Farm Talk


September 5, 2013

Kan., replacement heifer development program

Parsons, Kansas — The most recent US Cattle inventory report indicates that the US beef herd is the smallest it has been since 1952. If and when beef herd expansion occurs those cattlemen who can provide high quality replacement females have the potential to access another revenue stream.

A new program developed by K-State Research and Extension in conjunction with the Kansas Department of Agriculture should help Kansas producers be at the fore front of the beef herd re-population effort. The Sunflower Supreme heifer development program is focused on implementing selection criteria and management practices that increase the long term value of heifers selected as replacement females. The program is modeled after the Missouri “Show Me Select Program” and will provide the option for those heifers which successfully meet all of the program guidelines to be marketed through a special sale.  

The intent of the Sunflower Supreme program is to provide knowledge, guidance and tools to assist beef producers in improving reproductive performance of replacement heifers and in turn increase cow longevity within a herd. These goals will be reached by the adoption of effective health protocols, successfully utilizing available technologies and using available genetic predictors. The main areas of emphasis of the program will be on decreasing dystocia issues, improving herd health, and using techniques and selection criteria that improve conception rates.

Expected Progency Differences (EPD’s) are the most reliable tool to minimize calving difficulty. All breed associations report EPD’s for birth weight and several report EPD’s for calving ease direct (CED) as well. If available the calving ease direct EPD is a better predictor of dystocia problems in first calf heifers because in addition to sire differences in birth weight this EPD is calculated accounting for differences in calving score as well. The CED EPD is reported as a percentage of unassisted births and therefore producers should select sires with a higher CED value.

The Sunflower Supreme program is designed to encourage producers to work with their veterinarian in developing a whole herd health management plan, with emphasis on respiratory and reproductive health. The vaccination guidelines involved in the program can be adapted to any operation with guidance from their veterinarian about type and booster requirements of each vaccine.

Additionally, this program will require all producers to receive Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) training at/or around enrollment time. This training will help producers understand and implement correct management techniques. This will help to guide producers into initiating correct welfare programs and can open up additional marketing opportunities.

Heifers in the Sunflower Supreme program can be bred by either artificial insemination or natural service. This program encourages a 60-day breeding season, which helps in selecting those heifers that reach puberty earlier and should have a more productive lifetime. In addition to choosing a breeding strategy, and synchronization protocol, this program hopes to help producers improve reproductive success by evaluating heifers prior to breeding with a breeding soundness exam completed 30 to 45 days prior to breeding. At the pre-breeding exam, heifers should be weighed, body condition scored, evaluated for reproductive tract status, and correct size and shape of the pelvis.

This will be a great educational tool for producers and all the guidelines can be adopted in any operation raising replacement females. With expanded collaboration between producers, Extension, and local veterinarians, this program will add value and additional revenue to southeast Kansas cowherds and provide quality replacement heifers to increase the demand for Kansas cattle.

Producers interested in participating in the program should contact their Extension Agent or visit for additional information.

Fall dates to be aware of:

•September 9, 6 p.m. – Free BQA Certification at Coffeyville Livestock Market. Preregistration for included meal is requested one week prior to the event by calling the Beef Cattle Institute at 785-532-4844 or emailing kjoliver@vet.

•September 25, 6:30 p.m. – Sunflower Supreme Informational meeting at Erie, Kansas. Contact extension agent or SEK Genetics for more information.

•October 1 - Producers who are interested in enrolling their 2013 spring born heifers need to submit the membership fee and correct paperwork. For more information about this or other livestock topics please contact livestock agent Keith Martin at 620-784-5337 or you can email rk martin@ More information and contacts for specific concerns can be found at our Website http://www.wildcatdis or you can follow us on Twitter at cat_Ext or like us on Facebook at http://www.face sion.District. £

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