Photo by Rachael Brugger
Many of us farmers traded our day jobs for time on the farm because we didn’t like the idea of getting stuck behind a desk, staring at a computer screen. Nonetheless, as any successful farmer knows, it’s just as important to keep accurate records of your crop and livestock activities as it is to keep pests from raiding your rows of tomatoes, so some time at the computer is necessary. Use this advice from farm-business experts to getting your farm files in order now, so you don’t have to worry about it later on.
In addition to tracking dates and dollar amounts, Kent Wolfe, PhD, director for the Center of Agribusiness and Economic Development at the University of Georgia, says you’ll need to track other information regarding crop and livestock production throughout the year. "You need to record basic crop-production information, such as acreage amounts, yield per acre and total yield by crop of field,” he says. "These records should include fertilizer, pest-control use, and application rates.”
Wolfe recommends using a livestock summary to help maintain an accurate account of the number of livestock on the farm.
"The producer should indicate present livestock, whether it be beef, goats or chickens, and include when the animals were bought, sold, born or when one dies,” Wolfe says. "It’s also important to record any vaccinations and supplements given and the dates they were given.”
Keeping up with livestock inventory, breeding dates, and health information can be a challenge if you’re using the old pen-and-paper method. Products, such as the EasyKeeper Herd Manager, are available to help track livestock, their health and sales.
Dave Benjamin, vice president of business development at EasyKeeper, says his company’s program can ultimately add value to livestock because of the time saved and the accuracy of record-keeping.
"The program allows you to upload photos of each individual animal in the herd [and] document birth and vaccination dates and all herd-health records,” Benjamin says. "On the dashboard, reminders are generated when it is time to conduct such tasks as deworming, what is overdue, what is due and what needs to be done in the future.”
Making use of modern technology can help. A simple digital camera or cell-phone camera can be useful for capturing photo records of your equipment and livestock. For instance, a lightning strike could kill six of your best cattle in an instant. Having a photo record of the cattle can aid with reimbursement requests for the insurance company or receiving disaster aid from the Farm Services Agency. A time stamp would be helpful or you can enter the photo date into your program or spreadsheet.
In addition, if theft occurs on your property, having photo records of your inventory and tools along with model and serial numbers can make tracking and retrieving stolen goods much easier. A picture is worth a thousand words, but it could also be worth thousands of dollars if it helps you get your tractor, garden tiller or other farm equipment back.
If you’re taking photos of livestock for your digital files, the most convenient time to do this is when you’re actually working with the animals. Placing a numbered ear tag on each animal at the time of birth and snapping a photo will help you keep records for each animal from day one. Another opportunity to place ear tags and snap photo records is when you’re deworming or weighing animals.
Get more farm record-keeping tips with these HobbyFarms.com articles:
About the Author: John Howle is a freelance writer and photographer, book author, English teacher and farmer from Heflin, Ala. He works on his family farm, helps his wife raise their three children, and speaks and sings at cowboy churches.