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Culling to improve the bottom line

By By Justin Rodgers / 4-H youth agent
Aug. 24, 2003
Every cow herd in the state has a bottom 20 percent. This should be the number, or goal, a producer identifies each year when culling a cow herd.
There is no other management practice that will improve the quality of the herd more rapidly than culling.
Of course, this statement takes for granted that bulls with good maternal traits and high weaning weights are used year after year. These types of bulls are more expensive, but with a sound marketing program are well worth the investment.
Reasons for culling include old age, low weaning weights, failure to rebreed and physical problems.
As a producer, you can take it a step further by culling cows on temperament. This can be difficult if that cow with an attitude weans a big calf, so decide how much temper you and your catch pen can handle.
If you raise your own replacements, you know exactly what you are replacing with. Replacement heifers should be 14-15 months of age at breeding time in order for them to calve as 2-year-olds. Heifers should reach a target weight of 65 percent of their expected mature weight before exposure to breeding. If this is not the case, replace your bottom 20 percent with cattle from a reputable source.
Once cows of English, Continental or their crosses get to be about 10 years old, it is time to seriously consider replacing them in the herd.
Brahman cross females may last five years longer before they begin to lose some of their production. Even though this may be the bottom 20 percent of your herd, these animals still have some good value at auction barns, especially if they are bred back.
Each year, you will routinely be forced to replace about 10 percent of a cow herd due to rebreeding problems, and you should cull at least another 10 percent on poor performance.
If a poor-quality cow is replaced by a quality heifer, genetic progress is being made. In times of high cattle prices, any cow weaning a calf can be profitable. In times of low calf prices, only your best producing cows are profitable.
Keep a cow that can make you a profit, but always remember that some are worth more at auction than in your herd. For more information on culling your cow herd, call your local County Extension Office at 482-9764.

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