How to keep records on your farm

An old adage from my parents can be loosely translated as “business fails because of bad bookkeeping.” Contemporary business practices also emphasize the need for proper records, which can be analyzed and used as the basis for decision-making.

It’s a good practice, isn’t it? Let’s go back home, and by that I mean, us, as breeders. Do we keep records and do these records become the basis on which we make our decisions?

In this article, I make a strong case for record keeping and introduce some must-have records. Record keeping should be practiced by all farmers.

Only with proper records can a poultry farmer track their costs in the months before and after the chickens start laying. Income from eggs comes after months. Analyze expenses against costs and determine if there is business going on or if you are just trying to crush water in a mortar with a pestle.

It is with these records that you are able to assess the viability of any business. This is a valid point in the context of research showing that most farmers experience losses.

They are unable to detect this until they go bankrupt. So that means that as a farmer, if you don’t keep records, you may not be in business.

Despite the inability to assess the financial viability of the business, farmers who do not keep records lack the tools that can help them make sound management decisions. A classic example is that of a dairy farmer, who keeps no breeding records and therefore obtains semen from the same bull used to serve offspring, hence inbreeding.

So what are the most important records for a farm?

Record keeping can be complex and detailed, depending on the company. Thanks to information technology, we now have systems that facilitate record keeping. Even more accessible are mobile phone apps such as Agronote and Myfarm which can be used by tech-savvy farmers with relative ease.

Whatever the case, any livestock-based business must keep records of expenses and income, production, health, and livestock.

Expense and income records should capture the daily expenses and income of the business. This is a cross-record that details what is purchased at what price while recording any revenue from product sales.

The best way to keep records for a mixed farmer is to prepare a separate record for each different business, such as a dairy, poultry and vegetable farm. Expenses and income from a general farm can then be generated from time to time. It is the record that can tell you whether you are making a profit or a loss. Production records are important because it is the engine of the farm. In dairy farming, the amount of milk produced by each animal must be recorded.

The number of eggs collected must be recorded in the case of poultry. This allows you to monitor animal performance.

This is the basis on which slaughter can be done. Health records contain information about illnesses on the farm. It contains records of events such as vaccinations. Farmers should ensure that when an animal health practitioner visits the farm, makes a diagnosis and institutes treatment, they record the disease and the treatment administered in the health record. The right to information must be exercised. Breeding records include things like births, insemination dates, bull used, etc. Herd records can be individualized or a single book used for the entire herd. This helps farmers identify difficult sires, good dams and good bulls.

In a nutshell, a farmer must record any significant event on the farm. How and where you save can vary and will depend on you as the farmer. Keep records for your own information. Finally, to become a good archivist, just start and start now.

About Yvonne Lozier

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