SPICKARD, Mo. – A Missouri steer won first place in a live show at Beef Empire Days, Garden City, Kan. Of 97 head entered by feed yards in the High Plains, the winning calf came from the University of Missouri Thompson Farm.

The contest evaluates what feed yard managers consider their best steer and best heifer. The top steer was from calves fed by Irsik and Doll feed yard, Garden City. It was the first time a calf from that feed yard won the 44-year-old show.

Jon Schreffler, MU farm manager, said he doesn’t remember the winning calf. “But I sure know his mama.”

The MU cow herd has been improving during research on timed artificial insemination (AI) since 1997, when David Patterson, MU Extension specialist, came to MU from Kentucky.

The winning calf carries genetics from some of the earliest sires used in MU AI breeding experiments. Many cows in the herd carry traits of GAR Predestined, a bull that for a time was rated top “dollar beef” sire in the Angus breed.

“That bull was bred to some pretty nondescript crossbred commercial cows,” Schreffler recalls. “Predestined gets the credit he deserves.”

“Using AI, we have access to the best bulls in the country,” Schreffler said. “We balance maternal and carcass traits in our sire selection. We haven’t gone overboard chasing any one trait.”

While the Thompson Farm steer placed eighth in the carcass contest, it placed second overall when carcass and live-show results were tallied.

The steer’s mother was a Tier Two in the Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifer Program, Patterson said.

AI research at Thompson Farm aimed to improve calving ease to cut death loss of calves and first-calf heifers. The research proved that possible. The results are taught to Missouri farmers through the Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifer Program.

Sales of farmer-owned SMS calves attract buyers from across the country. Missouri replacement heifers have sold into 17 states. However, major benefits are in heifers going back into Missouri herds.

Herd owners using the heifer program learn that their heifers’ steer mates bring premium prices when fed for market. The MU research shows both maternal and carcass traits can be bred into a cow herd’s offspring. Both heifers and steers from proven sires bring higher prices.

A report on Thompson Farm calves from 2008-2011 shows those out of high-accuracy sires grade 100 percent USDA choice or better. Also, 59 percent received CAB (Certified Angus Beef) premiums and 29 percent graded USDA prime.

“National average for prime is 3.5 percent,” said Scott Brown, MU beef economist. “What amazes me are the premiums calves bring when sold on packing-plant grids, such as by U.S. Premium Beef.”

Prime premiums are definitely worth working for, Brown said. Currently the maximum prime-choice spread adds $40 per hundredweight. That can total $320 premium on an 800-pound carcass.

The winning steer earned $3,071.73, which included $1,250 first prize and $225 for eighth place.

The 806-pound carcass brought $198.23 per hundredweight.

In addition to a blue ribbon, a silver tray will arrive soon.

Schreffler noted that the winning steer was selected from the last 17 steers sold in the third and final draft from 88 calves marketed.

The 2011 calf crop went to market quicker, with fewer days on feed. This year, the calves averaged 162 days on feed, compared with the earlier average of 179 days on feed.

As a result of improving calf crops with use of high-accuracy sires, the MU beef team developed a plan for steers similar to the Show-Me-Select program for heifers.

Some in the beef industry call it “The Missouri Recipe.”

A rollout of the program will be held Aug. 30 in Columbia. Producers are invited.

“It’s all about improving economic returns from nearly 2 million cows in Missouri.” Patterson said. “All herds, small and large, benefit from improved breeding.”

“Using high-accuracy proven sires takes guesswork out of breeding,” Schreffler said.

Two busloads of Missouri farmers saw the Thompson Farm calves on a tour of western Kansas in April. The tour also visited Pratt feed yards, Tyson packing plant and Gardiner Angus Ranch.

Thompson Farm field day will be Sept. 18. The farm is part of the Agricultural Experiment Station and MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.