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Thompson Farm field day to highlight progress in cattle breeding, Sept. 22


Field day visitors will see the 300-cow beef herd used to perfect five nationally noted breeding protocols at the University of Missouri Thompson Farm in northwest Grundy County.

"There are dramatic changes in the cow herd. Dramatic in productivity, uniformity and carcass merit," said David Patterson, MU Extension beef specialist, Columbia. He will tell of 10 years of breeding improvements.

The field day, Sept. 22, starts at 9 a.m. Registration and exhibits open at 8:30 a.m.

Patterson will describe the latest research to simplify timed artificial insemination. The protocols allow producers to breed all cows, or heifers, in their herd on the same day, which eliminates labor for heat detection.

Research to improve calving ease in heifers and cut death loss developed into ways to improve carcass quality and herd profits. Using superior sires for AI led to higher carcass value in calves.

A highly mixed crossbred herd has developed into a mostly Angus herd. "We had some of everything," said David McAtee, farm manager. "We even had an old longhorn cow."

¬ "In those days, AI was used minimally in the Thompson herd," Patterson said. "Since 1998, AI has been used every year. AI-bred calves are produced out of cows with multi-generations of AI genetics. Those are called 'Tier Two' animals."

Techniques developed at MU Thompson Farm allow beef herd owners to use the best bulls in a breed. "High-accuracy, proven sires are available to everyone," Patterson said. "All of our progress in the Thompson Farm herd came from just one round of AI breeding each year."

Patterson recalled that when AI was first used at Thompson Farm, the heat detection to spot cows ready to be bred required observations from daylight to dusk for about a month.

"The reason most producers didn't take advantage of AI was the labor involved," he said.

At the field day, producers will hear about the high-accuracy breeding and the potential economic benefits of superior genetics.

For three years, calves from Thompson Farm have been sent to feedlots. "This year, 100 percent of the steers graded Choice or better. There were no Select grade carcasses from Thompson," Patterson said. The USDA quality grades are Standard, Select, Choice and Prime, with Prime being best.

For marketing, top carcasses can be rated as Certified Angus Beef, a premier brand that receives premium prices. In the feedout this year, 100 percent of the calves from one set of bulls were graded CAB.

While calving ease was improved, timed AI also added value to the calves.

The Drury Research Barn at Thompson Farm is equipped with the Heat Watch system. In breeding season, cows in the research herd have a radio transponder pasted to their tail heads. The device sends a signal to an antenna on the barn that records the exact time the cow comes into heat.

However, herd owners need neither the labor of heat detection nor the high-tech hardware. MU has developed breeding protocols to allow timed AI without the extra labor or expensive equipment.

"Heat Watch allowed us to determine precisely the hour at which cows should be inseminated," Patterson said. Using that information, breeders can time insemination by watching the calendar and clock. All cows in a herd can be synchronized for breeding at the same time.

Herds of all sizes can benefit from the protocols, Patterson said.

During the field day, MU animal scientist Jerry Taylor, Columbia, will tell of potentials in genetic research. Taylor was part of the team that decoded the entire bovine genome.

¬ The field day will provide take-home tips on cattle and forage management. The program is free and open to the public, with lunch served at noon. Farm tours or visits with scientists will be available after lunch.

Thompson Farm is a part of the Missouri Agricultural Experiment Station in the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. AES operates a system of farms, centers and forests around the state that perform regional research and demonstrations.

Thompson Farm is at the end of Highway C, seven miles west of Spickard, off Highway 65. Pens of cows and calves will line the farm lane. For driving directions and other information, see aes.missouri.edu/thompson or call the farm at 660-485-6576.

Information for starting timed AI programs is available from MU Extension regional livestock specialists.

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