Beef Cow Replacement Decisions: Is Keeping Open Cows Possible?

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Bohling, Trenton T.; Mark, Darrell R.
Agricultural and Resource Economics
article description
In the past few years, some cow-calf producers have encountered abnormally large numbers of open, or unbred, cows in their herd. A couple of years ago, trichomoniasis, a venereal cattle disease spread by bulls, contributed to high percentages of open cows. This year, open cows are again showing up in herds, hypothesized to partially be the result of difficult winter conditions last winter and “washy” grass early last summer. In some cases, 40-70 percent of a cow herd has tested open, leaving producers to determine how best to replace these animals. Typically, options considered to replace these open cows are retaining heifers from within the herd, or purchasing bred heifers or cows.When an otherwise fertile and productive cow becomes open, keeping the open cow has rarely been considered an option. In agreement with normal industry practices, research highlighted by Azzam and Azzam (1991), and Frasier and Pfeiffer (1994), has disregarded the potential of keeping an open cow and recommended culling any open female. However, Ibendhal, Anderson, and Anderson (2004), recognized that price differentials between cows and replacement heifers, when incorporated with calf income and feed costs, may influence the feasibility of keeping an open cow and rebreeding it the following year.