Replacement Heifer Prices Are Strengthening

December 6, 2011 09:49 PM

Out-of-state bidders boost top prices to $2,400 at Show-Me-Select heifer in Missouri.

By David Patterson, University of Missouri

Out-of-state bidders helped boost the average price to $1,716 for 127 head of Show-Me-Select replacement heifers at the Fruitland (Mo.) Livestock Auction, Dec. 3.

Top individual price per heifer was $2,400. Three lots with eight head hit that price. All were from Crooks Farm, Leeton, Mo.;

The sale in Cape Girardeau County is close to buyers in neighboring states. However, the buyer of the most calves was from Gloster, La. Richardson Farms, which bought SMS heifers at the sale last year, took home 32 head.

All heifers were from producers enrolled in the University of Missouri replacement heifer educational program. "These heifers are from over 700 heifers enrolled at pre-breeding time, last spring," said Roger Eakins, MU Extension livestock specialist, Jackson, Mo. Most heifers that qualified for the Show-Me-Select trademark ear tags stayed on their home farms.

Among 13 consignors, top average consignment price from one producer was $2,200 for one heifer from Richard Eggers, Jackson, Mo. Other top averages: Second, $2,050 on five heifers from Kasten Beef Alliance, Millersville, Mo. Third, $2,045 on 33 head, Crook Farms. Fourth, $1,900 on nine heifers from Turner Farms, Belgrade, Mo.

In his pre-sale talk, Eakins said all heifers were pregnancy checked before the sale and are guaranteed for 30 days. "Refunds or replacements will be given for any heifer coming into heat within 30 days," he added.

Heifers were grouped in lots by type and calving dates. Most heifers will calve in February and March. Those bred with artificial insemination (AI) have a specific date. Buyers were advised to start checking their heifers two weeks ahead of their due date. Heifers bred to calving-ease sires tend to calve early.

The AI-bred heifers bring premium prices over heifers bred by bulls. At Fruitland, 54 percent were bred AI and 46 percent natural service. The AI-bred heifers averaged $1,872, compared to $1,530 for sire-bred heifers, for a premium of $342. AI breeding gives access to bulls with higher accuracy in the EPDs (expected progeny differences) in their genetics.

The Show-Me-Select program emphasizes improved genetics and best management practices. "These heifers have the right nutrition, health care and genetics," Eakins said.

Genetics becomes a strong selling point as premiums paid for Prime and Choice grade beef goes up, Eakins said. Prime-grade carcasses draw premiums topping $45 per hundredweight. That does not include source and age premiums.

Nationally, only 3 percent of carcasses will grade Prime at U.S. packing plants. However, calves from SMS heifers often run more than 50 percent Prime. SMS herds often grade 100 percent Choice or better.

Return buyers report that reduced death loss and improved growth bring them back, said David Patterson, MU Extension beef reproduction specialist. Patterson helped the southeast Missouri beef producers organize their first sale in 1998. Both spring and fall sales are held.

Sale consignments were down this year, Eakins said. Most area producers have switched to fall-calving herds. Those heifers will be sold next May. Also, consignors kept more heifers at home to expand their herds. Prices for calves are expected to be higher the next few years.

Auctioneer Ken Carney said, "The 500-pound calves from these heifers will be worth over $1,000 next year. You won’t be able to buy heifers any cheaper later."

On arrival at the sale barn, heifers are checked by Missouri Department of Agriculture graders. They assure that all meet the standards of frame and condition and are blemish-free. Heifers have health papers to go to any state.

"Three buyers from out of state asked if they could bring heifers back to the sale," Patterson said. "Heifers come from Missouri consignors enrolled in the MU Extension Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifer program. However, the sales are run by a private, not-for-profit LLC, organized by sale consignors.

"Now other states are interested in starting similar programs," he added.

Missouri producers can enroll in January by contacting regional MU Extension livestock specialists. Four sales are held across the state. The last sale will be in Palmyra, 12:30 p.m., Dec. 10.

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