Beef cows must pull their weight by producing a quality calf each year. Those not getting the job done should leave the herd and be replaced. Most producers make culling decision after weaning. That system can work but you may forget what happened when she calved. In my role as a Michigan State University Extension beef educator, I recommend documenting management challenges with cows at calving will be extremely valuable when making culling decisions.
Culling criteria can be numerous. Each producer needs to consider and prioritize those criteria important in their production system. Here is a list of culling criteria producers should consider.
- Udder confirmation
- Structural soundness
- Pregnancy status
- Performance (calf weaning ratio)
- Mouth (teeth condition)
The Beef Improvement Federation released a standardized udder scoring system that can help you evaluate your herd. In the past, most udder scoring systems evaluated cows on a scale of 9 (ideal) to 1 (poor) based on teat size and udder suspension. The new system scores for teat size and suspension on separate nine-point scales. I recommend each producer consider adoption of the teat and udder scoring system for the cow herd.
Udder and teat conformation is moderately heritable (h2 of udder attachment = 0.2 to 0.3; h2 of teat size = 0.5), so selecting replacement heifers out of cows with good udder confirmation may be critical for herd improvement in this area. Selections criteria will make you better at managing cows for longevity and save significant management time getting calves to nurse.
Remember, the cow that stays the longest, is usually the most profitable in your herd.