The unusual weather conditions of 2007 are creating management problems for Kentucky beef producers. The late spring freeze severely damaged the first cutting of hay, reducing yields by as much as 50 percent. The hot, dry weather that has occurred since has limited pasture growth and has many producers very short of hay and out of pasture. Producers are wondering how they are going to cope with both issues at the same time. While good management decisions can not make it rain, they can help producers hang on in the most economical manner possible.
The first step in good management is deciding if some cows should be culled.
Generally, we would say that the lower productivity cows and open cows should be sold when pasture and hay is limited. Most spring calving herds will only have had the bull turned in for about 60 days at this point and this is not sufficient time to make culling decisions based on reproduction. If a cow's history indicates her calves to be below average weight at weaning, certainly she should be considered for culling. Any cow with a physical defect such as bad feet, arthritic joints, bottle teats or a broken down udder should also be considered for culling during short feed times. The fewer cattle that graze dry pasture or consume a short supply of hay, the better off the producer will be.