In many regions of the country, rainfall has been hard to come by for much of the year. Entering winter without adequate feed supplies means you will either have to buy feed or your cows will have to find a new home. Because we are in the period of the cattle cycle in which calves are profitable, it's important to maintain as many of your production females as possible, so if you must cull, cull wisely.

Dr. Ron Gill, extension livestock specialist at Texas A&M University, suggests that you recognize needs early and that your decisions minimize the long-term impact of drought on your forage. He also prioritizes the cow types that should be first to go when you begin making culling decisions. The first to go are often easy decisions. But the deeper you cull, the harder it is to know what will make the most economic impact. Make hard cuts in the following order:

  • Open, fall-calving cows.
  • Spring and summer cows that failed to wean a calf this fall. Even if she simply lost a calf-sell. Drought is no time to wait for next year's income.
  • Purchased or raised replacements that are not already in production.
  • Bred spring calving heifers. First calf heifers will wean the lightest calves and have the lowest rebreeding potential of any age class.
  • Short-bred fall cows.
  • Cows with structural and production defects.
  • Short and broken mouth cows with calves.
  • Low producing cows with calves.
  • Open cows with a calf.
  • Quality cows in poor condition such as a body-condition score of 4 or below.
  • Cows older than 8 years.
  • Herd outliers.