The objective was to identify predisposing factors for increased risk of involuntary culling in adult Holstein–Friesian dairy cows. Data were sourced from Scotland's Rural College (SRUC) Dairy Research Centre. Between September 2003 and August 2010 175 cows were culled, a herd culling rate of 33·7%. The major reasons for involuntary culling were fertility (27·4%) and udder problems (26·9%). In the analysis, the culled cows were matched with their cohorts that survived to a later lactation. To identify predisposing factors, a binary logistic model was applied. Cows with higher than average body condition score (BCS) at last service were five times [Odds Ratio (OR) = 4·8] more likely to be culled due to infertility. Cows with low protein yield on day 60 ± 5 in lactation were ten times less likely (OR = 0·1) to be culled. In first lactation heifers, only BCS at last service increased the risk of involuntary culling due to infertility (OR = 13·0). A high milk yield acceleration was a significant (P = 0·04) factor in increasing the risk, five times (OR = 5·2) more, of culling cows due to udder problems. In conclusion, a high BCS at last service, high milk protein yield at around day 60 in lactation and acceleration of milk yield after calving exposed cows to a risk of being culled involuntarily. In practice, monitoring of traits that indicate metabolic imbalance could assist identifying cows at high risk of being culled and contribute to reducing the associated risk through a more effective timely decision.