre- and postbreeding for maximum conception.
  • Follow state brucellosis and tuberculosis testing requirements.
  • If purchasing replacements, work with your veterinarian to implement a biosecurity protocol for quarantining purchased animals to ensure that diseases aren’t introduced to the herd.

The first point of control, whether keeping or purchasing, is selection, says David Lalman, an Oklahoma State University beef specialist. Producers need to give themselves the best chance of success by selecting the type of animal that fi ts their environment and management style.

Finding that fit isn’t always easy, Lalman says, but there are some things you can look for:

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FEATURED IN: Beef Today - January 2012

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