By Victoria G Meyers
The national average price for a bred heifer may be under $2,000, but there are still cattlemen willing to pay more than $3,000 for the right replacement. Increasingly, the bred heifer market is about return, with many convinced higher quality is an investment that pays off.
Bred heifer prices are regionalized, even varying right down to the individual operation. But, they can be a strong market indicator. At the end of the day, what a cattleman is willing to pay for a bred female is telling. It's tied to long-term mindset and reflects everything from that producer's optimism to the economy, local forage conditions and weather outlook.
Some of the country's premier bred heifer auctions are part of the University of Missouri's Show-Me-Select (SMS) sales. The program's fall returns indicate a strong bred female market moving into spring.
SMS sales bring together consignors from across the state and report high, average and minimum prices on bred heifers. All heifers are bred to bulls with strict calving ease or birthweight EPDs, and have met standards for soundness and pelvic size.
Dave Patterson, University of Missouri beef reproduction specialist, says one of the strengths of SMS sales is the number of repeat buyers they bring together. Many come from other states, with Patterson noting SMS heifers are now in herds in 21 states.
Heifers At $3,200
An Angus-cross lot in the SMS Dec. 9, 2017, sale at F and T Livestock Market, in Palmyra, brought an impressive $3,200 per head. The heifers were from Keithley-Jackson Farm, of Frankford, Missouri. Ed Jackson has consigned at SMS for 21 years.
When asked what it was about those heifers that drew such interest, Patterson says they were Tier 1, artificially inseminated (AI) heifers with a lot of genetic information. Plus, there was a bidding war between repeat buyers.
"Both of those buyers had bought replacements from that sale in past years, and neither one was going to back down," Patterson says. "That is what we've seen across the state. Particular buyers with good success with specific consignments will pay what they need to get those heifers."
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