Producers searching for inventive ways to add dollars to their beef cow-calf operations may want to consider retaining and feeding cull cattle as a value-added marketing strategy.

Based on the last six years of Iowa Beef Cow Business Records analysis data, 21 percent of gross revenue for cow-calf operations comes from the sale of culled breeding animals. Therefore, selling cull animals represents a significant portion of the income generated in a beef cow enterprise. If a producer can improve the weight and value of cull animals while keeping the cost low, significant improvement in income can occur.

Many factors influence cull values, but two that producers can use to their advantage are price seasonality and weight and condition of harvested cattle. Typically, culls have their lowest market period from October to December, mainly because of market saturation. February and March markets can range from $3 to $4 per cwt. higher. Therefore, adding weight and condition to cull cattle through the fall and early winter has the potential to garner a better bottom line.

This strategy has many challenges as well as opportunities. Adding weight to mature cows is not efficient, especially if a producer is doing it using stored feedstuffs. Cows can require 10 to 14 lbs. of dry matter intake for every pound of gain.

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