SPICKARD, Mo. – Breeding methods that produce uniform calf crops worth premium prices back at the farm are now available.

David Patterson, University of Missouri Extension beef reproduction specialist, told of that research at a field day Tuesday, Sept. 22, at the MU Thompson Farm in Grundy County.

“We have the tools and understanding to control the estrous cycle in cows,” Patterson said. That science allows the timed artificial insemination (TAI) of all cows in a herd in one day.

“TAI increases calf uniformity and improves replacement heifers going back into the herd,” he said.

Reproduction research that started in 1998 has led to the development and statewide adoption of the Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifer Program.

A new program, called Tier Two breeding, works on developing premium markets for the steer siblings of the improved heifers.

Missouri producers can take advantage of a premium market by supplying beef for the high-end, “white tablecloth” restaurants. Those buyers seek quality prime beef for their customers.

The latest crop of calves from the 250-cow, mostly Angus herd at Thompson Farm was fed out in a Kansas feedlot and sold on a U.S. Premium Beef marketing grid. Calves from high-accuracy Angus AI sires collectively qualified or graded 85 percent Certified Angus Beef/Prime.

The calves in the study from natural-service bulls produced no calves grading USDA Prime.

“This research offers an exceptional opportunity for Missouri,” said Abner Womack, senior economist at the MU Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute. “No product offers more potential return to the state.”

Womack told the group to multiply the estimated $50 premium per calf by 2 million, the number of calves born in this state each year.

“This kind of opportunity arrives once in your lifetime,” he told the gathering of more than 100 beef producers.

Patterson said breeding protocols developed at Thompson Farm have been approved and recommended by the Beef Reproduction Leadership Team overseeing TAI research nationally.

The MU beef specialist then told of a new protocol almost ready for use that improves accuracy and reduces trips through the working chute.

“The No. 1 reason beef producers give for not adopting new technology is time and labor,” Patterson said. The new protocol, called Show-Me Synch, cuts labor and simplifies the process.

Timed AI makes it possible for herd owners who work off-farm to plan their “breeding season” for a Saturday, their day off.

Close grouping of the calf crop cuts time spent checking cows during the calving season. Instead of 120 days, most calves are born in a 28-day calving season.

In a glimpse of the future, Jerry Taylor, MU Wurdack Chair in Animal Genomics, told of benefits for herd owners of the research on decoding the DNA of cattle. Taylor and colleagues across the country had two papers published in the journal Science in April.

“We now know all 3 million base pairs in the bovine genome,” Taylor said. “By knowing the genes, we know how a cow becomes a cow.”

Taylor passed around glass slides that contained an array of DNA markers for traits of interest to beef farmers. These markers are “single nucleotide polymorphisms” or SNPs. The geneticists call them “snips” for short.

“Be careful with these slides," Taylor said. "They cost me $2,400 each.” However, he predicted that similar slides for a farmer to use for a calf in his herd would soon cost only $14.

“This is a milestone for animal agriculture,” Taylor said. “It has been a very good year for research that can help you.”

According to Patterson, the next phase of the research will combine the new beef reproduction protocols with work of geneticists and economists. “It all goes together to help producers make the right decisions to improve their herds,” he said.

Rod Geisert, MU animal scientist and superintendent of Thompson Farm, recognized the farm staff: David McAtee, farm manager; Jon Schreffler, herdsman; and Dennis Hamilton, farmworker.

“We couldn’t do what we do without these guys,” Patterson added.

Other MU specialists showed individual steps in the ongoing research at the farm. As the sun came out after a cool, cloudy morning, groups of visitors got on wagons to see the improved beef animals on pastures.

This was the first general field day at the farm in more than a decade. “We plan to continue and expand these meetings,” Patterson said.

Source: David J. Patterson, University of Missouri Extension