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Angus Bred Heifer Sale Uses Tech
to Find Best

Northern Missouri herds coordinate to offer GeneMax™-tested
bred heifers.

There is a lot to be said for a good-looking heifer. There is a lot more to be done, and profit to be made when you know what’s under the hide.

The cattle business has become a high-stakes one, with $1,200 calves and cows often bringing twice that, while feed and other costs hold back expansion. At the other end, beef consumers want to buy beef from the meatcase, but cost is a worry. In both cases, they need more information.

Two northern Missouri Angus breeders and their bull customers decided this fall to do something about it. On Dec. 7, a Green City (Mo.) Livestock Auction sale will feature 300-350 high-percentage Angus bred heifers that have been screened to reduce risk.

The GeneMax™ (GMX) Elite Bred Heifer Sale is named after the genomic DNA test from Certified Angus Beef LLC (CAB) that sorts genetic potential for gain and grade, ranking cattle from 99 down to 1 at the bottom. These heifers will be artificially inseminated (AIed) and fetal-sexed, then sorted for presentation to bidders.

Jim Brinkley, Milan, Mo., and Mark Womack, Elmer, Mo., have been AI-breeding nearly 3,000 head per year, including Womack’s custom business as a representative for Genex/CRI, a co-sponsor of the sale. Drawing on a pool of candidates from those associates, the two worked with Wes Tiemann, regional manager for the American Angus Association, and Kara Lee, CAB supply programs manager, to sort out the best.

“We selected them on visual characteristics,” Brinkley said, “then it was time to go in and pull out the cream of the crop with GeneMax.”

Womack said $17 per head is well worth the cost, considering what the knowledge is worth on the farm, as well as what one more bid is worth at the sale. “You could spend more on three buckets of feed.”

Before that test, all heifers were entered in AI programs because they met producer standards for maternal, weaning weight and carcass prospects. Then they settled, safe in calf to high-accuracy and balanced-EPD Angus sires for a conveniently limited calving period. GMX Scores further cull out the lower third, which will not be offered in the Elite Bred Heifer Sale.

The technology, first offered in Spring 2012, has already helped the local beef industry, Tiemann said. “Whether it is for keep-or-cull decisions in their own herds or marketing decisions for the sale, GMX has, in just a short period of time, characterized a large portion of cattle in Missouri.”

Anything that adds knowledge reduces risk, the Association regional manager said.

“The amount of unknown in the heifers we typically keep back in our herd each year is almost scary to think about,” Tiemann said. “Even with a closed herd and good records, we still have no clue about how the genes are at work.

“The producers involved with this sale understand the cost of making a replacement and the impact a young animal can make on an operation,” he added. “That’s why, without hesitation, they got on board with GMX to put to rest some of the unknowns. They’re ahead of the curve financially by eliminating the low-score heifers.”

As more elite heifers capable of producing for the CAB brand join the commercial cow herd, consumers will have an easier choice at the meatcase, as well, Womack said.

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