When to Cull Cattle

By: Raymond Fitzpatrick


It’s the time of year for farmers that you are feeding hay and other supplemental feeding, and like it or not that cuts into your bottom line when it comes time to take those cattle to market.  Many farmers think in terms of dollars every time that tractor starts up to put out a bale of hay or the feed truck comes to deliver a load of feed that means less money in your pocket. And even though we all know this stuff sometimes we need to be reminded that it’s time to look at our farm and decide what needs to stay and what needs to go.

When we look at our cattle we have to remember that if we are in a cow operation that we have to make money and the only way to make money is to have a calf born every year. There is no reason that with the right nutrition and management that you shouldn’t have a calf on the ground every 365 days. If that cow is not doing that for you then you need to consider culling that cow, she is not earning her keep. One of the things that we often see, is individuals being sentimental and saying that well it was an important one, maybe it was one of the first calves that you bought or maybe it was a gift from your father to start your own herd, but if it’s not producing it needs to go. My wife grew up on a cattle farm in South Georgia and as a teenager she showed cattle and although most of those cattle are gone now her dad is still hanging on to a few of them because they were her show cattle. It doesn’t matter if they have had a calf or not in the last few years they have become more like pets. If you are raising cattle to have them as pets that is a fine business model but if you are trying to turn a profit it is not.

You could also be in the position of not having enough hay to make it through the rest of the winter and know that you have two options, you can sale cows or buy hay. Either one can be the right decision depending on your operation, but it may be time to say she has been a good cow for a number or years but her udder is starting to fail or her feet aren’t what they used to be or maybe that cow is not maintaining her weight like you would like her too.  All are valid reasons for looking to replace her in the spring.  The big thing is if you are going to be replacing her in the spring anyway there is no reason to feed her through the winter.

I can’t come to your farm and tell you which cattle to sale and which ones to keep, but I can hope that we are all using the knowledge that we have to make the best decision for our herds. For most of us the information above is not new and we know it already. But sometimes we need a reminder of some of those best management practices.