For most cattle producers, culling cows is not an easy task. However, some culling needs to be done each year to maintain optimal productivity. Records on each cow's yearly production would be beneficial when making culling decisions, but collecting some information when the cows are processed can give you a good place to start.

Cattlemen should make it a point to evaluate all breeding females at least once a year. Weaning is likely the most convenient time to do this evaluation. In addition to their vaccinations, cows should also be pregnancy-tested, evaluated for structural soundness and aged based on the condition of their teeth. This information will take a little extra time to collect, but will be valuable when determining a culling order. In addition, this culling order will be useful during a drought as it is usually more profitable to cull unproductive cows as a drought is beginning than to try to hold on until the drought is over.

Usually, the best cows to cull are the ones that have the least chance of being productive in the long term or are the farthest away from being productive. Use the following list as a guideline for establishing your culling order. Cull cows in this order until you reach the desired herd size.

  1. Disposition: Some producers can tolerate more disposition problems than others. Disposition should be evaluated both in the pasture and in the pen because some cattle will react differently once corralled. Make a note of those animals that make it difficult to gather the herd or rotate pastures. Any animal that is aggressive should make the list.
  2. Open females: All open females should be culled. According to the Cattle-Fax Cow/Calf and Stocker Survey, the average annual cash cost to carry a cow in 2006 was $366. It will be very difficult for an open cow to make up for a year of lost production. In addition, if a heifer does not settle in the same period as her contemporaries, she is telling you that she does not fit your management environment.
  3. Structural soundness: Evaluate the structural soundness of each cow based on her ability to raise a calf. Anything that limits her ability should be noted. Look for bad feet or toes, a history of prolapse, eye problems and poor udder conformation, including bad quarters and big teats. To read the entire article, link here.