By Gary Sliworsky
Ag rep, Emo
Cull cow prices are depressed because of a low demand. It has been proven that longer living cows give a greater economic return to the owner.
Simply put, a cow must wean a number of calves to cover costs of raising or purchasing her as a replacement.
It may take the sale of three or four calves before there is a cash return to the owner.
You need to get more out of your cows in the present market. In the past, you could expect your old cows to sell for $500 or more.
But at $200 or $300 (or less) for a cull cow in today’s market, you have a few hundred dollars to make up.
The most effective way to improve longevity is to manage the risk factors affecting longevity. These risk factors include age at first calving, dystocia (calving difficulties), and cow body condition at weaning.
Many beef producers try to calve heifers at two years, or 24 months of age. Heifers calving after 24 months of age are much more likely to be culled earlier in life.
The increased risk with late calvers may be due to reduced fertility.
To reduce dystocia or calving difficulties, breed heifers to easy-calving bulls. This often means British breed sires such as Hereford, Black or Red Angus, or Shorthorn.
Also select heifers from cow families with a good history of calving ease and long life.
Cows that are able to keep body condition to weaning have less chance of being culled. Thin cows take longer to re-breed.
Poor body condition cows may be too large for their environment, produce too much milk, or may not be “bossy” at the feed bunk.
We often hear about large cows standing at the bale feeder all day while medium- or small-sized cows are satisfied more quickly and are content.
Smaller frame cows tend to keep body condition while grazing rough pasture or eating lower-quality feed through the winter.
The environment determines the best type of cow. Too often we pick a large cow because we like her before considering how well she will survive and raise a calf on rough pasture and winter hay diets.
Cull cow prices for the past few years has changed how you have to do business.