As we approach late summer, early fall, it is a good time for cow-calf producers to start thinking about their culling decisions. Should you wean calves early and cull early? Should you cull and sell in October or November? Should you feed the cull cow from November into February or March? Three factors should be considered when making the culling decision: (1) seasonality of cull cow prices, (2) price differences between slaughter grades and number of cows in each grade (their body condition score), and (3) cost of feeding cull cows.
Cull cow prices generally follow a consistent seasonal pattern. Prices normally are the lowest October through January and are the highest from April through August. If overall cattle prices are rising or declining sharply in a year, then this price pattern may not be as apparent. However, from 1980-2009, there was only one year when the price for cull cows was higher in November than it was in August. Prices for cull cows are based on their USDA carcass grade or their expected carcass grade. Price differences between these grades impact the price of cull cows.
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