Record keeping the base of a successful operation
November 23, 2012
It is hard to believe there are only six weeks left in 2012. Seems like only yesterday we were ringing in the new year and hoping for a great production year. Now we have endured a summer of drought and the snow and cold have arrived. I know 2012 wasn't what we dreamed of, but we understand we need to make the best of whatever 'Mother Nature" gives us. The best way you can analyze your past is through good records. This history is then used to plot and project your future.
Records can be as simple or as complex as you like. The most important thing is that you make decisions because of your records. Twenty years ago (when cattle were cheap) we had many producers interested in records of herd profitability (loss). These records were important for the producer to take to his banker, but he made no management changes or culling decision as a result of poor production. As financial conditions improved most producers discontinued records. Perhaps this is why cow-calf producers are the slowest segment in animal production to adapt new technology.
The backbone of any cow-calf record system is the calf book. It can be as simple or as technical as you prefer. Remember data is worthless unless you analyze it and use it to make decisions. A few producers have niche markets for added value, while most of us sell numbers (head count) and pounds (weight). That is why maternal data is important. You need to evaluate your reproduction. The higher the reproductive rates, the more calves you will be able to sell. The healthier you keep these calves and the more milk the cow produces, the heavier the calves will be at sale time (more pounds).
Through the years I have seen lots of computer based programs. The only problem is, most of my clients aren't computer wizards. The computer is something forced on us rather than something we grew up with. In many instances, these programs were purchased and then scrapped in a very short time because we couldn't make them work or our antiquated computers loaded with the kid's games didn't have room for them. Now these programs are easier to run and aren't as expensive. My advice would be to start out simple and add data as you are able to utilize it in your decisions.
The important parameters to measure for simple calculations are:
• Reproductive efficiency
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o Calves per cow exposed
o Calves first heat cycle
• Calf productivity
o Birth date
o Neonatal death loss
o Pre-weaning death loss
Also your calf book is a great place to keep records of treatments and vaccinations. You will be able to establish trends in your herd and evaluate the timing, selection and effectiveness of your vaccination and treatment programs.
Your calf book is an important document to your herd. Not only will it provide valuable management data for your herd, but also will allow you to improve your marketing through value-added programs. Using your computer you can produce spread sheets enabling you to scrutinize your herd's productivity. Consult with your veterinarian or extension specialist to decide which records are important to your herd. Then utilize this data to make meaningful management decision to maximize the profits in your herd.