MSU Extension and MSGA Announce 2021 Steer of Merit Certifications

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Megan Van Emon, Extension Beef Cattle Specialist, Montana State University

It was great to be back in-person and present the Top 5 winners at the Montana Stockgrowers Association Convention in Billings on November 16. We presented the Top 5 winners of the carcass and ultrasound steer of merit contests at the Best of Beef Luncheon.

Montana State University Extension and MSGA distinguished 185 “Steers of Merit” out of 1,199 entries for 2021. Out of 614 steers entered in the Carcass Division, 114 were deemed Steers of Merit. In the Ultrasound Division, 71 out of 585 entries received the distinction.  The number of Steer of Merit certifications for 2021 increased significantly compared to 2020. The main increase was due to the carcass graders being able to enter the packing plants this year to grade carcasses. Additionally, more counties participated in the ultrasound contest this year due to the lack of packing plant facilities and space.

The top five steer entries in the Carcass Division were: 1) Nya Barber Castro, Flathead County (Mark Passmore, breeder); 2) Kora LaBrie, Phillips County (Kris LaBrie, breeder); 3) Aspen Bieri, McCone County (Joe Lehman, breeder); 4) RaeAnna King, Sweet Grass County (Marc King, breeder); and 5) Timber McCracken, Flathead County (Dusty Young, breeder).

The top five steer entries in the Ultrasound Division were: 1) Miles O’Connor, Fallon County (Dirk and Sheila O’Connor, breeder) 2) Lauren Anderson, Yellowstone County (breeder unknown); 3) Delaney Tvedt, Wibaux County (Mike and Missy Tvedt, breeder); 4) Cooper McNally, Richland County (Cooper McNally, breeder); and 5) Ridge Arntson, Fergus County (Arntson Ranch, breeder).

The Montana Steer of Merit program was initiated in 1967 as a joint effort between the Montana Stockgrowers Association and Montana State University Extension. The program was designed to measure, record, and improve carcass characteristics in beef cattle. Data from these carcasses has been summarized and analyzed statistically. Over time, significant increases have been made in quality grade and in yield grade, or cutability, indicating that cattle can be selected for leaner carcasses with higher cutability and still maintain high quality grade as reflected by marbling.

To be designated a Steer of Merit, carcasses are evaluated by a qualified individual using information that relates to yield of lean meat and eating quality. Beef carcasses must meet criteria set by the Steer of Merit Committee in the areas of hot carcass weight, dressing percent, fat thickness over 12th rib (back fat), total rib eye area, yield grade, percent cutability, and quality grade. Computer software programs help compile data and rank carcasses for state and county awards. Data is also analyzed periodically to track genetic and feed management progress. The minimum standards for Steer of Merit are reviewed each year and the program is updated to meet the changing industry standards.

For more information about the Steer of Merit program call Megan Van Emon, Montana State Extension Beef Cattle Specialist at (406) 874-8286.