Weaber says spending a little extra time to identify problem cows will improve a cow-calf program. “If you find that you need to further reduce your cow inventory due to drought, do it in a strategic way,” he says. “Evaluate them for pregnancy status, udder quality and adequacy of teeth and feet structure.

“Strategic culling plans should be developed to first cull cows that are least productive to conserve as many ‘good’ cows expected to be entering their prime producing years as possible. Open cows should be marketed in a timely fashion to reduce nutrient demand if you are in a drought condition.

“Cull cows with poor udder quality or dry quarters. Also cull cows with no teeth or worn teeth. These should be followed by old cows that are at or near the end of their productive life. Next, consider selling open and bred replacement heifers. Culling these females, although they represent the newest genetics in your herd, will reduce overall herd nutrient demands above just maintenance requirements, as they are still growing.           

“However, if the open cows are thin and you have grazing pasture or feedstuffs available, consider feeding supplement to the cows to regain some condition before marketing. This will generally increase sale weight of cows and the price received for them.”

Weaber says conserving cows that are expected to be most productive will set up future marketing opportunities of future calf crops on markets that are expected to be short on supply and strongon demand resulting in high calf prices.

But after drought, those females may need a revised nutritional and animal health program to achieve their fullest ability to produce a good calf.  Ensley says obtaining a female BCS of 5-6 is essential in overcoming the impact of drought.

“One of the easiest tools for most producers is to get females into the 5-6 range to go into breeding,” he says. “The ability to cycle will be less for those cows that are below 5 BCS. They need to be in a positive energy balance going into the breeding season.”

 Weaber notes that cow weights alone are not particularly good indicators of energy reserves. BCS is a subjective method that helps estimate differences in body weight and fat composition.  Cow weights should be corrected for both age and BCS.

“The Beef Improvement Federation provides guidelines on adjustments of these records to a constant BCS of 5,” he says. “As a general rule, each full score is equivalent to approximately 80 lbs. of live weight. For example a 1,200-lb. cow in BCS 4 would adjust to a 1,280-lb. cow at BCS 5.

“Mature weights should be used in computing nutrient or forage requirements for the coming months to assure you’ll have adequate feed on hand.”