Growing up on a cattle and swine operation in Gordon County, it just came natural to go my education route in some form of agriculture. Overall it is a good time to be in the cattle business.
Cattle prices are at some tremendous highs. With that being said, input cost such as fertilizer and feed costs are up there too so it takes a lot of decision making skills to do well in the industry.
One area of decision-making is how to decide on which cows to cull from the herd to keep the overall profitability and efficiency of the herd high.
I will be using information from a publication by Dr. Ronnie Silcox, UGA Extension Animal Scientist. Dr. Silcox recently was a speaker at our last Master Cattlemen class and attended our program graduation.
The first point I would like to drive home is the importance of record keeping. There was a time I could tell you calf birthdates and pedigrees of cows on our farm off the top of my head.
As my girls get older and more active in various activities and my own time gets more limited, I don’t remember all those details.
Record keeping can be a notebook you keep in the farm truck to investing in a cattle management computer system where you can save all those hand written notes taken in the field.
By keeping records you can manage calving dates, heat cycles, keep up with calving intervals on specific cows, weaning weights and even look and see how profitable a particular cow has been for you.
This year it has been a good year for hay production. Many folks have their hay barns full and even storing some hay outside. You may say that you have plenty of hay to keep that open cow another year, but let’s look at each individual reason to cull a cow.
I hope all cattle producers are on a controlled breeding and thus calving season. It makes too much sense to not do so.
It may be nice to have a calf to sale when an unexpected bill comes in, but it can be more profitable to have a uniform calf crop that you can market as a group instead of one calf at at time. You need to get a qualified person to pregnancy check the cowherd and it is suggested to cull open cows.
I know some folks will just get attached to a particular cow and if you want to be swayed to keep her another year, you can go back to your records and see if there is a good reason to keep her.
For the most part, an open cow is not going to return you any money that year. She is going to be eating her share of the winter-stored hay and feed so costing you money. This can also hold true for cows that may have lost their calf for some reason. She again is expense to keep when she is not making a financial return to the herd.
Another culling priority can be inspecting your herd for cows with physical defects. In North Georgia we have a lot of up and down areas where cows cross hills and valleys. Analyze your herd for cows that are breaking down structurally, have bad udders or even eye issues. Also note that when cattle reach about 10 years of age they normally start going on the downside of productivity.
Here again, this is where record keeping can be utilized to see how the cow is preforming with the rest of the herd. Record keeping will help you too point out cows that are not keeping up with the rest of the herd as far as weaning weights of offspring.
Another criteria in culling the herd is to look at those late season calving cows. If on a controlled breeding season those cows will be the ones more likely to end up open.
Culling those late season calving cows will shorten the calving season and will assist in the overall farm management during the already stressful calving season.
A final decision in deciding to keep or cull an animal is disposition of the animal. Cows with poor overall behavior can be dangerous to workers on the farm. They make herd vaccination and working days more stressful too.
Finally when running a cattle operation as a business it is necessary to cull some cows annually to make room for replacement heifers into production.
For more information contact Gordon County Extension at 706-629-8685 or email email@example.com.