You have probably heard the old adage about not being able to manage what you do not measure. If you apply this to an animal or pasture production goal, record keeping can help you determine whether you are progressing in the intended direction. I suggest today is a good opportunity to review record keeping on your ranch and commit to keeping the best records you can. Make sure you have an ID for each animal. Ear tags work well, but you can also freeze brand numbers on the hip of cattle. Use temporary paint numbers on sheep and neck chains on goats.
For record keeping, use simple, pocket-sized books you can carry out to the field and collect data as you go about tending the livestock. Some include calendars. There is the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association “Red Book” ($7.00) with space for breeding dates, calving dates, calf weights and sex, dam and sire, and pasture location with in and out dates, and more. There are similar free ones for sheep and goats from Kentucky or magazines like The Shepherd (free with subscription). You can use as is or transfer data to a larger notebook or computerize spreadsheet for increased opportunities to sort and study the information. You can design your own record keeping system or use an existing one. There are also programs for use on your phone or automated systems for your livestock handling facility.
Here are some additional resources for record keeping and computer software programs:
Sheep/goat production records
Cattle production records
- CHAPS from NDSU
- Various commercial products (internet search)