A couple of winter meetings tell results of heifer program

By: 
Duane Dailey

Spring sprung, almost. Farmers’ winter meetings ended, even if bad weather lingers. Seems corn was planted last year by now.

You can count on Missouri weather being unexpected.

Last week I was fortunate to attend two late winter meetings.

They were different and far apart, but examples of what Extension can do.

The first was an advisory board meeting at MU Thompson Farm, Spickard. I’ve been there to many meetings, mixes of Ag Experiment Station and MU Extension.

Results from that herd, especially the Fixed Time Artificial Insemination (FTAI) are used all across the nation.

A staffer from Columbia asked how many counties the research farm covers in North Missouri. It’s the beef farm for all Missouri in many ways. At a Thompson Field Day a couple of years ago, I noted there were more herd owners from south of the Missouri River than from Grundy County, the home county.

The most visible study results from Thompson are spring and fall sales of Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifers. Now six sales are held around the state. But, there are a couple of holes in coverage. Northwest and South Central sales haven’t caught on.

That leads to the second meeting last week at the auction barn in Vienna, Mo. This came about when Ozark beef herd owners wanted a sale closer to home, said Anita Ellis, Fulton, regional livestock specialist for the Central Region. (She was originally from North Missouri.)

Farmer turnout was terrific. I didn’t think the sale barn café where the meeting was held could have fed one more farmer. Appears to me Ozark producers really want a sale.

Anita and coworkers provided good explanations of Show-Me-Select. I saw a new generation of Extension beef specialists at work. All good communicators.

As always, the best discussions were led by area farmers who are already SMS producers. Farmers make believable reporters when they know an Extension program works.

What many may not know: Show-Me-Select sales are farmer run. Extension teaches management protocols, but it’s local farmers and veterinarians who do the work. That’s with big support from a local sale barn providing service to area farmers.

I’ve written many news stories on amazing financial rewards paid by buyers for top genetics used in the AI program. Farmers using Extension teaching add financial gains to an area.

Missouri gains on being ahead of other states in improving quality beef. That’s changing meat consumption.

Beef production remains quite different from what we’ve seen in pork and poultry. Beef still comes from thousands of Missouri farmers. At the Vienna meeting I saw farmers wanting to keep it that way.

The SMS program which builds quality, seems quite complex at first. But an MU speaker at Vienna said: “It’s just one step at a time through the year. And, help is available.”

A story not well known yet is the power SMS program has in boosting beef quality. Heifers are more profitable from the program. The fringe benefit: Steermates grade USDA Prime. Those bring premium prices.

Consumers tell farmers, through the meat prices they pay, that they prefer Prime beef. The business is changing and farmers can remain in charge. They may have to ask for more help from Extension to make it happen.

State legislators need to hear from farmers about the No. 1 industry for economic development: Agriculture.

The bright spot at the Vienna meeting was the farmer involvement. That can happen elsewhere in the state.

High point at Thompson Farm meeting was participation by new leaders in the College of Agriculture. The Dean and new head of the Ag Experiment Station were there. They showed they could listen. Pointed questions by the advisors caused pause for thought.

With crazy Missouri weather that kills calves and delays planting there’s plenty of cause for concern. But optimism remains, the glass is more than half full.  There’s good news to be heard.  Write to duanedailey7@gmail.com.

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