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Feeding Cull Cows

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Well-known member
Feb 14, 2005
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Southern SD
Culled cows no more

By John Spitler

It used to be that Delmar marckmann, like many Midwestern beef producers, pregnancy checked his mother cows each fall and those that failed to test were hauled to town.
About two years ago the Iowa State university's Beef Center introduced Marckmann to a more profitable niche for many cows that would have had nothing more than a traditional cull-cow's fate--the ominous last ride to town.
The alternative--white fat.
"We were approached by the American Foods Group to do this demonstration project," recalls Darrell Busby, Iowa Extension beef specialist. "They and other groups have a market for premium white-fat cows in the United States."
In conjunction with the Iowa Cooperative Extension Service, the Tri-County Steer Carcass Futurity and Iowa lakes Community College, the Beef Center fed about 100 beef and 12 dairy culls of varying ages, weights and body conditions at three feedlots around the state. Consigned by producers like marckmann, the trial's purpose "was to see what we could learn about the premium, white-fat cow market, and see if we could feed cows for that market to provide some additional income," say Bud Beedle, director of the East Pottawattamie County Extension Service, a participant in the test.
Studies found about 90% of the cows graded premium white someplace within a 72-day to 90-day feeding period. Some that were less than 30 months of age even graded choice. "And we found you can make the gains quite fast," say Extension Beef Specialist Daryl Strohbehn. Two groups, including culls owned by Marckmann, put on nearly four pounds a day. "They gained like crazy," Strohbehn says.
Crazy perhaps, but not particularly efficient. With these fully mature cows 10 to 12 pounds of dry matter were required per pound gain compared with the 6 to 7 pounds for younger animals.
Before the white-fat market, the marckmanns of the world often settled for something like a $40 cwt. market for culls. Selling to the white-fat market, the right cows can fetch twice that amount.
"Somewhere between 15 and 20% of the gross income for beef cow operations is in cull-cow sales," says Beedle. "So sale of the cull cow is an important part of the producer's annual income."
"It's a way to market some cows we no longer want in the herd because they fail to rebreed, or have bad feet, or bad dispositions," say Marckmann, smiling ear to ear. "We put them on feed for 70, 80, 90 days and come out with a pretty darn good product."

Key Points:
-The Iowa feeding test showed a cull-cow's fat color changes quickly.
-Culls also put on weight quickly, although, not efficiently.
-The right cow could bring twice the price in the white-fat market as the cull market.

Feed for white fat
Iowa State University Extension Beef Specialist Daryl Strohbehn says before deciding to feed cull cows, a producer should:
-Have a market for the cows.
-Get satisfactory answers to these questions: What will be the potential buy-sell margin? What effect will market seasons have?
-Make sure cows fed in the prgram are structurally sound and healthy with thin to moderate body condition scores.
-Use an aggressive implant program at the feedlot.

For more, call (712) 769-2600, or e-mail [email protected].

I fed cows to white fat in the past when I had some cheap cannery waste. Worked well, but right now two things are different. I just got some paeprs back from IBP. I had a Prime 4, had been trying to sell some for 2 weeks, but they woldn't take them, so I expected the Yeild 4. The Premium for Prime was $9.00/cwt. The discount for Y4 was $20.00/cwt.

Moral of the story, there is too much trim right now relative to lean for mixing in hamburger. The payment schedule shows this. I also have seen it at the auction with fed cows being discounted.

This was one of the problems with doing this. The White Fat Premium woulod come and go.However, traditionally we are entering a period where the Choice Select Spread will expand. We aren't there yet, but it can be an indicator of when the White Fat Premium will reappear.

I am nt saying there isn't a premium, what I am sayingis the discount for fat is well overshadowing any premium right now.

The article you posted is a good thing to keep in mind though,. Pay attention to marketing your cull cows, they can be 20-25% of your operatios revenue

In our country, most guys sell open cows when they preg., but we are a small segment. So, if a lot of guys are feeding out open cows it could be a factor.

I think the balance of lean trim to fat is out of whack right now. We haven't had those Canadian Cows for awhile and the emphasis on feeding has been to hit High Choice and Prime Premiums. Plus, most heavy culling occured a few years ago during the droughts.

I have found we are really governed hard by the biological production cycle. Check this site out. Look at the chart for weekly grading choice and higher and the choice select spread. There's a ton of finished cattle, then none.http://www.ams.usda.gov/LSMNpubs/PDF_Daily/DCBS.pdf

Anyway, don't claim to have all the answers, just some experiences
It's been at least fifteen years since we kept our culls and fed them. Now try to wean considerably earlier (done in several bunches), pg check cows at that time and sell them. Time and labor a big factor in many decisions.
We feed all of our cull cows. And we don't feed them longer than 30 days as a rule of thumb..We skip the sale barn and go to Cimples in Yankton and have had good success.. Feeding cull cows is more of a gamble. We have fed bulls and did alot better......
Good subject for discussion Cal. First, remember that replacement feeders last fall were very expensive. Many buyers had an "open feeder cow" order. Nothing burns $.03 corn like an open young cow. One problem this year is price erosion from fall03 to spring 04 may exceed normal cow price uptrend trend from fall to spring, but cheap corn is what really matters this year.

Cal's point of weaning early and getting out from under culls before the fall decline is a good business plan. Katrina's mention of feeding for 30 days will get some quick gains and perhaps upgrade a couple classes.

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