MU Thompson Farm advisers see results of 20 years of beef breeding
- Published: Monday, April 30, 2018
SPICKARD, Mo. Bred beef heifers, replacements at the University of Missouri Thompson Farm cow herd, lined up at feeding looking like peas in a pod. They came from 20 years research on fixed-time artificial insemination (FTAI).
Jon Schreffler, MU farm manager, showed the herd at an advisory board meeting April 24. Also present were beef scientists from the MU campus, Columbia.
College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) scientists use the farm to make better breeding methods to be passed on to farmers by MU Extension. The work never ends.
David Patterson, MU beef specialist, told of his research to the farm advisers and CAFNR leaders.
In a herd of 2-year-old cows, visitors saw some of this year’s spring calf crop. Those were more look-alike calves. What strikes visitors’ eyes is a uniformity not seen in many herds.
Schreffler said of 221 calves this spring, 80 percent are from AI sires.
The FTAI protocols now taught by MU Extension give improved results. Calves look alike for a couple of reasons.
All cows in a herd bred on the same day deliver calves 283 days later, give or take a few days. With timed AI, most calves usually come in a 14-day window. Calving-ease breeding often brings calves a week or so early. Similar ages bring uniformity.
Uniformity also comes from the sire used in AI. Those can be from top in the breed. Usually, only one sire is needed. With bull breeding, one bull cannot breed as many calves as an AI sire. Bull breeding isn’t as predictable.
Uniformity comes in selection of replacement heifers as well. Those are from the top female calves born into the herd. Over time, cow herd genetic quality improves. Looks improve also.
Genetic selection takes a giant step forward with new DNA tests.
On the herd tour, Patterson pointed out that all cows and heifers have been genetically tested. With a few drops of blood, DNA maps of heifers are taken.
In such tests, every female in the herd can be ranked top to bottom on a genetic index. Recent genetic tests allow putting a dollar value on each characteristic. Those are combined into a single dollar index. That makes culling replacements easy.
Farmers now use indexes to cull and improve their herds. That’s faster than years of performance testing.
The Thompson herd now has 221 cows in a rebuilding phase, Schreffler said. Later in the board meeting, he told how he will put together heifers to sell when he doesn’t need as many cow replacements. The high-value heifers add profits.
Those heifers will go to a fall Show-Me-Select sale.
Years of research have gone into improving protocols required of herds enrolling in the Show-Me-Select heifer program.
All females entering the MU herd are Show-Me-Select.
Beef herd owners in SMS find cows now stay in their herd longer. That saves money on replacements.
Steer mates of SMS heifers are profit makers. Steers aren’t genetically tested, but they have the same genetics as heifers.
Feedlot managers like the performance of uniform lots of steers. Packer buyers pay grid premiums for them.
Some groups of Thompson Farm calves sent to feedlots grade one-third USDA prime. Those steers bring more money than choice steers and far more than standard steers. Nationally, only 6 percent grade prime at packing plants.
SMS protocols cut not only calving season, but death losses at calving. More calves and first-time calving heifers survive.
Many steps in the Show-Me-Select herds add profits to beef herds for Missourians. Producers in other states use MU heifer protocols. However, only Missouri farmers can join and sell at spring and fall SMS sales.
Thompson Farm advisory board members are area beef farmers. They help make research plans.
Show-Me-Select is at agebb.missouri.edu/select.
Writer: Duane Dailey
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