US - Opting whether to cull out problematic cows is currently more troubling for US businesses than ever before.
On the one hand, tight beef supplies mean selling cows for meat is lucrative. On the other, many ranchers will be looking at the longer term picture and trying to keep cows wherever possible.
This is according to cow/calf expert Jim Krantz who openly acknowledges ‘unprecedented profit levels’ have altered many traditional methods on culling cows.
The University of South Dakota expert has advised farmers on why a cow should leave the farm, drawing attention to an ‘alarming’ fact that 32 per cent of cows are culled between the age of five and nine.
“That timeframe corresponds to what should be the most productive years of the cow’s life cycle,” he said.
He said it was advisable for ranchers to request a second opinion on what is a serious decision.
Open cows are first to go, with Mr Krantz adding that many farmers often look to teeth, leg and eye problems as the next for the slaughterhouse.
However, personal preference and business outlook will influence individual ranchers with temperament and late calving clouding the picture.
“Some individuals recommend that late-calving and older cows move ahead of those with physical limitations,” said Mr Krantz.
“Disposition ranks above both of the above-named categories for some, while that negative is less restrictive in other cases.”
Giving a marginally ‘late-calver’ another chance may be advised in certain circumstance, alternatively she could be moved to later calving herds.
Furthermore, oestrus synchronising technologies, along with nutrition, can help a cow back into line with the others, he added.
All these decisions play off against feed costs, which make it ‘difficult’ not to cull an open $1200 cow.
However, high values must be resisted if the 29 million US herd is going to be added to in the coming years.
Herd rebuilding will not happen overnight, but according to Oklahoma State University livestock marketing specialist Derrell Peel, the early steps are being taken.
Around 90,000 cows have already been added to the herd this year, while beef cow and heifer slaughter is 13.5 per cent and 8.1 per cent down on this time last year.
What’s more, heifer slaughter figures are lower on a lower year, with 2013 having 4.2 per cent fewer cattle slaughtered than at this point in 2012.