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.

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 it.

For additional information, contact Dale Miller, 919/515-7772, or Linda Kern, 919/515-2761. 
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Last modified January 1998
EAH Webmaster, Department of Animal Science, NCSU