TRENTON, Mo. – University of Missouri animal scientists test their laboratory research at the MU Thompson Farm before offering the results to Missouri farmers.

The farm near Spickard, Mo., is where beef breeding methods are refined for use in the state’s cow herds, said David Patterson, MU Extension beef specialist. He spoke at a Rotary Club lunch, Thursday, March 25.

Basic research is tested on the farm’s 300-cow herd to develop step-by-step protocols for use by Missouri beef producers. Those methods are now used across Missouri and extending to the rest of the nation, Patterson said.

Findings in estrous synchronization and timed artificial insemination allow farmers to save time and labor while improving the genetic quality of their beef herds.

The research aims to improve quality of beef served at the “white-tablecloth restaurants” of the nation, Patterson said. “Other countries can produce commodity beef for hamburgers. Our niche in the United States is producing high-quality Choice and Prime steaks that bring the greatest return to the producer.”

The breeding protocols, or recipes, have been approved for use in the beef industry, which is a $50 billion segment of the U.S. economy, Patterson said. In Missouri, income from 2 million cows makes up 20 percent of the state’s farm income.

“Beef is a major player in our economy,” Patterson said. “Beef farms are at a turning point, where quality can be improved. That can boost farm income.”

MU basic research aims to understand the estrous cycle of the beef cow. That knowledge translates into methods for timed artificial insemination. The result has been that all cows in a herd can be synchronized to be bred by appointment on one day.

Surveys show the main reasons producers do not use the latest technology is lack of time and labor, Patterson said. On most farms, beef herds are part-time enterprises. Timed AI reduces labor required.

Missouri farmers understand and are adopting the techniques, Patterson said.

A value-added benefit of timed breeding is that calf crops are more uniform in size and quality, an attraction for buyers.

In addition, producers are learning the value of using tested and proven sires, with superior genetics, available from the AI studs, Patterson said.

Patterson cited support of MU scientists on campus in Columbia. Patterson, who came to MU in 1996 from the University of Kentucky, said the research team in animal reproduction is rated as the best in the nation.

Thompson Farm is one of several farms in the Agricultural Experiment Station, which serve as mid-way points for research as it moves from the lab to Missouri farms. Patterson also conducts beef research at Greenley Center, Novelty, Mo., and the South Farm at Columbia.

The protocols have since been farm-tested in cooperation with 70 producers across the state on more than 7,000 cows. Large-scale tests are required before breeding protocols are accepted for use by the nation’s beef industry.

In those tests so far, 62 percent of the cows on average conceived on the first day of the breeding season, Patterson said.

A USDA grant supporting the research requires extending the information to the farms and classrooms. “Thompson Farm is a training ground for our graduate students,” Patterson said.

The research farms are part of the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources in Columbia.

Source: David J. Patterson, University of Missouri