There has always been great debate about whether or not to sell open (not pregnant) cows in the fall at pregnancy check or turn the bull back in with them and see if they’ll breed for another season, then sell them pregnant. Many trade publications will encourage producers to ‘add value’ to a cull cow, but i seriously question the validity of such endeavor, but then again, i’m not an expert with numbers, i’m just lazy and don’t want to be shifting and handling and sorting my cows more than necessary.
It’s easy enough to simply put numbers to the various practices, then make your favourite decision.
My first stumbling block with the concept of adding value to one of my cull cows has to do with passing off a potentially problem cow to my neighbor. That doesn’t sound very neighborly or make good business since. However, one could simply ‘add value’ by pouring the feed to the cow to make her fat and increasing the grade or value for slaughter. It also could be justified by the fact that my management is super low input and most of my cows would thrive in another producer’s management style.
Pregnancy check in the fall reveals 10 open cows. My cows all have a calf at side or they’d already be sold, so 14-30 days after the calves have received their vaccines, I’ll wean the calf by selling off the cow to slaughter. She’s not going to be in the fattest condition because she’s nursing a nice calf and a non-fat cow will not bring top dollar.
For example, the different cow classes are as follows:
- Breaking and Boning (75-85% lean) $47.50-$57.50
- High dressing $58.00-$67.00.
- Lean (85-90%) $44.00-$54.50
Cows in the fall nursing a calf will typically fall in the Lean or Breaking and Boning categories and this year are bringing about $43/cwt (hundredweight). My cows are primarily Corriente or Corriente cross and will weigh about 800 lbs (by comparison and Angus or other beefier breed will weigh 1200 lbs, although she still may be thin and be in the same category).
Keep the cow and turn the bull back with her and hope she gets bred – Let’s say there is 70% chance that she will. So, we keep the cow until she is in the 2nd stage of pregnancy or about 5-6 months along.
Therefore, if she would bring $875/head as a P2 cow (and this would be a stretch if she is older than 5 or 6).
Leave the bulls in with the cows an additional 20-30 days and hope that another 50% of the potentially open cows actually breed, then sell the bred cows that calved late as well as the open cows in mid-December.
|7||$875||$6,125||bred cows sold|
|3||$400||$1,200||open cows sold|
|$5,005||keep and sell in June|
|5||$360||$1,800||open cows sold|
|5||$675||$3,375||bred cows sold|
|$5,175||sell in December|
Things to consider.Interestingly, in my opinion, these numbers probably won’t change even if one leaves the bulls in for another 20 days, sort out the cows that have not calved by 10 June and selling them as ready to calve in the last trimester (P3). In this part of the country (Missouri, USA) a summer calving P3 cow is not as desirable as a fall calving P2 even though i’ve credited her with more value in my chart above.
Leaving the bulls in an additional 20 days is advantage for me in that i avoid having to handle the cattle during ragweed allergy season. My allergies are so bad, that this is a serious consideration. However, the reality of bringing in the cows with baby calves and sorting off the one which haven’t calved yet is that it likely won’t happen and one would be right back to a 65 day calving season. However, those cow numbers could be written down, paired up in the fall and then sold as pairs when animals are mustered in for preg check and calf vaccinations.
The point of changing the time and reducing the length of breeding season was to avoid ragweed allergy season. However, i discovered that at least this year, i was unable to withstand the debilitating effects of ragweed as late as 1 September. Also, the longer the calving season, the more inconvenient it is to shift the animals through a managed rotation.
Other alternative is to separate those open cows and a bull put in with them. Disadvantage is that a separate herd must be maintained for 7 months. Not really a feasible situation.
So, now that i’ve thought through the pros and cons of the various scenarios, especially solving the issue with allergies i will plan to leave the bulls in an additional 20 days, thereby hauling them out about 20 September. This means, however, that the following spring that i’ll be dealing with an additional 20 days of baby calves to shift (yes, this is a pain in the butt) and be diligent to write down the numbers of those cows calving late so they can be sorted off during preg check in November. If half of those late calvers go ahead and get bred, it will add dollars to my bottom line without adding much expense. Most importantly, it solves the allergy issue.
WOTB – (working on the business)