A rise of €450-500 between cull and finished cow values will be needed on many dairy farms this winter to leave a margin of approximately €100 to the farmer for finishing cull cows.
This is based on current prices of forage and feed, and the performance of cull cows recorded at Teagasc Moorepark (Holstein Friesian cull spring-calving dairy cows).
The number of cull cows slaughtered annually in Ireland is approximately 330,000.
The main issues that arise with them are that around one in five is either under-finished or of poorer conformation. Ideally, dairy culls should:
* have a carcass weight of over 280kg;
* be of reasonable conformation (grade P+ or better);
* and have a good covering of fat (classifying 3+, 4- or 4=).
A group of cull dairy cows averaging approximately 600kg liveweight and 2.6 for body condition score were finished at Moorepark.
Silage quality was excellent (74% DMD and 29% dry matter) and the ration fed was a three-way mix of barley, gluten and citrus with 3% minerals.
The accompanying table (below) summarises the results of three of the treatment groups.
The cows used on this experiment were healthy at the start of the experiment, no lameness/mastitis problems.
Cows with such issues would not perform as well as the culls in the Moorepark experiment.
Finishing cull cows is an option if you have sufficient stocks of good quality silage available, accommodation and suitable cows available to finish.
If you don’t, complete a careful budget for your farm this month, and set out a plan for your culls this autumn.
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