Cattle prices are at an all-time high, which is exciting if you have stock to sell. On the other hand, if you’re looking to expand the herd, it could prove costly this year to do so. However, with feeder calves worth up to $400 more this year than last year, ranchers are less likely to cull cows when even a dud calf will be worth a lot.
When it comes to making decisions on culling cows from the herd, the choice isn’t always black and white. Our South Dakota ranch is still recovering from the drought of 2012. A long, hot and dry summer resulted in some young and prime cows being open, forcing us to keep aged and late-bred females instead. We also had to keep more replacement heifers than usual in order to boost our numbers.
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This was a deviation from our customary culling process, which is to select older cows, poorer-producing cows and those with poor udders or dispositions to send to market. Additionally, being purebred breeders, we have more invested in the genetics, so we tend to be more lenient of a cow with a really strong pedigree that falls behind in her breeding cycle.
Our cows typically average between 8-12 years old, with many of our cows that produce high-quality calves remaining in our herd until age 16 or 17. We’ve found that once we can get our cows beyond the first couple of years, where a big bull calf can keep a cow from breeding back as quickly as she should, we can usually keep a cow around for the long haul.
This week’s poll on the beefmagazine.com homepage asks, “What is the average age of the beef cows in your herd?
With 86 votes so far, 52% of you say your cows are 6-8 years old, 37% say 3-5 years old, and 10% have an average age of 9+ years in the herd.
Here’s what a few had to say in the comments section:
- “I kept the young cows, but I sold a lot of good older ones. I wish I had them back now that we have had rain.”
- “I culled a lot of open and older cows during the drought of 2012.”
- “I will continue to cull cows at age 12, as well as dry cows, lame cows, those with bad udders, and heifers that don’t breed quickly. I will give a little more grace this year to heifers that lose their calves for no fault of their own, as well cows that wean poorer calves. ANY calf will make money in this market!”
What about you? What is the age of your cows? Are you planning to expand this year? You can vote in the poll here.
Be sure to vote and leave your comments in the comments section after voting, or share your thoughts on the topic in the comments section of this blog. Thanks for participating!
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of Beefmagazine.com or the Penton Farm Progress Group.
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