Before his Show-Me-Select replacement heifer sale, Eldon Cole hoped to top $1.5 million for 521 heifers from area cattle producers enrolled in the University of Missouri beef betterment plan. The MU livestock specialist hit it, with dollars to spare.

The Nov. 21 sale brought $1,505,105 to 29 southern Missouri beef herd owners. Average price per heifer was $2,889. It was the 18th year for the MU program and auctions at Joplin Regional Stockyards.

Cole has managed all. He taught better genetics, management and marketing.

Top heifers averaged $3,700 in two lots totaling 14 head.  John Wheeler, Marionville, sold them as part of his consignment. He sold 44 black baldies that brought an average of $3,417.

Quinton Bauer, Verona, topped the sale in total returns with 64 head of blacks and black baldies at an average of $3,049.

Most of the heifers sold were from commercial cow herds. Only a few purebreds sold.

Returns from the Show-Me-Select program go far beyond sale results. Most of the bred heifers remain in their home herds. Purchased heifers go to improve cow herds of buyers.

All heifers are sold guaranteed to be bred. They were pregnancy-checked twice, once within a month of the sale.

The SMS program was started to improve calving ease and reduce death loss of heifers and their calves. Now, improved genetics boosts market value of both heifers and steers in the herd.

In this sale, 51.5 percent of the heifers were bred by artificial insemination. At the start in 1997, most were bred by bulls. AI breeding lets any producer gain access to the top proven sires in their breed.

Ozark producers offer a wide range of breeds, with 10 in this sale. However, Cole says 90 percent were black or black whiteface. Crossbreeding remains popular.

Producers who have been in the program the longest achieve the highest prices. Two factors are at work, Cole says. Their herds have improved from when they first enrolled. Second, repeat buyers who know what they are getting bid higher.

Over time, buyers learn they can pay more for AI-bred heifers. In recent sales, special “Tier Two” white ear tags indicate heifers out of proven AI sires, bred to proven AI sires. Only heifers that complete the program carry black-and-gold Show-Me-Select trademark tags.

After the sale, Wheeler admitted today’s heifers are quite different from the first Show-Me-Select heifers he entered in the sale.

Cole added, “John follows all the protocols. He does everything right, including calling his livestock specialist.”

Sellers get more than a check. “A big part of the program is based on the data we collect,” Cole said. “Producers learn from that.”

All heifers are examined by graders from the Missouri Department of Agriculture on arrival at the sale. Those with blemishes, or lack of soundness or condition are sent home.

The Joplin sale was first of five fall sales. Others are Nov. 29, 11 a.m., Kingsville Livestock Auction; Dec. 6, 1 p.m., Fruitland Livestock Sales; Dec. 13, 12:30 p.m., F&T Livestock Market, Palmyra; and Dec. 20, 1 p.m., Green City Livestock Marketing.

Missouri herd owners can join Show-Me-Select for 2015 as fall breeding records are confirmed. Regional MU Extension livestock specialists take enrollments.

For details, search “MU AgEBB” on the Internet or go to http://agebb.missouri.edu/select/sale/.