Culling Criteria for Your Beef Herd

Several factors have prompted beef producers to consider downsizing their cow herds: shortage of pasture due to extended drought period, lower hay yields this summer, little or no surplus hay carry over from last winter and higher than normal prices for forages. Many producers are already feeding valuable hay inventory due to lack of moisture and limited pasture regrowth. This is the time to review your cow inventory and identify candidates for culling.

Your list of candidates should start with open cows and heifers. Pregnancy checking and culling open cows has shown to return $30.00 per cow exposed. With forages at a shortage and expensive to purchase there is definitely no justification for retaining and feeding open cows until the next breeding season. Cows with a history of health or structural problems (i.e. poor feet or udders, eye problems, hard calvers) should be next on the removal list. They will put a drain on feed supplies, increase your vet bills and their health and value may decline rapidly during the winter months.

Review your adjusted weaning weights for the past few years and identify the cows that are continually producing below herd average. Select the bottom 10% to be added to your list of culling candidates, they are not generating as many dollars as others in the herd and may not be working efficiently. If your cow inventory is still too high for your winter feed inventory and purchasing feed is not economical, increase the number of below average producers to be culled.

Heifers represent large investments in labor, feed and management. Reducing the number of replacement females to be maintained through the winter can increase fall cash flow and decrease winter feed costs. Select heifers with strong performance from proven cow families and cull below average performers and heifers from inconsistent producers. Remember, if you are downsizing your cow herd you won't need to keep as many replacement females as in previous years.

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