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Beefs and Beliefs
Cull cow in a herd Alan Newport
The so-called cull cow is really part of your inventory and deserves respect for her ability to generate profit.

Stop already with the culling attitude

Stop thinking of your cull cows as a waste product. See them instead as another profit center.

All through this fall I've been seeing the obligatory stories about culling open cows and about the cost to winter them. In most cases, I think they're wrongheaded, or only half right at best.

Certainly, that open cow isn't doing her job and her genetics most likely need to be removed from your herd. With that I agree. And I'll add one thought to this point: If you're bringing in "performance" genetics through your bulls, you're aggravating this problem. Grain performance has nothing to do with grass performance.

But the danger I see in all these annual, "traditional" articles is that they see the cow as a disposable waste product, rather than a saleable asset. Cows have value, and the amount of value varies with her condition, the market timing and state of pregnancy. You have some control over that, and you can decide whether she can make a profit for you or not.

When I'm thinking about this topic, I'm reminded of the Bud Williams saying that you have three types of inventory in the cattle business:

1. Cattle

2. Grass

3. Money

As I recall Williams's analysis on this, cattle can come and go, but if you're out of grass or money, you're fundamentally out of business.

Here's why I bring up that idea: I'm saying that if you have forage and the necessary supplement to keep a cow, then the real question is whether you can "upgrade" her to make a profit.

Think about the cow part of your outfit it a little like a stocker operation. For example, can you add weight and sell her at a more valuable time of year than the seasonal low in the fall? Can you leave the bull with her and sell her later as a fall-calving cow? Can you butcher and sell her locally and profitably for beef?

Do you know the cow markets in your area well enough to make these decisions? Moreover, do you know what your costs are so you can plan and execute a profit?

Please, adopt a positive attitude about open cows and use them as a profit center.

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