Adding value to cows

Cull cows can make up more than one third of income from a beef breeding herd, so their preparation for sale deserves some attention. Many cows are sold below their optimum value, after weaning or pregnancy testing.

Cows can gain weight and fatten very quickly once calves are weaned and calving is not too close.

For example, in a southern environment, light, lean cows could improve by as much as $100 in a month on good feed after weaning their calves.

The actual value increase depends on the price grid structure, but typically a healthy light cow could gain $100 by putting on extra carcase weight (say 30kg) and so move into a higher price bracket per kilo carcase weight (say an extra 20c over the whole carcase).

Do a simple budget - it might be worth spending some money on a short supplementary feeding program to lift their value.

While cows gain liveweight, their dressing percentage also improves, especially straight after weaning as their udders dry off. For leaner cows, this means a large proportion of their weight increase is going into high value carcase weight.

Consider sorting your cull cows out earlier. You can wean their calves early and this will allow the cows to gain weight and value far more quickly.

Provided they have sound teeth, are healthy and not too close to calving, they can gain weight quickly.

  • Check their teeth - older cows with missing or badly worn teeth will only do well if feed is long enough for them. Cattle must have sound teeth, will show you what to look for.
  • Check pregnancy - if calving is likely in the next 2-3 months there may not be enough time to add weight and value.
  • Check their health and treat for fluke, worms or lice if necessary, according to your local area
  • If you can, check cows for soundness and draft off culls for age/pregnancy early in the season - wean their calves and give them time to fatten
  • Speying or not joining cull cows allows them to fatten without the risk of calving