Cull Cow Management Considerations for Spring, Fall, and In Between

If you want to maintain a profitable ranch operation, having a solid cull cow strategy is going to be an important part of your marketing plan each year. Believe it or not, cull cows represent up to 20% of the average commercial operation’s annual income—and although they probably aren’t your main production focus—their contributions to your bottom line should not be underestimated.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to determining when and how to market your cull cows, keep these considerations in mind to help you make informed decisions as you tackle the topic of culling.

Define Your “Why” as You Select Cull Cows

The most important aspect to consider when you cull any cow is the reason you’re culling her. Poor health or being open are usually the biggest factors, but you also must consider your preferences when it comes to herd genetics. As a producer, you need to maintain good data on your cows and monitor genetics in order to remove animals that don’t fit the desired genetic type.

Spring Cull Cows? Should I Cull in the Spring?

Most cows are culled in the fall after the herd gets pregnancy checked. During this time, it’s typical (and convenient) for most producers to sort open cows and sell them off. A flood of market cattle is generally the result, causing depressed prices for culls.

While culling cows in the spring may seem like a crazy proposition for some, there’s a specific advantage to culling during these months because it’s usually when other producers aren’t pumping cattle into the market.

Overall, the biggest concerns producers typically have about spring culling will involve feeding and maintenance until marketing because there are cumulative costs to consider for things like feed inventory, yardage, transport, and additional labor. If you’re considering spring culling, try out this Cull Cow Marketing Calculator to help you analyze market timing and the value of feeding your cull cows over a specific time period.

Gaining Alternative Value in Open Cows

Open cows are typical targets for fall culling, but if you’re able to breed them and keep them in the herd over winter, you might be able to spring-cull them as pregnant cows or sell cow-calf pairs later to help you get a better price per head. This comes down to knowing your cows and understanding what traits you want gone from your herd. Remember: your cull cows can be a great resource for other producers, and something you want bred out of your herd may fit someone else’s system very well.

Cull Cow Pro Tips: Pregnancy Checking, LRP Insurance, Cow Classes

Tip #1 Pregnancy checking doesn’t have to occur in the fall or just once per year. If you learn how to pregnancy check, you can use this valuable skill to cull strategically, which will help reduce feed resources used on open cows and labor spent managing them.

Tip #2 If you know you’re going to be culling heifers or marketing the calves from your culls, you can use a Livestock Risk Protection (LRP) policy to insure your operation against declines in market prices. Redd Summit Advisors is an industry leader in LRP insurance and can help you find a policy that fits your budget and your operation. Fill out our online form for more information or call us at 1-800-825-2355.

Tip #3 When it comes to overweight cows that won’t breed back, it can be better to sell them before winter since keeping them won’t add to their market value in the spring. You can try taking Lean class cows (BCS under 5) and feeding them over the winter to help them reach Boning class (BCS 5-7). It’s likely you’ll get a better price in the spring for these grade improvements.


Now that you know a little more about what to consider when making cull cow decisions, remember that your cull cow strategy is individual to your operation, and you will want to review it annually. As you devise a plan, always make sure you account for available feed resources, understand your cash flow and insurance needs, and anticipate market price projections.

Macy Holmgren

Macy Holmgren is a Digital Marketing Intern at Redd Summit Advisors.

View Author Profile

Subscribe for more news