Kris Ringwall, Extension beef specialist with North Dakota State University, encourages producers to analyze their herds as summer breeding wraps up.

He says, each year an operation accumulates some odds and ends, but if feed is looking short, don’t hesitate to sell. Early sales can free up acreage for younger, more productive cows. Waiting until everyone decides to sell is not the answer, either, so plan ahead.

The principle behind culling is reproduction. Reproduction pays the bills. A bull that doesn't settle cows costs money and so do cows that are not bred to calve early in the calving season.

Data assembled through the Cow Herd Appraisal Performance System (CHAPS) reveals that 62.4% of the cows living in the upper Great Plains calve within the first 21 days of the calving season. A total of 86.4% of the cows calve within the first 42 days of the calving season. The typical growth rate on these calves is 2.38 pounds per day on northern pastures, nursing medium- to large-frame cows.

There are certain management practices that can be discussed involving these numbers, but let’s focus on the remaining 13.6% that did not calve until 42 days after the start of the calving season or the 6.6% that never calved at all. Both of these groups are target groups for early culling.

The cow that never calved should not be on the pasture anyway, but just in case she is, pull her in and sell her. The late-calving cows, as defined as those that calved after 42 days into the calving season, are most likely to breed late in the next calving season. These cows also should be noted.

Every calf late-calving cows produce already has given up a maximum of 42 days of calf gain. With an average daily gain of 2.38 pounds a day, late-born calves, for all practical purposes, are 100 pounds lighter.

For late-calving cows to improve or breed earlier, they need more feed, but the shortage of feed is the very reason this article is being written. So, pull out the calving book, draw a line 42 days into the calving season. Ask yourself, if cows need to go, maybe, just maybe, should the late-calving cows be candidates for a pair sale?

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