Feeding Iowa Cull Cows for the Premium White Fat Cow Market

January - March 2003

Darrell Busby , livestock field specialist
Daryl Strohbehn , beef field specialist
Perry "Bud" Beedle , East Pottawattamie county extension education director

Iowa cow-calf producers rely on the sale of cull cows as a significant part of their gross revenue, but in most cases do little to enhance the value of that revenue stream. The Iowa State University Extension Integrated Resource Management data from 1994 to 2000 shows 20.2% of the gross sales in cow-calf enterprises come from sales of cull breeding stock. The seasonality of cull cow prices from 1992 to 2001 indicates the lowest prices in November and an increase of 12% by February. The Iowa Quality Beef Supply Cooperative in cooperation with the American Foods Group will be offering producers in Iowa the opportunity to market all types of cows including fed cows for the white fat cow market. American Foods Group has developed new markets nationally and internationally for white fat, high marbled beef carcasses.

The Iowa Beef Center and the Tri-County Steer Carcass Futurity conducted a cull cow feeding demonstration involving 60 cows from 12 SW Iowa beef producers. Delmar Marckmann and Doug Wallace Adair County beef producers also fed 27 beef cows following the same protocol, as the TCSCF group, except their rations were lower in protein as they do not feed wet corn gluten.

Forty-eight beef cows and 12 dairy cows were delivered to Bruce Bentley's feedlot near Macedonia on November 5, 2002. The average weight for the 48 beef cows was 1254 lb. They were valued at $453.78/head or $36.19/cwt. on delivery. The cows were vaccinated, implanted and ultra sounded for fat cover, rib eye area and % intramuscular fat (marbling).

The average final feedlot weight was 1,616 lb. and the final off truck weight was 1,548 lb. The beef cows gained 4.76 lb. per day on feed using the final feedlot weight or 3.87 lb. per day using the off truck weight at the American Foods Group plant in Green Bay , WI . The feed to gain was 8.45 using the feedlot weight and 10.57 using the off truck weight. The beef cows averaged .64 inches of fat cover. All cows were considered to have white fat by the house grader. The average carcass price was $84.57/cwt. The first group sent to Green Bay was on feed 69 days and the second group sent to Green Bay was on feed 90 days.

Cows need to be healthy, sound and in thin to moderate condition to perform well in the feedlot. Two beef cows were removed during the feeding trial, one cow was stifled at delivery and one cow suffered a fore leg injury.

Of the 75 beef cows, 84% were house graded #1 or #2 Premium White Fat grades with 69 to 90 days on high concentrate diet.

The total cost of gain for the beef cows using the feedlot final weight was $67.64/cwt. or $84.96/cwt. using the off truck weight at Green Bay . The 75 beef cows averaged $66.03/head profit or $4953 for the 75 beef cows. The 12 dairy cows average profit was $76.39/head. Total added profit to the 14 southwest producers was $5869.

We would offer the following suggestions before placing cows on feed.
- Make sure you have your end marketplace in mind before you begin.
- Ask yourself what is the buy/sell margin?
- Be selective about the cows you choose for your feeding program. Make sure they are structurally sound, healthy and in thin to moderate body condition score.
- Use good management practices and the best tools available to make the cows gain as fast and as efficient as possible. This means using implant strategies and feed additives that improve feed efficiency.
- Realize there are state and national regulations on the movement of cull cows back forth between farms and from auction markets back out to the feedlot.

Be sure to consult with your veterinarian on these issues before purchasing cull cows.

Fifty-five producers and agribusiness personnel attended a summary meeting. Wendy Miller and Daryl Strohbehn have complied the reports for the Iowa Beef Center web site. Several radio tapes, local and state publications and one national magazine have presented the results and recommendations from the demonstration. Producers from the following states have contacted the southwest Iowa area office for additional information: IA, IL, MN, MO, SD, IN, SC and GA.

Several southwest Iowa producers have encouraged the TCSCF Cooperative to offer this program next year as opportunity for small producers to pool cull cows into more marketable groups of premium white fat cows.

Page last updated: July 8, 2006
Page maintained by Linda Schultz, lschultz@iastate.edu