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Put CHAPS to work in your herd

No, we’re not talking about those leather leg protectors! CHAPS stands for Cow Herd Appraisal Performance System, a state-of-the-art beef production record system designed to provide vital information about your beef managerial decisions and herd performance.

Key Points

CHAPS stands for Cow Herd Appraisal Performance System.

CHAPS III software is available in 26 states.

Software helps track beef herd factors for easier decision-making.

CHAPS III is the latest version. It was developed by North Dakota State University Extension Service through the state’s Beef Cattle Improvement Association. And, it has been approved by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

Today, the program is being offered by Cooperative Extension in 26 states. That’s solid proof of its credibility.

What’s summarized?

This comprehensive analysis system provides all the standard performance data recommended by the Beef Improvement Federation. You can sort a variety of categories according to your wants by major category. Here’s a sampling of what’s available.

calf listing (divided by sex): birth date, birth weight, calving ease, weaning weight, frame score, conformation score, etc.

sire summaries of progeny averages: includes most of the above factors plus frame score, average daily gain, and weight per day of age

calving distribution: calves born by 21-day intervals, average calving date by cow age, average weaning weight by cow age, average weaning weight by 21-day intervals

cow culling report: reports the number of cows culled for a variety of reasons

cow summaries: cow identification, age, sire, breed averages, calving intervals, cow weight and condition at weaning, etc.

yearling performance reports: adjusted yearling weight and weight ratio, frame score, gain on test, sire, sex, and breed averages, and pelvic and back fat measurements

Yes, you’d have to collect a lot of information for a complete summary. But you can also zero in on only the traits most important to you. The minimum records you should keep include age of cow, calf sex, birth dates, and individual or group weaning weight.

CHAPS III is available as a microcomputer program if you’d prefer to process your own records rather then send in your raw data. It requires a Microsoft-compatible microcomputer with a minimum of 3 MB of hard disk space; and a PC-DOS or MS-DOS operating system, version 3.21 or higher.

The old adage, “You can’t tell where you should be going without knowing where you’ve been” relates well to beef herd records. To learn more about CHAPS, contact your local county agent or Keith Helmuth at: NDSU Research Extension Center, 1133 State Ave., Dickinson, ND 58601; phone 701-483-2348. or e-mail

Harpster is a Penn State animal scientist and a beef cow-calf producer.

How does your herd stack up?

Each year, a five-year rolling average of herd performance data from all herds enrolled in CHAPS is published. It provides interesting benchmarks for comparison. Here are some of the more important benchmarks reported for the latest period ending in 2009.

average number of cows exposed: 218

average cow age: 5.7 years

calving percentage: 92.9%

weaning percentage: 90.9%

cows calving in the first 63 days: 95.6%

average weaning age: 189 days

average weaning weight: 565 pounds

pounds weaned per cow exposed: 505 pounds

replacement percentage: 15.7%

Compared to previous summaries, the average cow herd is getting older. Calves are being weaned at an earlier age but at heavier weights.

Reproductive values are generally more positive than previous summaries. “Calf death loss” is down and “pounds weaned per cow exposed” is still holding above 500 pounds.

This article published in the December, 2010 edition of AMERICAN AGRICULTURIST.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.