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Classing and culling

There are a number of methods producers can use to class livestock to help make decisions regarding culling. These depend on the age and type of stock.

Each property should have set classing and culling criteria in place.

Classing and culling can be based on:

  • Low fertility:
    • In females this may be based on pregnancy testing or wet/dry status at mustering.
    • In males this is usually based on combined examination of the teeth, feet and testicles a few months prior to joining. Bulls may also undergo a Veterinary Bull Breeding Soundness Evaluation.
  • Ability to deliver a calf or lamb or kid unassisted.
  • Ability to rear a calf or lamb or kid to weaning.
  • Age - often the best way to do this is based on the animal's teeth (animals with worn teeth or broken mouth usually do poorly).
  • Temperament.
  • Physical problems, including udder, foot and other structural problems such as excessive breech wrinkle/cover in Merinos.
  • Production targets, including performance of offspring (there is no point in keeping animals that fail to produce themselves or that produce low value offspring).
  • Disease susceptibility.

In intensive production systems it will be possible to classify and identify livestock for culling several times during the year, including pre-joining, at pregnancy testing and at weaning. In extensive systems it may only be possible to class livestock at the annual muster.

Condition scoring livestock

Livestock can also be classed based on condition score. This is helpful to improve livestock management by identifying low condition score animals for preferential feeding.

Condition scoring also helps identify fat cows, ewes and does that are at increased risk of diseases such as grass tetany or ketosis (pregnancy toxaemia).

The cattle industry has recently developed a body condition scoring system that can be used around Australia and incorporates the national livestock language. The national livestock language is described in A national guide to describing and managing cattle in low body condition.

Module 6: Weaner Throughput from MLA's More Beef from Pastures the producer's manual includes information on condition scoring cattle. Module 10: Wean More Lambs from the Making More From Sheep manual contains information on condition scoring sheep.

Guidelines for conditions scoring goats are available in Module 6: Husbandry of MLA's Going into Goats: Profitable producers' best practice guide.