A survey of 50 Friesian/Holstein dairy herds (average size 178 cows) in England investigated the rate of culling and the reasons for disposal and death over three years from 1990 to 1992. The average total annual culling rate was 23.8 per cent (22.0 per cent sold and 1.8 per cent died). Of the disposals, 54 per cent were culled by the end of their fourth lactation. Poor fertility was the most important reason for culling (36.5 per cent of disposals), followed by management policy (11.5 per cent), mastitis (10.1 per cent), bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) (7.4 per cent) and lameness (5.6 per cent). The most common causes of death were mastitis (8.9 per cent) and BSE (11.5 per cent), but 46 per cent died for unknown reasons.