Cull cows represent between 15 and 30 percent of a cow-calf herd's revenue, but relatively little attention is given to cull cow marketing. Most cow-calf producers traditionally sort and sell cull cows in the fall when prices are at or near the seasonal low. However, alternative management systems and timing of cull cow marketing may increase net revenues for the cow-calf operation. The purpose of this article is to report the first year's findings of a three-year cull cow management study conducted at the Noble Foundation in collaboration with the Department of Agricultural Economics at Oklahoma State University.

A total of 48 cull cows were randomly assigned to one of two cull cow management systems, including 1) feeding 24 cull cows on grain and supplement in dry lot confinement and 2) a system that allowed 24 cull cows to graze native forage pasture. The experiment was conducted from October 2007 to April 2008. Various data measurements were taken at five intervals including the initial culling date (Oct. 3). Time periods after culling were 42 days (Nov. 15), 78 days (Jan. 10), 111 days (Feb. 12), 134 days (March 6) and 164 days (April 2). Data were collected on weight, estimated USDA grade, estimated dressing percentage, costs (feed, animal health, etc.) and estimated market value. For each feeding time interval and each cumulative period, estimated animal performance and net returns were calculated. Estimated USDA grade and dressing percentage were used to assign a price to each cow, based on prices reported by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) for cull cows in Oklahoma sold the same week. The market value of each cow at each period was calculated. Data enabled tracking animal performance, costs and estimated value, all of which are critical to assessing the added costs and returns for retaining cows beyond the normal culling date.

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