Many cattle operations are marketing their calves and preg checking for next years calf crop at this time of year. Now is a good time to really focus on managing cull cows. Research indicates that cull cow revenue as a percentage of annual income ranges from 15 to 30 percent. Here are a few things to consider:
- If she is open, cull her. It is easy to come up with excuses as to why a cow didn’t bring her calf to the chute that might not have really been her fault. “I didn’t give her enough groceries this year,” “those dern coyotes,” “my health management plan was lacking,” “my bull was too big”…..and so on. But these are excuses and ultimately, except in a few rarer scenarios, the cow has some fault. She doesn’t fit your environment, she is inefficient, she doesn’t have a strong protection instinct, she has bad teeth, she needs more time to return to cycle after calving, etc. Retaining heifers from cows that miss perpetuates low producing cattle. Open cows consume resources that are better used on performing cattle. No free meals! Research has shown that implementing a strict policy each year of culling open females dramatically increases herd pregnancy rates.
- Plan your marketing strategy. Historically, the cull cow market experiences fairly predictable seasonal price movement. The cow market typically peaks in Spring and is lowest in the fall (October-November). In South Florida, if cows are not marketed before September, it might be best to hold them and condition them until the market is more favorable in March-May.
- Consider feeding cull cows. Feeding cows for a period of time to delay marketing at a more favorable period in the price cycle can increase final weight and improve carcass quality, thereby increasing salvage value.
- Choose which cull cows should be marketed now and which can be held until later. Ranchers must decide which cows are best suited for marketing right away and which ones might be able to increase in value by being held. Consider 1.) cow health and 2.) body condition score. Cows that are not healthy enough to continue eating sufficiently should be marketed immediately. Cows that are thinner may benefit from a feeding period to add body condition. Cows that are heavy (BCS >6) are less likely to see an increase in value relative to cost of feeding, despite seasonal market fluctuations.
- Separate cull cows. Cull cows are on a different plane of nutrition than the breeding herd, feed them accordingly.