Ag Notes: Keeping adequate records doesn't have to be complicated

November 18, 2003|JERRY LITTLE

As we approach the end of the year, it's a good time for beef producers to think about changes to improve the bottom line in their farming operations. For some, the most important change would be to start keeping records for the first time.

Without good farm records and timely analysis of them, you can't identify areas of needed improvements in your operation.

Perhaps more importantly, good records allow beef producers to prioritize necessary improvements. Since few producers have the financial resources to make every investment they'd like to in their operations, a good recordkeeping system can point out those investments with the greatest return.

Production and financial records are a very important part of this system. Production records include conception rates, weaning weights and death losses.

Financial records measure costs and returns associated with beef production.

You need both types of records to obtain a complete picture of your beef operation.


Focusing exclusively on either the production or financial measure can be misleading. For example, increasing the average weaning weight might cost more than the value of the additional pounds. Without good financial records, it would be impossible for you to know this.

Cutting production costs by $10 per head might reduce productivity to the point that you decrease returns by $15 per head.

Good production records will identify when a problem like this occurs. The point here is that neither maximum production nor least-cost production is the same as optimal production.

It's not complicated to keep adequate production and financial records. You can produce a lot of useful information from fairly basic recordkeeping systems. For production records, good herd record books are widely available from many sources. For financial records, the Kentucky Farm Record Book remains a simple, effective format to maintain your farm operation's cash costs.

Record books are available at the extension service for $3 each. Just remember recordkeeping is like many other activities; the more you put into it, the more you'll get out of it.

Spooked cows

"The name of my ranch is The Big Zero Circle K Crooked B Seven-Eleven Big Mac Bar W Double M Little J Underlined X Double Up and Go."

"Wow! I'll bet you have a lot of cattle!"

"No, they all ran off when they saw the branding iron."

Jerry Little is Boyle County extension agent for agriculture/natural resources.

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