STOCKTON, Mo. – “Reproductive efficiency is important to the productivity and profitability of your cattle operation,” says Patrick Davis, University of Missouri Extension livestock field specialist. One way to promote optimum cow herd reproductive efficiency is to cull open heifers following their first breeding season. Davis will discuss why culling these heifers improves reproductive efficiency, resource utilization and operation profitability.

“Culling heifers that failed to conceive in their first breeding season promotes optimum cattle operation reproductive efficiency,” says Davis. Montana research, shared in an Oklahoma State University communication, showed that heifers that did not conceive during their first breeding season averaged a 55% annual calf crop through their lifetimes. Also, Moorey and Biase in a 2020 review article sourcing three research papers commented that heifer reproductive success in the first calving season is highly linked with lifetime reproductive efficiency. Therefore, cull these open heifers to promote optimum cattle operation reproductive efficiency.  

“Open heifers need to be marketed to the feedlot by approximately 18 months of age to get optimum salvage value,” says Davis. Heifers that enter the breeding season at approximately 14 months should be approximately 18 months at pregnancy check time and can still be marketed to meet the choice grade. If culling is delayed and heifers are marketed later, their value may be reduced due to inability to reach the choice grade. Therefore, pregnancy check early and market open heifers as soon as possible for optimum heifer salvage value.

“Removing these open heifers makes more feed resources available to pregnant animals or the ability to restock with pregnant animals that will be productive in the coming year,” says Davis. With limited and expensive feed resources, it is important to feed cattle that will provide return on investment. Therefore, culling open heifers following their first breeding season reduces wasteful use of feed resources. If resources are available, replace these heifers with bred females to improve operation productivity. Both endeavors potentially improve the cattle operation profitability and bottom line.

Davis outlines why keeping heifers that failed reproductively in their first breeding season is detrimental to the cattle operation. Therefore, cattle producers should work with their veterinarian to pregnancy check replacement heifers as soon as possible after the breeding season and cull open heifers. For more information on early pregnancy checking and culling open heifers, contact your local MU Extension livestock field specialist.

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