Identification and Marketing Cull Cows

One of the largest costs of a cow calf operation is maintaining the cows. It is important to have cows in your operation that are efficient and productive in converting feedstuffs into pounds of weaned calf.  It is also important to evaluate cows regularly to determine if they are efficient.  This culling criteria should include things such as; maintenance of pregnancy, pounds of calf produced at weaning time, maintenance of body condition score during lactation, pounds of weaned calf as a percentage of body weight and age.  This is the time of the year to look at culling criteria, identify cows that do not meet the criteria and determine how to cull those cows.  By identifying and culling these cows, feed resources are being used to maintain more efficient cows which should improve the profit potential of your cattle operation.

Once cull cows are identified, marketing them to have proper profit potential involves understanding various information.  First, it is important to understand the classification of cull cows which is mostly based on body condition.  Breakers are cows that are very fleshy, have a high dressing percentage, and have a body condition score of 7 or above.  Boners or boning utility cows are the moderately conditioned cows that range in body condition score from 5.5 to 7.  The cows that fall below a body condition score of 5.5 will fall into either leans or lights.  The leans will have a lower dressing percentage and bruise easier during transportation than the heavier conditioned classes of cows.  The lights will be thin cows that are smaller body size usually resulting in smaller carcass weights.  Since the leans and lights potentially will bruise easier during transportation which reduces carcass value, have a lower dressing percentage, and lower carcass weights, they are the lower price per pound animals compared to the bigger, heavier conditioned breaker and boner cows.

When marketing cull cows, it is important to watch price differential between cull cow classes.  Ideally cull cows should be marketed in the Breaker or Boner class.  It is usually not cost effective to take a cow from the boner class to the breaker class.  If resources are available and it is cost effective, cows in the lean class should be feed up to the boner class.  Feeding cows from lean class to boner class will probably take approximately 50 to 70 days and should increase the returns on selling cull cows.

Marketing cull cows can have a significant financial impact on the cattle operation.  Selecting inefficient cows and marketing them correctly should improve the overall performance of the herd and improve the finances of the entire operation.

Information: There’s an App for that! University of Nebraska has developed an app for beef producers to manage herds more conveniently. NUBeef-BCS is  available in Google play (Android) and Apple App Store (iPhones/iPad). For more info:

Source: Dr. Patrick Davis, MU Extension Livestock Specialist