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Beef herd owner can control genetics, key to market premiums, Kasten says

Duane Dailey Published on 25 July 2011

Genetics make a difference in a beef herd. And stacked genetics make an even bigger difference, says Mike Kasten, owner of 4M Ranch, Millersville, Mo.

“The only aspect of a cattle operation that we as producers have total control over is genetics,” Kasten says in notes he will share with beef producers at a national conference in Joplin, Mo.

“You can’t control the weather, prices or politics. But you can control the genetic makeup of your herd.”

Kasten has used artificial insemination (AI) in his Bollinger County cowherd for 37 years. That has given him generations of cows with improved genetics.

He will speak at the Beef Reproduction Conference, Aug. 31-Sept. 1.

A large attendance of producers is expected from Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas, says David Patterson, University of Missouri Extension beef reproduction specialist, Columbia. The program attracts a national audience.

“Just as important as using AI, Kasten keeps computerized herd records,” Patterson says. “That gives him control of management.”

From his computer, Kasten prints out the value of genetic improvement. Calves from two or more generations of superior genetics are worth an extra $177.48 per calf. That’s above using a proven sire on the first-generation cows.

Kasten sells Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifers. Also, he retains and feeds out steers, half-sibs of the genetically superior heifers.

His records show a steady increase in USDA Prime grade cattle going to market from a Kansas feedyard. The Prime and Choice grades draw price premiums from packer grids when he sells cattle.

Kasten’s records aren’t sophisticated. “A person could pick apart these data,” Kasten says. “But the proven genetics has brought back more money. Adjustments in numbers won’t change that fact.”

At the Joplin conference, Kasten will go into detail on his proven management plans. He also provides beef herd management and AI breeding for neighboring herds.

Kasten provided the herd for the first field demonstration for Fixed Timed Artificial Insemination (FTAI) developed by Patterson when he came to the University of Missouri from Kentucky 15 years ago.

Kasten says he had tried everything to improve his calf crop. “I used pregnant mare serum. I tried removing calves at breeding time. Nothing worked remotely as well as the fixed-time AI protocols we use today.

“We no longer observe heat at all,” Kasten says. “We just breed when the calendar and clock say that it’s time.

“In our cow herd, we’re getting 60 to 70 percent fixed-time-AI pregnancy rates on the first day of breeding season.”

Timed AI shortens the calving season, producing a more uniform calf crop. “The time and labor savings, coupled with better results, make the fixed-time breeding system very appealing,” Kasten says.

Patterson adds, “It’s often possible to get better results with timed AI than with bulls.”

Kasten likes the convenience of FTAI. But the greater value comes from superior proven sires. That boosts the value of the calves—and the cows retained in the herd.

The Beef Reproduction Conference goes to a different state each year. Originally the meetings featured beef physiologists from land-grant universities. Now the meetings appeal to a broad audience in the beef industry, from veterinarians to suppliers.

This year, increased attention is on a program for herd owners. “They will hear the latest research results—and the farmer reports,” Patterson says.

In addition to talks at the Joplin Expo Center, the group will go to Joplin Regional Stockyards for a grilled steak dinner and working demonstrations.

Attendees will receive printed proceedings with speakers’ talks. “This will become the textbook for beef reproduction,” Patterson predicts.

Advance registration is required through the MU Conference Office. Go to the website at

Registration by Aug. 10 is $175. That includes some meals, a book and bus ride on the field trip. For late registration, add $25. Student rates are $100.

Lodging is in the Holiday Inn, Joplin, at 417-782-1000. The special rate of $75 expires July 31.