There's an old adage that says "Buy low, sell high." For generations, livestock producers have ridden the ebbs and flows of the market, attempting to purchase cattle in the valleys and selling them - as best they could estimate - at the peaks.

Good markets, however, do not always align with farmers' and ranchers' yearly production models, leaving them no choice but to sell during depressed markets. Such is the case with culled cows. Culling is a process in which producers remove specific, nonproductive cows, including those that are determined to be "open" (not pregnant) and those that have exceeded their prime production years, from the herd to sell at market.

Culling is a vital management function in Oklahoma and north Texas. The Noble Foundation Agricultural Division's service area - roughly a 100-mile radius around Ardmore, Okla., stretching from Oklahoma City to Dallas - is dominated by livestock operations, supporting more than 2.8 million head of cattle. According to Noble Foundation economist Job Springer, culled cows represent between 15 and 30% of the income annually for regional cow-calf operations. "It is a much larger portion of their bottom line than most people realize," Springer said. "Unfortunately, producers usually cull cows during the worst markets."

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