Farm Talk

July 30, 2013

Guidelines for culling cows


Parsons, Kansas — According to the latest K-State Farm management records it costs at least $700 or more to maintain a cow per year. I am sure everyone still reading is thinking well I spend way less than that on my cows. Did you consider costs of equipment depreciation and repairs, unpaid operator labor, interest? What about pasture costs? Just as I thought.

Regardless of the real cost to maintain a cow per year there are females in every cowherd which will not produce enough pounds of calf to cover that cost. Removing below average females will make better use of your financial and forage resources. Culling decisions have a longterm effect on the profitability of a cow calf enterprise.

Those females at the top of the cull list should be all open cows and heifers after a forty five to ninety day breeding season. This seems like a “duh” decision to me.

The next set of selection criteria for determining which animals to cull would be those related to functionality, or the cows ability to survive and thrive another year. Unless you can answer yes to all of the following questions you should probably cull this female.

1) Is the female structurally sound enough on her feet and legs to maintain body condition, calve, and rebreed the following year?

2) Does the cow or heifer have an udder with good suspension and four healthy quarters with teats nurseable by a newborn calf?

3) Is the cows disposition manageable with available facilities and operators management skills? (Is she docile?)

4) Does the cow have enough working teeth to graze and ruminate?

After dealing with the issues previously mentioned, production records and calving dates can give guidance in making sound culling decisions. On average calves born later in the calving season are about two pounds lighter per day or said another way we can expect calves born twenty days after the start of the calving season to be forty pounds lighter at weaning than their contemporaries born the first of the calving season. Beef females which consistently calve late are not adapted to their feed resources and should be given consideration to cull.

Performance records with actual calf weights, cow weights and birthdates can allow even better decisions to be made in culling. The Wildcat Extension District has portable scales available for you to use if needed.  Or I would be willing to assist you in developing a culling protocol based on your goals and your collected performance data.  

For more information about this or other livestock topics please contact livestock agent Keith Martin at 620-784-5337 or you can email Or you can contact Scott Gordon at the Independence office at 620-331-2690.

Wildcat Extension District also offers programs in Family Consumer Science, 4-H & Youth, as well as horticulture. Information and contacts for specific concerns can be found at our website http://www.wild £