COLUMBIA, Mo. – The way to meet growing consumer demand for high-quality beef is through the genes of top sires, according to David Patterson, Univ. of Missouri Extension beef specialist.

Patterson, a reproduction specialist, has conducted research that shows how to synchronize breeding through artificial insemination (AI) to reduce labor and improve uniformity in calf crops. Past use of AI breeding required checking the herd to find cows ready to breed. Timed AI allows for all cows to be inseminated in one morning. AI protocols have reduced breeding time and the number of trips through the working chute, said Patterson, who heads the Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifer Program.

Patterson said that through the use of artificial insemination, herd owners have access to the top sires in the country, but producers aren't taking advantage of those top genetics. Only 10 percent of US cows are artificially inseminated.

“The use of technology remains disappointingly low," Patterson said. "That limits what we can do to improve our herds.

“Surveys show lack of time and labor are the biggest obstacles cited by herd owners,” he added.

But the financial incentive to use AI are difficult to ignore — Prime grade carcasses now sell for an extra $24 per hundredweight when carcass premiums are added. Choice premiums have reached $17-18 per hundred over select grade.

“As a result, premiums amount to $150 to $200 per animal above market price,” Patterson said in remarks during a MU Extension meats workshop.

Demand for Choice and Prime beef is expanding nationally and globally, Patterson said. Domestic consumers still want high-quality beef despite their tight budgets. Export demand, especially to Asia, also has raised beef prices and advanced opportunities for suppliers to sell their products, he added.