In addition to milk, dairies are also constant producers of beef. This is a huge reason why USDA's latest monthly Cold Storage report should factor into their summer management plans.

The June report issued last week said that, as of May 31, beef and pork supplies were at their lowest levels in 5 and 2+ years, respectively. In addition, this spring the number of beef cattle on feed was pegged at its lowest level in six years.

The only thing preventing this situation from being a financial windfall for livestock owners is poultry. The Cold Storage report also said chicken supplies were up 9 percent from a year ago.

Even so, strong international demand for meat, combined with lower U.S. production, presents opportunity for dairy producers for at least the next several months. With milk prices still relatively weak, culling lists mean more than just income. They also represent herd improvement potential in several ways:
  • Reproduction. Now is an ideal time to "cash out" problem breeders and low quality animals that drag down a herd's overall genetics.

  • Milk quality. Mastitis and staph cows have never been worth more to send down down the road. Culling a load of them could have a huge impact on overall herd somatic cell count.

  • Herd health, especially if Johne's disease is in your operation. Odds are that you do because, according to the 2007 National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) study, 68.1 percent of all U.S. dairies have it. Testing and culling is the best and fastest way to eliminate Johne's.

  • Overcrowding. At some point, adding more cows to a group reduces production per cow. This means more than just wasted feed; research is increasingly showing it also causes lower reproduction, more lameness, and more health problems.