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Show-Me-Select helps producers use tech
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Show-Me-Select helps producers use tech

Show-Me-Select heifers

Show-Me-Select heifers sell at the South Central Regional Stockyards in Vienna, Mo. 

When Dave Patterson came to work for the University of Missouri a quarter century ago, one of his first projects was getting the Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifer program going. Today, he says the program has grown significantly, and has helped producers implement new reproductive technology and management practices while producing reliable heifers.

“It’s just taken on a life of its own,” he says. “That’s what’s great about it from my perspective.”

Patterson is a chancellor’s professor in MU’s Division of Animal Sciences, and he served as director of the Show-Me-Select program for many years.

Jordan Thomas, assistant Extension professor for MU and the current director of the Show-Me-Select program, says the goal of the program is to get the best heifers for producers, thinking of them as new employees joining an operation.

“We’re trying to get employees that have the right qualities for the job we’re asking them to do,” he says.

The program involves record keeping and collecting data, including a pre-breeding exam to check pelvic width and evaluate the reproductive tract on a 1-5 scale. The pelvic screening removes any heifers that are at higher risk of calving difficulty, and the higher reproductive tract scores are identified to increase the likelihood of pregnancy.

Producers also record dates of artificial insemination or bull exposure for natural service heifers. Natural service sires are genomic tested. The heifers are also vaccinated according to program standards and receive a pregnancy diagnosis for a more accurate calving date.

“If producers buy Show-Me-Select heifers, they have a very accurate calving date,” Thomas says.

Producers around the state participate in the program, managing their heifers according to Show-Me-Select standards, working with local Extension livestock specialists to follow the program. Show-Me-Select is officially an independent, non-profit organization, although many MU livestock specialists are involved in implementing the program.

Thomas says it may seem like a lot of information, but the livestock specialists are helpful and it is fairly straightforward.

The heifers are then sold at sales around the state. The program includes a variety of breeds and both spring and fall calvers.

Thomas says the program is a mix of a few things that achieve the high-quality results.

“There are two pieces of the puzzle,” he says. “One is the genetics, but then another is just the management, the quality of information that we ask these producers to collect.”

Jared Decker, MU state beef Extension specialist and chair in beef genomics, says the use of genetic information helps give reliability and confidence in the results.

“The program is all about putting the predictability in those heifers,” he says.

Decker says the goal is less than 5% of heifers in the program having calving difficulties, and he uses breed association data to set program EPD targets that should achieve that.

Patterson says these heifer sale results help illustrate the value of improving reproductive technology and genetic advancement.

“It really gives producers feedback to what implementation of reproductive technology and genetic improvement does in the marketplace,” he says.

The genetic requirements of the program have led to a better understanding and use of expected progeny differences (EPDs), which has improved cattle herds.

“Our producers have become more receptive to adopting these technologies, and the net result has been to improve our beef herd,” Patterson says.

He credits the producers who have participated, Extension livestock specialists who help coordinate and veterinarians who help with the cattle exams, saying it is an important program.

“Given the fact that we have the number of cows in the state that we do, it’s big business,” Patterson says.

Thomas says for 2020, just under 5,000 heifers were enrolled in the Show-Me-Select program. Over the life of the program, he says over 150,000 heifers have been enrolled, including from almost every county in the state, and they are sold to producers from several other states in addition to those in Missouri. He says the program has become the standard for replacement heifers, and also benefited producers selling those heifers.

“It has created an understanding about difference in value that can be captured through the use of reproductive technology,” Thomas says.

Decker says it is encouraging to see the results.

“The most rewarding part for me is seeing those producers make the leap and adopt the technology that allows them to manage their herds in a more sustainable and more profitable way,” he says.

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Ben Herrold is Missouri field editor, writing for Missouri Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.

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