Perennial keep-or-cull decisions take on a new level of importance and risk in the current price environment.

“…Cull cow prices are high and many of these cows are in better condition now than they will be in the late winter or spring,” says Dave Sparks,  Oklahoma State University (OSU), Extension DVM, and J.J. Jones, OSU Extension ag economist. Writing in the most recent OSU Cow-Calf Corner, they emphasize, “By pregnancy checking your cows in the fall you can eliminate wasted inputs and use the current high salvage value to replace open cows with bred cows or heifers.”

Derrell Peel, OSU Extension livestock marketing specialist, explains in his weekly marketing comments, “Cow culling normally peaks seasonally in the fourth quarter and we may be vulnerable to stronger than normal culling this year. Limited forage and hay supplies combined with high hay and supplement feed cost could prompt additional sales of cows and other cattle this fall.”

According to Peel, current beef cow slaughter implies a herd culling rate of 11.4%, compared to a long-term average of 9.6%, though significantly less than last year’s pace of 12.3%.

On the other side of that equation, Stan Bevers, Texas AgriLife Extension ag economist, told folks at the recent Texas A&M Beef Short Course, “If I choose to restock, I want some assurance of high probability of that female giving me a calf each of the next two years. I think we will have pretty good prices for the next two to three years.”

Looking at Food and Agricultural Research Policy Institute projections, Bevers says beef cattle prices are forecast to continue a steady climb upward near $170/cwt. by 2014.