Herd culling decisions in tight feed situations

Many farmers facing higher feed costs may consider reducing their herd size to improve short-term cash flow and control input costs.

While a well-planned herd management strategy can improve the bottom line, animal health and welfare implications must be considered alongside your farm business goals.

Use a three-step strategy to manage your herd size:

  1. Determine the number of cows you can feed based on your inventories and availability - consider sitting down with a consultant and using Dairy Australia’s online feed budgeting tools and resources
  2. Rank cows according to pregnancy status, stage of lactation, age, current milk yield, health, temperament, somatic cell count and previous bouts of mastitis
  3. Begin working from the bottom of the list and reduce your herd numbers until you reach a sustainable size, considering the long-term implications on your herd and production.

Generally, cows will be sold on a reduced market and restocking could be difficult once conditions improve. Your decisions must be flexible, reassessed routinely and adjusted as circumstances change.

For more information, download the 'Herd culling decisions in tight feed situations' fact sheet. 

For a complete understanding of the standards for the transportation of livestock, visit the Meat and Livestock Australia website or view the Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines. 

Visit Meat & Livestock Australia

Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines

Download the 'Herd culling decisions in tight feed situations' fact sheet.

Key messages

  • Destocking is based on feed cost and availability — monitor milk price versus cost of feed per litre
  • If destocking, urgently identify the number and class of animals to be fed or sold
  • Sell cull cows early to reduce production costs
  • Cull poor performing cows first
  • Keep the best genetics in the herd for as long as possible
  • Observe any medicine and antibiotic meat withholding periods
  • Destocking has long-term impacts on business profitability and ability to rebound, and should be carefully considered – seek advice from your accountant, bank manager and farm advisers