Missouri Ruralist logo

Find heifers who eat less, produce moreFind heifers who eat less, produce more

Beef producers are being sought for GrowSafe system research at the University of Missouri.

December 14, 2020

2 Min Read
black heifer with calves
EARLY EVALUATION: Researchers at the University of Missouri want to identify replacement heifers that take less money to feed but produce healthy calves. Cattle producers can enroll spring-born heifers in a program that uses GrowSafe technology to monitor feed intake. There is a nominal fee. Mindy Ward

University of Missouri Extension researchers will mine data from the GrowSafe system to help producers select breeding stock cows that eat less while producing healthy calves.

Researchers at the University of Missouri’s Southwest Research Center are inviting beef producers to take part in a program to identify beef cows that use feed efficiently, says Reagan Bluel, interim superintendent of MU Southwest Research Center, located in Lawrence County.

Most systems currently measure feed efficiency by pens. The GrowSafe system monitors feed and water intake using Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, tags. This type of technology is like what is used to manage inventory in a warehouse to track orders and shipments. It is now on the farm, monitoring and tracking cattle's daily habits.

The University of Missouri was one of the first in the U.S. to install GrowSafe at its research farms to improve feed efficiency by pen on steers. Now that same type of technology will help determine which heifers have lower feed intake but still produce healthy, quality calves.

Measure consumption

Cows that eat less will reward producers by reducing ongoing production costs over long periods, Bluel says.

“Imagine your herd of cows producing a growthy calf every year,” she says. “Now imagine being able to find the mamas in your herd doing this while eating less forage. It’s a game changer for your cow herd. Determining the efficiency of your replacements will reap cost savings in maintenance feeding throughout the heifer’s entire life.”

Breeding these cows with efficient sires can further improve herd profits.

“It is hard to measure in a historical beef system,” Bluel says. “In beef, you have a birth weight, then typically nothing until weaning. Even then, we still don’t have intake.”

Enroll in the program

Bluel says producers can enroll replacement heifers ages 9 to 12 months in the Heifer Efficiency Test this winter.

MU specialists will feed individual heifers a total mixed ration throughout the test. They also will weigh heifers during the test to measure their rate of gain.

“We can determine the efficiency of gain by simply dividing the pounds of feed required by the pounds gained,” says Eldon Cole, MU Extension livestock specialist.

Southwest Research Center will contract to test heifers born in spring 2020 that have been weaned at least 45 days, bunk broke and on a vaccination protocol that included two rounds of modified live vaccines.

The 63-day test will cost producers $400 per animal. This includes the cost of feed, yardage and management.

The test starts the first week of January. Participants will receive their heifers before prebreeding exams and the breeding season. Space is limited.

To learn more or to enroll your heifers, contact the MU Southwest Research Center at [email protected] or 417-466-2148.

Source: University of Missouri Extension, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like