Tips for Improving Your Beef Herd-Culling Cows

  1. Fairfarmhand
    If you want a better beef herd, you can\'t keep just any old cow. Culling cows will greatly increase the efficiency of your herd because you can replace a poorly performing cow with a better cow.

    There are several criteria that influence the decision to cull.

    Pregnancy Status-Fertility

    First and foremost, you should cull cows that are not giving you calves reliably. As cows age, they usually are less fertile. Once a cow reaches the age of 12 or 14, she may not be as likely to breed back as quickly after calving. Pregnancy checking can help you determine which cows are open and which are bred.

    Late Calvers

    Cows that calve late may not seem to be such a big deal. After all, they are still giving you calves right? However, consider that most producers wean and sell their calves all at once. A calf that was born late won\'t be as large at weaning as a calf that was born right on time. Additionally, you have to take into account the weather. Late calving cows in the fall herd may be calving in winter\'s frigid temperatures. Late calving cows in the spring herd may be facing drier, hotter weather before the calf is old enough to handle it well.


    There are some great cows that can continue having calves all the way up until they are 13 or 14 years old. However, by that time, many cows are older, their heats are less fertile. You can still get a decent price for a cow that is ten or twelve years old. If you wait until she is losing body condition, sickly, or suffering from other age-related issues, you will risk getting bottom-of-the-barrel prices at the sale-yard. If she\'s a great cow, you may want to raise one of her daughters as a replacement cow.

    Raising Poor Calves

    If a cow is from a great bloodline and on paper \"ought\" to be giving you great calves, but she\'s not, try to figure out what\'s going on. You may want to have the vet check her out to see if there\'s something that you can change to help her wean off bigger calves. However, sometimes, cows just don\'t work out for some reason or another. If you have been keeping track of weaning weights, you will have a good idea which cows should be sold first due to raising smaller calves. By the way, one thing you should remember, though, is that a heifers need a couple years before they reach their peaks. By the time a cow has her third or fourth calf, she should be hitting her prime.

    Physical Issues

    How is your cow\'s udder looking? As cows get older, their udders get saggier, increasing the risk of cut teats and udders. You should also evaluate how her feet and legs are holding up. A cow that is limping or walking awkwardly ought to be culled, since if moving is painful for her, she\'s less likely to be able to graze well.

    How She Does On Your Farm

    Every farm is different. Just because a cow has great genetics and performs well on a farm out in Wyoming or Texas, doesn\'t mean that she will thrive here in Middle Tennessee on our particular farm. One reason that we tinker with bloodlines is to develop strains of animals that will thrive here on our own farm. If a cow just isn\'t set up to handle the grasses that you can offer her, the weather conditions you face, or some other unchangeable fact of your life, go ahead and sell her to make room for a cow that will do okay on your farm.


    I read the other day that cows act crazy due to three things. First is genetics, second is learned behavior from other cows, and last is poor handling. The first two reasons for wild behavior are good reasons to cull. Temperament is highly heritable, so don\'t keep cows or their offspring that are difficult to handle. And, if you get rid of the crazies, your \"normal\" cows will be less likely to pick up the insanity vibes that the nut-jobs put off.

    Culling cows vigorously for a few years means that in four or five years, you won\'t have to do quite as much culling. This is one of the best ways that you can improve your beef herd.

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