Influences altering cow culling priorities

Author: Kristy

SDSU iGrow  |  Updated: 06/06/2014

Unprecedented profit levels create a market climate that alters historic culling recommendations given to cattle producers, explained Jim Krantz, SDSU Extension Cow/Calf Field Specialist.

“Management decisions relating to culling stock cows have increased dramatically in complexity under current market conditions. The January 1 USDA inventory of all cows and heifers calved, is the lowest total since 1941, indicating some potential for continued profitability in the cow/calf sector for several years to come,” Krantz said.

When reviewing the factors that influence culling decisions, Krantz said about 80 percent of cows are culled because they are open, age or teeth concerns, or simply unproductive. The remaining 20 percent leave the herd because they produced small calves, had dispositions problems, were injured or had udder problems and, in some cases, eye concerns.

An alarming statistic from the 2007-2008 National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) survey revealed that almost 32 percent of cull cows originate from the 5 to 9 year-old age group. “That timeframe corresponds to what should be the most productive years of the cow’s life cycle,” Krantz said.

Culling decisions are part of the reality of a cow/calf operation and account for about 15 to 20 percent of the income of that operation. “Traditionally, culling priorities have not changed much over the years. However, there may be little in the way of “traditional” in today’s cattle industry. Unimaginable profit levels and the potential for them to continue, makes it essential for cattlemen to re-think their culling approach. Those decisions need to focus on economics rather than tradition,” Krantz said.

Seek a second opinion

Cattlemen often look to South Dakota State University or SDSU Extension Beef specialists for guidance as they plan their culling priorities for the year, explained Krantz. “Often, conditions out of their control, such as drought and low prices dictate that they increase their culling rates (national average range is 15-20 percent) beyond normal levels and that requires some serious decision-making considerations. Requesting a second opinion just makes sense,” he said.

Those opinions for cull-rankings are based on the most current production and marketing information available and, unfortunately, Krantz said, they are generalized for the entire industry, not individual operations. “Consistently, open cows rank first on that list as well they should. Ignoring that recommendation defies economics as that individual would need the profits from more than one of her subsequent calves to pay the feed bill for her non-contributing year,” he said. READ MORE

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