Save Costs by Preg Checking Cows This Fall

Sep 22, 2020

Tara Ellerman
Countryside Feed Sales & Nutrition Professional
Weaning is a great opportunity to preg check cows. The earlier open cows are identified, the better the opportunity to save costs and easier it is to determine a marketing plan for these cows!
How much does an open cow cost?
Cows calving every 365 days is a major goal cow calf producers strive to achieve. Hitting this goal requires each cow to breed back within 85 days of calving. Identifying and culling open cows early is an opportunity for cost savings in cow calf operations. On average, costs of maintaining an open cow range from $700 - $900 per year depending on several variables such as labor, feed, fixed costs, etc. and to add insult to injury, the revenue from selling a calf is lost as well. Assuming 550-pound steers bring $145/CWT, that is $800 left on the table, totaling the cost of maintaining an open cow for a year to $1,600 or $4.38 per day:
$800 (cow maintenance) + $800 (lost calf revenue) = $1600 per year
$1600 per year / 365 days = $4.38 per day
As cows extend past 85 days open, calving windows widen and weaning weights become less consistent. Using the same scenario as above, a cow that is open just one extra cycle will be unproductive for roughly 21 days, accumulating maintenance cost of around $46 ($2.19 per day). Assuming a 2.5-pound average daily gain (ADG) a calf born outside of the normal calving window will weigh approximately 50 pounds less than its contemporaries, and will bring about $72.50 less at sale. With this, costs of a cow being for 21 days totals to $118.50: 
$800 (yearly cow maintenance) / 365 days = $2.19 / day * 21 days = $46 per cycle open
50 pounds (lost gain) * $145/CWT = $72.50 less calf revenue
$46 (unproductive maintenance) + $72.50 (lost calf revenue) = $118.50 cost per 21 days open
What to do with open cows?
Options for open cows can include rolling over to then next calving season, selling as bred cows, imediately selling open cows, and feeding cows for slaughter.
  • Rolling over to next calving season: This is an option for handling open cows, BUT be sure consider the cost of the extra days open when making the decision to keep an open cow.
  • Selling as bred cows: Young cows can be bred back and sold as bred cows. This does require maintaining the cow for extra open cycles but can result in a higher selling price.
  • Selling as open cull cows: If cows come off of pasture in decent condition, selling them as soon as possible can be a good option, especially when feed availability is scarce.
  • Feeding cows for slaughter: This is a value-added way to market your cull cows. Feeding cows a finishing type ration for 50 – 70 days is ample time to add cover and turn cows’ fat from yellow to white and receive a premium at the slaughter house!
Feed costs and availability are both important factors to keep in mind when deciding what to do with open cows. Also paying attention to the seasonality of the cull cow market can help with these decisions. Typically cull cow prices are lowest in November and December and highest in February through April.
Contact your Countryside Feed representative with any questions about feeding programs and marketing strategies for your cull cows

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