One thing has become clear in my first couple years of having a farm: THE CHORES ARE NEVER DONE!
There's always fence to build, weeds to spray, and downed trees to clean up. If you're not a full-time farmer (only 24% of farmers with under 100 head have this as their primary source of income (USDA, 2011)), then time is in short supply. This causes you to prioritize the responsibilities and jobs filling your todo list. Something that consistently moves to the bottom of the list for many of these operators is detailed record keeping. Below, I'm going to highlight why keeping accurate, detailed records on a consistent basis creates value for your farm. I've included a few more important items that should not be neglected as well if at all possible.
"Now that I've bought mineral, what do I do with this receipt?"
Many times the answer to this question is to toss it into the glove box or wallet with all of the other receipts. This practice can create quite a chore as tax season arrives and you are tasked with collecting and categorizing all of your expenses to enable you or your accountant to file your taxes properly. How can you be sure you've got all of your receipts? What about these two that have faded so badly I can't read them? Luckily there is a remedy to these problems. HerdOne has an expense module that allows you to record expenses as they are incurred. You can even take a picture of the receipt and attach it to the expense. The great thing about keeping up with this important task throughout the year is that come tax time, all you have to do is print out the expense report from the 'Reports' page and all of the expense information required for your Schedule F is at your fingertips.
Animal records are another important part of the livestock management process. Having weight measurements of offspring for each cow allows you to make more informed cull decisions. Tracking the vaccination history of an animal can help prevent you from selling a cow with illegal tissue residue due to a recent antiobiotic. Knowing that a certain cow has historically had issues with her feet might lead you to sell her rather than deal with trimming or treating her feet every year. Having these records can help your farm stay compliant, make your operation more efficient, and add more to your bottom line.
With the IRS requirement of keeping your farm related records for a minimum of 3 years, having these records kept in a safe, secure, and accessible location is important. Also, if you have been BQA certified (https://www.bqa.org/), having historical records highlighting your compliant management practices is critical. We recommend www.herdone.com for all of your record keeping needs.
Soil Testing and Maintenance
One of my mentors who has been in the industry for over 30 years had a good word of advice, "If you're a cattle farmer, you're a grass farmer." If your soil is not in good shape, then you're not going to have great grass. Without great grass, it's going to be tough to have great cows.
That being said, it's important to have your soil tested at least on an annual basis. Many states provide free soil sample tests through university extension offices (if a resident of Arkansas, https://uaex.edu/environment-nature/soil/soil-test.aspx walks you through the entire process) and often, they will include with the test results advice on improving the soil quality. This includes material application (lime, fertilizer, etc.) as well as rate (pounds per acre) recommendations.
A pasture that is in good condition produces more, high-quality forage, allows for a higher animal to acre graze rate, and better handles drought conditions. So whether you're wanting to increase hay production or simply run a few more head in your cow pasture, look at implementing a soil management program in the coming year.
Proper Working Facilities
Prior to getting a corral put in place made out of blood, sweat, and steel, I had a cow come up with a huge swollen spot just forward from her rear hip. In an attempt to catch her and take her up to the local vet, I put together a small pen made out of t-posts and welded wire cattle panels. With some feed I was able to get her up and ready to load. Queue the squeaking and rattling of the cattle trailer pulling up and backing into place to load her up. I got into the pen to push her towards the trailer opening and much to my chagrin, she decided to go the other way, leaping into the jimmy-rigged perimeter I had put together. It of course laid over and she proceeded to trot away from the trailer through the field.
This affirmed what I already knew. Having proper working facilities helps you achieve the desired outcome, which usually doesn't include witnessing a jail break. They also help keep both the operator and the animal safe during the working process. These two things are of utmost importance for the longevity of your operation. There are many designs available to look through online if you're looking to build or modify a working facility of your own.
The past few years have involved a great deal of learning as well as progress on my farm. Growing up we had cattle but it's different when you're ultimately responsible for the thousands of dollars grazing out in the field. I have enjoyed growing my herd and learning how to manage the numerous changing responsibilities that come with each season. I hope you have enjoyed reading a little bit about my experiences thus far and would love for you to give our livestock management application located at www.herdone.com a try. I look forward to sharing more of my experiences in the near future.