Farm Management Minute: Importance of management and record keeping

David Koupal
S.D.Center for Farm/Ranch Management, Hot Springs

Many of you have either set a meeting with your local FSA office or have already completed the meeting with them about livestock and/or pasture loss. In my opinion this is just the beginning of how important it will be to document almost everything that is going on in your operation. Conservation of the land, chemicals applied and vaccines administered are just a few details our government is requiring us document. Both small and large operations are finding out that keeping accurate numbers of livestock from 2012 and 2013 would have been much easier to document at that time instead of trying to figure them out now. In many companies, a designated employee is hired to help manage the inventory details of the company. This is one way they can stay on top of their managing and record keeping and therefore become more efficient and hopefully more profitable in their business. Agriculture is at the point where this is what we are expected to do. So what is the best way to get started doing this? You have to have some self-discipline to set aside time (at least monthly) to complete records of the activities in your operation. I personally know that it’s not easy. There are a lot of days when it’s nice out that I try to look for a reason to check fence or cows. Some months there aren’t any rainy days to keep us in the house, so it is necessary to set a specific date that will be dedicated to management. Next topic is where to start when compiling records. From my experience, it’s best to complete what has happened in the recent past. For example, before starting to work on spring data, make sure the calving data is complete. You should keep track of every calf born or lost during each month. Most of you carry a calving book in your pocket. Take that information and transfer it to another document that stays in the house. I have lost many of those calving books and was always glad that I had a backup in the house. Each month there should have been a complete inventory list of all livestock owned. When moving pairs to pasture, keep track of how many cows/pairs are turned out and also when they are moved for an accurate record of amount of time in each pasture. Because of the new Farm Bill, make sure you talk to your local FSA office on the new rules regarding death loss due to weather related issues as well as the deadlines for reporting those losses. We are at a period in Agriculture that requires proper management and record keeping skills in every aspect of the operation; this is not likely to change anytime in the near future. In the South Dakota Center for Farm/Ranch Management we work one on one with producers across the state. It is our job to help each producer improve their record keeping and management skills. If you have any questions please call David Koupal at 605 995-7193 or 1-800-MTI-1969 or email me at