A matter of record – Ag Book of the Day 6

I was asked if I could explain the records that we keep for our herd, so I will do my best to do just that. (And I’m willing to take other blog requests!)

Before I get to the details, let me tell you that our record-keeping has joined the 20th century (I would say 21st, but we don’t use smart phones…yet) and it’s mostly computer-based, and has been since 1988. We use what is called CHAPS, or Cow Herd Appraisal Performance Software.

We have one of these for every calving season, since 1988.

This is how the typical method of record keeping goes for a calf – from birth to sale barn (let’s just say that this particular calf is a steer, since most steers are sold). (And to clarify, a steer was born a bull calf, but was castrated within a few months from birth.)

Shortly after birth, the cow number, the sire (if known), date and weight is wrote down, as well as whether the calf is a bull or heifer. The calf number is the same as the cow, as long as it’s a single birth and both the cow and calf are healthy. The other number that is recorded at birth is the calving ease number.

Calving ease is just what it sounds like…how easily the calf was born. It’s a 1-5 scale, with 1 = no assistance, 2 = minor difficulty, some assistance (Boss Man may have to assist by using the obstetrical chains and pulling some, but just using his own strength, no mechanical assistance.), 3 = major difficulty, usually mechanical assistance (such as a calving jack), 4 = caesarean section (surgical removal of calf), and 5 = abnormal presentation (such as backwards calf, or feeling a tail, not a head).

In the fall of the year, the calves are weighed and weaned (adjusted to 205 days). We keep track of their weight, so that we can figure out what their gain was from weaning to sale time. That way we can make adjustments to feed, weaning date, etc., for the next season (if numbers aren’t where we like), or we can be assured that we’re doing what we need to do, producing the best results we can.

The next time we weigh the steers would be right before sale time. Not only will we know what their average rate of daily gain is (usually 3 pounds per day for our herd), but we can also sort our cattle into different groups, making it better for the buyer (uniformity is always a goal).

Once our cattle go through the sale barn, we have no data on them. We don’t retain any type or percentage of ownership, so there is no reason for whomever is finishing them to harvest weight to let us know how they did.

Now, I’ve mentioned before that our herd is a closed one, meaning that every cow here was born here. We can trace back any cow, calf, etc. that’s on our farm to her origins. It’s kinda cool.

Tomorrow I’ll talk about our heifer and cow records. If you have any specific questions, feel free to ask! I love answering questions about our farm and our herd!

And now on to today’s Ag Book of the Day – Day 6:

“Plow! Plant! Grow!” yet another John Deere book (but yet again, one of EJ’s absolute favorites!). It’s a board book, so it’s easy for even George to handle. The pictures are bright and colorful, and it talks about many of the different farming activities that happen on the farm. We don’t use all the methods that they cover, but it’s neat to be able to bring other methods into our discussions. Love it!

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