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Leveraging the Seasonality of the Cull Cow Market to Help Market Drought

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

The drought monitor released on June 25 shows areas of Wyoming in abnormally dry to severe drought conditions primarily on the east side of the state. With minimal precipitation in the extended forecast, producers may want to consider potential drought mitigation strategies. 

Managing drought conditions may involve purchasing supplemental feed, liquidating livestock or weaning early, to name a few. Marketing cull cows in late summer is one strategy to capitalize on the seasonality of the cull cow market and reduce stress on pastures. 

Identifying and locating cull cows

Diligent recordkeeping can help producers identify and locate cull cows. Unpregnant females are typically the main and first group to cull as they still require feed but will not produce a calf. 

For most Wyoming producers, pregnancy status is typically evaluated later in the fall at the time of weaning. In short, rectal palpation, which occurs 35 to 50 days post breeding; ultrasound, which occurs 30 days post breeding and blood tests, which also occur 30 days post breeding, are effective tools to identify open cows. 

To learn more about early pregnancy detection methods, visit for an article by Nebraska Extension.

Temperament is another reason cows may be culled. Calving season is a true test of a cow’s temper, and cows deemed unsafe to be around are typically added to the culling list several months prior to weaning for spring calving herds. 

Health or structure-related issues affecting legs, feet, udders and eyes are additional reasons to cull. 

Records of identification, reasons for culling and pasture location can help reduce the emotion in deciding which cows to cull, as well as the time and labor required to locate and gather culls when drought strikes.

Some of the cows identified for culling may have a calf on their side, and management of the calf is an important consideration. In August, calves born in March would be approximately 150 days old and considered early weaned. 

If these cows were culled, it would be necessary to provide the calves with a high-quality, nutrient-dense feed to replace their mothers’ milk. Introducing calves to supplements and high-quality hay prior to weaning can help with the transition. 

More information on feeding and managing early weaned calves can be found at

Understanding market trends and cow prices

Production traits mentioned above are adequate reasons to cull, but seasonality of markets should also be considered. 

Historically, cow prices trend upward from January, peaking in August and declining throughout the fall. Prices typically trend down throughout the fall, generally due to the increased supply of cows on the market as producers evaluate pregnancy status of their herds and sell opens. 

Long-term severe drought may increase the number of cows being sold and put downward pressure on prices. So far, the price in 2024 has followed the historical trend and is on track for record highs this August. 

So, what does this mean for producers dealing with possible drought conditions? 

If a producer can pregnancy check their cows in the summer and sell culls, they could save pasture and capitalize on seasonality of the cull cow market. 

Capturing this seasonal high could add $11 to $20 per hundredweight to cull sale revenues. The price advantage could be greater if producers liquidate more cows than usual in response to drought. 

However, these possible benefits must be weighed against potential added costs associated with working the cows earlier and managing early weaned calves. 

Rob Ziegler is the University of Wyoming Extension livestock production and marketing specialist and can be reached at

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