Fall Cow Herd Management

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 Points to remember | Good management practices | Plan ahead

Management objective: Evaluate production and shape herd for future management and marketing decisions

Points to Remember

  • Performance records in commercial herds allow for improved productivity of the herd as a whole. Records can be as simple as a count of the number of calves born each 21 day interval during the calving season to give an indication of the reproductive performance of the herd.
  • Those wishing more detail may tag the cows and new born calves and take weaned weights and possibly birth weights to allow for culling and selection for growth potential. The records pinpoint areas of opportunity to change the management strategy to improve growth and fertility and thereby increase profit.
  • Pregnancy testing as a routine practice is an important tool in the efficient operation of a beef cow herd.
  • The cost of carrying open cows for a full year without any return should be carefully considered compared to depreciated value.
  • Barren and older cows are the first groups that should be culled from the herd.
  • Usually 15% to 18% of cows will need to be replaced each year just to account for the open or unsound cows and death losses.
  • Culling the beef herd should be a year-round program to identify poor productivity and conformity.
  • Fleshier cull cows should be sold immediately upon culling rather than feeding for a longer time.
  • Feed cows that are thin to gain an additional 150 to 250 pounds provided that the value of the additional weight is worth more than the cost of gain. In younger cows this may not only increase the returns from more weight but may also improve grades and price.
  • Unless sold into specialized markets, feeding cows too long tends to produce too much expensive fat which will lower the potential for profit.
Good Management Practices
  • Pregnancy testing not only identifies open cows, but will also give you a good picture of your next calving season, and identifies late calving cows which could suggest possible breeding problems.
  • Internal and external parasites will be found on most cattle. The cost of treatment is money well spent. Work out the best program for your operation with your veterinarian.
  • Keep only structurally sound pregnant cows with good feet, legs & udders.
  • Sell any extremely thin or old cows.
  • Use calf performance records to cull cows after open, unsound, old and thin cows are culled.
  • Maintenance of the cow in the first and second trimester is the period of least stress to the cow and her fetus. Adjust rations so the cows maintain weight but do not become over fat.
  • A condition score of 3 to 3.5 is the target for cows at calving. Twice as much feed is required to add one condition score to a thin cow as is saved by underfeeding a fat cow to loss one condition score.
Plan Ahead
  • Determine the approximate number of cows that could be culled each year to maintain numbers.
  • Place priority on the different factors that could cause culling and cull in that order.
  • Watch for cull candidates according to the factors you have identified throughout the year.
  • Determine feed inventory and an economic feeding strategy for the culls that become apparent.
  • Check cash flow needs and tax issues in establishing a sale strategy.

Other Documents in the Series

  Fall Cow Herd Management - Current Document
Weaning - Calves
Wintering - Cows and Bulls
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For more information about the content of this document, contact Barry Yaremcio.
This document is maintained by Brenda McLellan.
This information published to the web on September 26, 2001.
Last Reviewed/Revised on March 12, 2018.