John Henn, with the Wyoming Business Council (right), discusses the Wyoming Premium Heifer Program’s requirements and benefits with rancher John Kinchen, who hopes to enhance the value of his Red Angus heifers by marketing them through the program’s special sales. At a Missouri Show-Me-Select heifer sale in Fruitland, Mo., this spring, the top heifer sold for $3,400, and the 157 heifers sold averaged a record $2,170. Thirty of the bred heifers sold for $2,500 or more.
The sale results illustrate a couple of key trends in the cow-calf business. First, demand for heifers is growing as producers respond to market signals by expanding or rebuilding their herds. Second, the prices indicate buyers are willing to pay premiums for heifers carrying verifications of their health and management histories and genetic backgrounds.
Several states offer similar heifer programs, which often are partnerships between state cattlemen’s associations and universities. They typically provide health specifications, third-party verifications and value-added sales for replacement heifers, aiming to help producers earn premiums on heifers they sell and help buyers source top-quality, low-risk replacements. (See sidebar for a list of heifer programs.)
Details in the specifications vary somewhat from program to program, but they typically provide verification of a proven animal-health program, breeding records, genetics and weaning protocols.
The Show-Me-Select program began as a pilot project in two Missouri locations in 1996, with the first sales in 1997, says University of Missouri Extension beef specialist Dave Patterson, PhD. Since then, with support through the University of Missouri Extension, the program has expanded statewide. Over the ensuing years, over 700 farms have sold heifers through the program, and total heifer sales will reach a milestone of 100,000 head this year.
Missouri might have the longest-standing of these programs, but Wyoming recently became the latest state to join the list, with its “Wyoming Premium Heifer Program,” jointly administered by the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming.
John Henn, livestock and meat marketing program manager with the Wyoming Business Council, manages the program along with University of Wyoming animal scientist Scott Lake, PhD.
Henn sees the program extending well beyond the Wyoming state line, expecting interest in Wyoming heifers from ranchers around the country. This summer he’ll travel to Texas, Oklahoma and other locations to market the program at cattlemen’s meetings and trade shows. Over the next few years, he expects ranchers in many areas will expand their herds or rebuild herds liquidated during the drought. The program will help them source top-quality genetics while helping Wyoming producers find a broader market for their heifers.