As dairy beef culling prices and milk prices have reached very profitable highs, we have a unique opportunity to transfer marginally profitable dairy animals into profitable beef animals while replacing her with a very profitable dairy animal. Turnover on the average dairy was high this year, but for the better as it gives the dairyman a chance to remove cows from the herd for production, genetics, or high SCC. We have been blessed with the opportunity to fill our stalls with the best of the best of our herds!

I would challenge you to capture your current mindset and remember it for when prices may not be so cull-friendly. When beef prices are low, I find many dairymen spending lots of energy trying to save a marginal cow. Some of these cows also have illnesses that are painful and may affect her welfare. I just returned from the American Association of Bovine Practitioners this year and two of the hot button topics were animal welfare and drug usage on our dairies. Keeping painful cows without managing pain is NEVER appropriate. Furthermore, it opens our industry up to activist groups who may not share our or our animals’ best interest at heart. Finally, making culling decisions early in the process of non-infectious disease creates a better product for the consumer and often times puts more money in your pocket as cows are in better condition when they leave the dairy.

Whether dairy or beef prices are high or low I would continue to encourage you to consider each of the following when deciding to keep a cow:

1. Has my veterinarian put this drug usage recommendation in my on-farm protocols?
2. If I treat this cow for her disease, will this chosen drug inappropriately prolong her slaughter withdrawal, forcing me to keep this cow long into her disease process?
3. Is her disease causing pain to this cow? Have I attempted to manage this pain with anti-inflammatories?
4. What is the likelihood of curing this cow of her ailment and returning her to profitable production?
5. Would my veterinarian be able to advise me on this cow to help me make a better decision for both this cow and my pocketbook?

One of my favorite parts of my job is that most times I can make a decision that benefits both the cow and the producer. Early culling is one of those decisions! As always, if we can help, give the VMC a call at 507 – 372-2957.

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