Friday, June 7, 2013

The Amazing Cull Cow

Cull Cow

The term was not always one of distinction, at least not in the CAFO (confined animal feed operations) world.

There, a cull cow is usually a sick cow, a near death cow, a badly injured cow where the goal is to get them to the locker as fast as possible...before they die on the truck. We've seen some horrible things come off livestock trailers and loaded into sale barn rings or locker holding pens.

Animals that had to be dragged off, beaten off or in the most extreme cases actually killed on the back of the truck and then drug into the plant, to be made into burger, soap bones, dog feed etc..

This was years ago, before there were laws to protect innocent mammals. Years ago before locker plants were fined for accepting such atrocities but the negative  connotation that comes with "cull cow" sadly still remains.

Here, on our farm, a "Cull Cow" is a bit of  a hero.

She is usually a fine young heifer who at about the age of 2 has her first calf. Her milk goes to feed the calf and us and our customers. She spends her days on pasture, happy and healthy. Each year she is re bred and has a new calf. In the confinement world most cows last just 3-4 years , their bodies worn out from the excess grain given to increase milk production as well as the cramped living conditions.

Here, there is no grain just sweet grass from April through Oct and organic hay over winter. And they have room to roam. Lots of room. Eventually Puppy or Ariel or Moonbeam will slow down but usually she'll have 7-8, maybe 10-12 calves before that happens. So when she doesn't breed back, when her body naturally tells her it's time to give in and long before she shows any signs of illnesses or injury we "cull" her from the herd.

She takes a nice slow trip to a locker not farm away, escorted off the trailer by the farmer she has been cared for every day of her life. Her death is quick and humane. She becomes burger. Wonderful, healthy, tasty ,organic,burger. She completes her life cycle with one more great gift to her farmer in the way of 400 plus little white wrapped one pound "chubbies" we call them.

It's the cycle of life here on South Pork Ranch


  1. I now understand the cycle of life only because we are hands on with the cycle of the lives of our own animals. I feel humble that I have been granted this understanding, gaining greater respect for all life as a result. I would think that many people you come across do not have this understanding, so I am just saying that we do.

  2. Kansas City, Kansas had lots of beef plants when I was a little girl. My father and I would visit friends at the stockyards frequently, and also at the plants. I saw some of those "cull cows" there and the picture has forever stayed with me. You plant a more wonderful picture, Donna, and I appreciate that very much.

  3. A beloved animal should have dignity even at its death. I appreciate your kind story. That was how we were raised, too.

  4. Hi, I appreciate your writing. With beef cattle, quite often fencing, some sheds and water sources are all you need, especially if you are wanting to raise a grass-based beef operation, be it finishing beefers on grass or a cow-calf operation. The exceptions are if you are willing to spend extra money on winter feeding costs and supplementing your cows with grain, or if you are wanting to run a feedlot. thanks all!