Montana State University Extension and the Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA) distinguished 126 “Steers of Merit” out of 1,089 entries for 2019. Out of 620 steers entered in the Carcass Division, 77 were deemed Steers of Merit. In the Ultrasound Division, 49 out of 469 entries received the distinction.  The number of Steer of Merit certifications for 2019 decreased by 34 steers compared to 2018.


The exhibitors of the top five steers in each category were honored at MSGA’s Annual Convention, Dec. 10-12 in Billings at the Northern Ag Network Lunch. The top five steer entries in the Carcass Division were: 1Sam Plummer, Flathead County (Montana Ranch, breeder); 2) Boe Tutvedt, Flathead County (Bruce Gillespie, breeder); 3) Elizabeth Dull, Flathead County (Terry Kellog, breeder); 4) Joel Longie, Beaverhead County (Probst Livestock, breeder); and 5) Bethany Lyford, Flathead County (Roberts Cattle, breeder).


The top five steer entries in the Ultrasound Division were: 1) Miranda Johnson, Yellowstone County (breeder unknown); 2) Tanner Vanek, Yellowstone County (breeder unknown); 3) Claire Murnin, Yellowstone County (breeder unknown); 4) Lily Knoll, Yellowstone County (breeder unknown); and 5) Tysa Oswald, Carbon County (Oswald Farms, 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.