Deciding which cows to cull and which cows to keep in the breeding herd impacts future herd performance and profitability. There are many factors to consider when choosing which cows to put on the cull list. Production and market conditions can influence the priority that is placed on different culling criteria. It is often easy to recognize “red flags” that make cows obvious culls (e.g., cows with poor rebreeding performance or severe cancer eye), but there are other reasons to cull cows. The challenge in selecting cull cows is identifying the cows that are making the operation money and the cows that are losing the operation money.


Recognition and assessment of poor animal performance or other factors that might call for animal culling require organized data collection and record keeping. The keys to an effective record keeping system are: 1) decide what production and financial information is useful and practical to collect, 2) collect accurate information in a timely manner, 3) manage that information in a usable form and 4) use the information. Record keeping can be as simple as handwritten notes in a pocket-sized record book or as advanced as data entry into a computerized record keeping system.


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