Different grades mean different prices received for cull cattle

Before taking cull cattle to market, it is beneficial to know what quality grades they will fall under. 

This helps producers understand the value of their culls, and potentially work to improve what grade the cattle fall under to achieve higher sale prices. 

There are traditionally four grades that cull cattle might fall under: commercial, utility, cutter and canner.

Commercial

This grade refers to cattle that are over approximately 42 months of age. Cull cattle that fall into this category will have a slightly thick fat covering over the back, ribs, loin and rump, and the muscling will be moderately firm. In very mature cattle, at least a moderately thick fat covering over the back, ribs, loin and rump, and considerable patchiness frequently is evident about the tail-head. The brisket and flanks will appear to be moderately full and the muscling should be firm.

Utility

For cattle that qualify for the utility grade they must be under 30 months of age, and they can have anywhere from a very thin covering of fat to a slightly thick fat covering, generally restricted to the back, loin and rump for the very mature cattle in this grade. In mature utility cattle, the crops will be slightly thin and the brisket, flanks, and cod or udder will indicate very slight fullness.

Cutter

In cull cattle that fall into the cutter grade, the degree of finish can range from practically none in cattle under 30 months of age to very mature cattle which have only a very thin covering of fat. The range in cutability among cattle that qualify for the minimum of this grade will be narrow because of small variations in fatness and muscling.

Canner

Canner grade cattle are those which are inferior to the minimum specified for the cutter grade. 

Typically, a producer will want to put in some effort to keep their cull cattle from falling into the cutter and canner grades as these categories will not fetch a good price. It can be worth the time and investment to try and bulk cull cattle up so that they at least meet the requirements for commercial and utility. 

“It is worth your while to hold onto them and feed them,” Andy McCorkill, livestock specialist with the University of Missouri Extension, said. 

He explained that unlike feeder cattle, cull cows will gain value as they gain weight. If cull cattle score a 3 or lower on the Body Condition Score scale, trying to raise their condition to a 5 or 6 can help producers fetch a better market price. Ideally, McCorkill explained, it is better to not let cows get thin in the first place. 

When culling based on age, extension experts typically advise that producers send cows to market before they reach a point where they are losing condition and teeth; culling a little sooner can prevent as much value being lost. It is also suggested that producers try to market their cull cows outside of “normal” culling season – typically October and November, before winter sets in – to potentially receive a higher price. 

Klaire HowertonFarm Helpcull cattle,understanding cull gradesDifferent grades mean different prices received for cull cattleBefore taking cull cattle to market, it is beneficial to know what quality grades they will fall under. This helps producers understand the value of their culls, and potentially work to improve what grade the cattle fall under to achieve higher sale...The Ozarks' most read farm newspaper, reaching more than 58,000 readers in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma