Beef Herd Records:
What Should You Know About Your Herd?
D. C. Miller
If you have answered yes to all or most of these questions, you should
be able to get reasonably accurate estimates of your annual cow maintenance
cost, and be able to make sound marketing decisions concerning your cattle.
Without these records, your marketing decisions are simply your best guess
at the time.
Are your cows individually identified (with ear tags and tattoos)?
Are calves tattooed and ear tagged at birth?
Do you carry a pocket record book to note breeding dates, calving dates,
sex of calf, difficult births, or degree of assistance required at birth?
Do you make notes on the season (unusually dry, cool, etc.,), forage quality
and availability, winter feed quality and availability, and relate these
to average weaning weights?
Do you individually weigh your calves at weaning?
Do you annually or semi-annually weigh your cows to determine the percentage
of her weight she weans in calf each year? This may be the best overall
measurement of efficiency we have readily available.
Do you record all purchased feed, medication, fertilizer, lime, hired machinery,
and hired labor expenses and total annually?
Do you make note of all sales commissions and transportation expenses and
Do you know your initial cost and year of purchase of any fencing, handling
facilities, specialized equipment or buildings used in conjunction with
your beef operation?
Do you note the purchase price, year of purchase and expected life of any
breeding animals you purchase or have on your operation?
Do you keep records of your land rental rates and property taxes, and have
some idea of the current value of your property?
Organization is the key to keeping accurate records. Make sure you or
your employees obtain receipts for all purchases related to your farm.
Designate a location where those receipts are placed and retrieve them
weekly or monthly to enter in your ledger or records program. Numerous
software programs are available to maintain such records if you have a
personal computer. Carry your pocket calendar daily to make entries as
described above and summarize those notes at the same weekly or monthly
intervals. Obtain access to accurate scales for weighing calves and cows.
Many scale options are now available including digital load cell models
which are much more versatile than conventional scales. Develop a history
on each cow in your herd: her birth date; sire and dam or breed combination;
breeding and calving dates; calf sex and weaning weights; vaccination records,
mature body weight, and any abnormal circumstances.
After you develop these record keeping habits, begin to compare expenditures
by month and year. Chances are you will notice, and be able to eliminate
some unnecessary expenses. You will also be able to determine your production
costs at various times and use this information to make informed market
decisions. Your relative production cost status will become apparent by
comparing your production costs with those of other operations. Your accountant
will appreciate your efforts and be able to make better financial recommendations.
You will also be able to determine which are your most efficient cows,
which cows you should cull and what is a reasonable price to ask for, or
accept when she sells. Without this information, it's difficult to determine
the value of your beef operation or to make informed decisions concerning
For additional information, contact Dale
Miller, 919/515-7772, or Linda
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Last modified January 1998
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