Money – it’s a word commonly being thrown out in the cattle industry today. Depending on what area of cattle production, you might be complaining about the money you’re spending or are cashing in.
With prices at historic highs, one area of importance is the purchase of replacement females to capture today’s strong calf market. Potential longevity and the ability to improve genetic progress make replacement heifers especially important to include in producers’ planning, according to Jaymelynn Farney, livestock extension specialist with K-State Research and Extension.
“Since prices for replacement heifers are pretty steep, buying females that have some history and are developed with similar health and breeding decisions is something that might mitigate any issues with bringing in new females to your operation,” Farney said.
Heifers with a known, transparent development history are available for purchase at the inaugural Sunflower Supreme Replacement Heifer Sale to be hosted at the Parsons Livestock Market in Parsons, Kansas on Friday, Nov. 14 at 6:00 pm.
The Sunflower Supreme Replacement Heifer program from Kansas State University provides bred replacement heifers that have been minimally managed the same from a health, breeding, and sire selection standpoint. It was started in 2013 in southeast Kansas. In the first year, 33 cattle operations signed up with over 800 heifers being bred in 2014, within the guidelines outlined by the program.
Details of the guidelines, based on best management practices and designed to be implemented on any cattle operation, can be found at Sunflower Supreme Replacement Heifer Program, including several key provisions.
Health: All heifers meeting the Sunflower Supreme (SunSup) stamp of approval must be tested and negative for Bovine Viral Diarrhea – Persistently Infected. Also, since the goal is to maintain pregnancy, vaccination against other abortion-causing pathogens is included in the protocol.
Breeding: A 60-day breeding season is the maximum length for Sunflower Supreme heifers. SunSup producers may choose artificial insemination only, natural service only, or a combination of the two, and may choose their own synchronization program. Heifers will be early pregnancy checked so veterinarians can estimate expected calving date. The estimate can help producers (whether buying SunSup heifers or raising their own replacements) by allowing for sorting based on calving date. In that way they can better watch “close-up” heifers and mitigate some of the labor associated with calving.
Sire selection: SunSup certified heifers can only be bred to bulls that meet minimum calving ease expected progeny differences based on breed. Calving ease is an economically relevant trait used as an estimator of birth weight and gestation length.
Once heifers have met all program requirements, they are tagged with an official Sunflower Supreme eartag, which indicates that the heifers have met the guidelines in which educators believe will help with longevity and generate consistent revenue.
The Sunflower Supreme inaugural sale will include more than 250 bred heifers with quality F1 and straight-bred females including Angus, Balancer, Black Hereford, Charolais, Hereford, Gelbvieh, LimFlex, Salers, and Simmental breeds. Quality cross-bred females in black, white, and red will make a great additional to any herd, Farney said, and research indicates F1 females have a higher success at breeding, wean heavier calves, and have a greater longevity within a herd.