The 135 bred heifers averaged $1,787 with a top of $2,400 at the Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifer sale, Friday, May 4.
The second sale of the spring season averaged $252 more than the first sale of fall-calving heifers, April 20 at Farmington, Mo. Two more sales are set at Joplin, May 18, and Palmyra, Mo., June 2.
"Buyer attitudes are better," said David Patterson, University of Missouri Extension beef reproduction specialist. "I expect prices will go up at the next sales. Buyers are getting bargains."
Heifers in the sales are from herd owners enrolled in MU Extension programs to improve reproduction and genetics in cow herds.
Sale bidding started sluggish at the Fruitland Livestock Market. The opening lot sold for $1,500, just below average of the previous sale.
However, auctioneer Ken Carney chided bidders in his auction chant. "The rains came, grass is growing and calf prices are rising." After a long dry spell, rain fell on Thursday ahead of the sale.
Helping raise prices were many Tier II heifers. That is a step above in breeding, which indicates stacked genetics. A heifer out of a proven SMS sire is bred to a proven SMS sire. Some heifers sold at Fruitland had five generations of stacked genetics.
It took until the 19th of 71 lots sold for prices to break above the $1,800s. Then a registered Tier II Angus heifer carrying an AI-sired pregnancy brought $2,200. The consignor was Glen Birk, Jackson, a regular from the first SMS sale 20 years ago.
He was one of 17 consignors at this sale. Seven were "SMS Pioneers," those recognized for being in from the start.
The top-selling heifer at $2,400 was sold by Eggers Stock Farm, Jackson. That was for a Tier II registered Angus. It sold third lot from last.
High average price for commercial heifers of $2,025 for one consignor went to Jim Wallis, Millersville. Five of six were Tier II AI-bred. All had been DNA-tested.
"We see premium prices for these types of cattle with more records of information," said Erin Larimore, regional MU Extension livestock specialist, Jackson. From the auction block she tells background on each lot sold.
Sales are educational, Larimore said.
Most heifers were home-raised with birth and sire records even on commercial females. Heifers sold were mainly of black-hide breeding, Angus, Simmental, SimAngus and some black-baldies with Hereford crossbreeding.
Top buyer Tom O'Loughlin, Oak Ridge, took home 40 head to rebuild his herd with new genetics.
The MU heifer protocols urge use of fixed-time artificial insemination (FTAI). With timed breeding, all females in a herd are bred on the same day, which brings tight grouping at calving time nine months later.
The SMS sales offer MU Extension education in the catalog prepared the day of sale. Information is given on each bred heifer. More important is EPDs (expected progeny differences) for each sire, whether AI- or pasture-bred.
The EPD for calving ease attracted buyers from the very first sales.
Before SMS began 20 years ago, death losses in herds at calving could run high as 19 percent. Calving was a long season with lots of assistance pulling calves, especially with first-calf heifers.
Farmers buying herd replacements like calving ease and short calving seasons. Fewer nights are spent getting up to check calving.
In addition to the sale catalog, a regular feature, Larimore made a separate handout showing all sire EPDs used in the sale.
The data adds genetic value in herd building.
Producers can join the SMS program through their regional MU Extension center. Information on Show-Me-Select heifers and sales, held spring and fall, is shown at agebb.missouri.edu/select.