14 June 1996

Dont keep cull cows for longer than necessary

By Jessica Buss

BOTH dairy and suckler cull cows must be sold as soon as their productive life is over.

For empty suckler cows that is as soon as their calves are weaned, says Signet consultant Geoff Fish. He advises that accurate pregnancy diagnosis will be essential to pick up these barreners quickly.

"It is important to PD all cows, but more so for spring calvers that will cost a lot to keep through next winter," he says. Any that are empty can then be culled after weaning in November to avoid feeding them for an extra three to six months with little or no additional profit.

As for autumn-calved cows, those not in calf should be culled at weaning in June or July unless cheap feed is available.

But with a flat rate of 85p/kg liveweight paid for all culls, regardless of quality, feeding just to add weight may be uneconomic.

"The high maintenance requirement of mature cows means that a high feed intake is needed for every kg of liveweight gain," says Mr Fish.

In the current market conditions the aim should, therefore, be to sell culls as soon as they reached the end of their productive life.

Dairy culls should also be booked into the abattoir and shifted off the farm as quickly as possible, claims Genus regional consultant Peter Jarvis.

This would avoid wasting feed which was especially important given the poor growing conditions this spring that could cause forage shortages next winter.

"A cow due for culling in two or three months should be challenged so she doesnt become overfed during lactation," he says. Efficient fed use at this stage will leave more for use after her lactation in case culling is delayed by two to three months.

Producers likely to be over quota must also consider how long to keep milking a cow due for cull to ensure efficient quota use.

"A late lactation cow produces high butterfat and high protein milk," he says. "When producing milk on a low butterfat contract it may not be viable to continue milking her. However on a constituent based contract it may be less important."

Mr Jarvis advises feeding dry cull cows to maintain their weight. Although it may be economic to fatten some animals on grass, fattening old cows tends to cost too much.

Genuss BSE advisory notes suggest that given the choice it makes sense to sell lower quality cows with poor killing-out percentages liveweight through auction markets or licensed abattoirs. However, better quality culls that will kill out above 50% gain a higher price when sold dead-weight directly to the abattoir.

&#8226 Shift off farm at end of productive life.

&#8226 Ensure accurate pregnancy diagnosis.

&#8226 Sell better quality culls deadweight.