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Build Your Beef Herd to Boost Your Profits

Beef prices are stacking up to all-time highs. Consumers are not only paying more for beef at the grocery store, they are willing to pay premium prices for USDA graded prime beef. Only 3% of all carcasses grade prime on a national average, so how do you push that percentage up in your herd? Heifer management and genetics.

Investing time in heifer management is as important as investing money in improved genetics when developing your replacement heifers and herd, according to David Patterson, University of Missouri Extension beef reproduction specialist.

There are a few things to keep in mind when managing heifers and their transition into the cow herd. 

One of the most common reasons for breeding failure is poor body condition, which can be seen from the outside. Condition can be monitored as the heifer is growing, leading up to breeding season and adjusted over time by focusing on nutrition and feed plans. Heifers that are too skinny (and also too overweight) can struggle to conceive a calf and carry it to full-term.

Another factor that can lead to failed breeding is lack of development in the reproductive tracts.

While body condition is important, simply looking at condition will not tell you if the heifer is ready to conceive, says Patterson. He recommends having your veterinarian conduct exams six weeks prior to breeding. That will give producers time to correct errors or decide to cull the heifer.

Heifers can be ranked on a five-point scale according to their reproductive tract readiness. Scoring a 1 means that the ovaries are infantile, or immature. Heifers showing a score of 4 or 5 are either ready to cycle or cycling.

“The 1's will never catch up,” explains Patterson. These heifers should be culled and sent to a feedlot.

Genetics play a large role in reaching that prime grade for carcasses, so be sure to invest in genetics to be paid premium prices for beef.

“There are lots of heifers being kept to build the cow herd,” says Patterson. “Management can help make them a success. Genetics can improve their quality.”

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