The last sale of the year for Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifers averaged $2,054 on 240 head. That topped six fall sales of spring-calving heifers.

Bidders packed the barn at F&T Livestock Market, Palmyra, Mo., starting the first lot at $2,000, a price that became common.

Early, a pen of five Angus crossbreds topped the sale at $2,800 each for Keithley/Jackson Farm, Frankford. Two SimAngus cross heifers from Prairie View Farms, Monroe City, sold for $2,600 each for second-high.

"This was an exceptional set of heifers from consistent producers," said Daniel Mallory, University of Missouri Extension livestock specialist, New London. "Twenty-five percent have been with the program since the start. They attract repeat buyers."

Both top consignors entered sales every year since the start at Palmyra. The Dec. 10 sale marked the 20th anniversary of Show-Me-Select sales. Sales at Joplin and Palmyra were pilot projects for an idea brought to Missouri by David Patterson, MU Extension beef specialist.

"A sign of success is the rate of repeat buyers," Patterson said. "Buyers find added value in the Show-Me-Select heifers."

Mallory said 70 percent of heifers sold went to repeat buyers.

All heifers in the Show-Me-Select sale come from farms enrolled in a yearlong program from MU Extension. Protocols for heifer development and genetic improvement come from research at the MU Thompson Farm, Spickard.

Research in the last two decades has improved conception rates from use of artificial insemination. AI allows breeders to select from the top sires in the breed.

Mallory, sale coordinator, said 70 percent of the heifers in the sale were synchronized and bred AI. That allows all heifers in a herd to be bred in one morning.

For the sale, heifers are grouped by expected calving date and uniformity.

Those bred on one day do not all calve on one day. The catalog shows expected calving times as a two-week window. Mallory told buyers to start checking heifers two weeks before expected calving. "Heifers bred to calving-ease bulls tend to calve early," he said.

An early attraction for SMS heifers was calving ease. National average for assisting first-calf heifers runs about 22 percent and deaths run 8 to 10 percent. Mallory said SMS genetics and development cut losses.

Heifers are sold guaranteed pregnant. They've been checked by veterinarians at least twice.

Upon arrival at the sale, heifers are checked for soundness by graders from the Missouri Department of Agriculture. Those not meeting standards are sent home.

Any beef producer can enroll a herd in the SMS program, working with MU Extension regional livestock specialists.

Most heifers stay in home herds as replacements. Surplus heifers are sold in spring and fall sales. "We have enrolled nearly 35,800 head," Mallory said. "As of this sale, we've sold 5,831 head."

Many producers find it easier to buy replacements than to raise their own.

Details on Show-Me-Select are at http://agebb.missouri.edu/select.