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PINE BLUFF, Ark. – Keeping good records and analyzing them provides ranchers an opportunity
to fine-tune their ranch’s management and to increase profits, says Dr. David Fernandez,
Cooperative Extension Program livestock specialist at the University of Arkansas at
The old adage that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it applies to ranching,
too, says Dr. Fernandez. So what production data should ranchers be measuring and
keeping? Records of birth weights, weaning weights, birth dates and breeding dates.
Most livestock producers are paid per pound of calf, lamb or kid they produce so understanding
how well females are producing and performing is essential. Birth weights and weaning
weights are easy to collect and compare. A heavy-duty fish scale can be used for lambs
and kids as they tend to weigh less than10 pounds. Some breeds produce larger, single
births rather than twins.
Calves are much larger so an inexpensive spring or digital scales can handle them.
Usually, animals that are smaller at birth are easier to deliver, but they tend to
have more difficulty surviving and thriving in early life. Use birth weights to select
offspring of the optimal size for your management system, advises Dr. Fernandez.
Weaning weights give an idea of how well the female is taking care of her offspring
and how well her offspring perform. But, be careful when comparing weaning weights
as older animals have more time to grow so they may look superior to a younger animal,
says Dr. Fernandez. Use adjusted weaning weights to take this into account, he advises.
Birth dates and breeding dates are an important part of the management puzzle. “To
increase profits, you should have no more than a one year interval from one birth
to the next,” says Dr. Fernandez.
With intervals longer than a year, producers must feed and care for adults without
recovering the cost by selling an offspring at the end of the year. Since nearly 70
percent of the cost of livestock production is feed-related, decreasing the amount
of time feeding before selling is critical.
Good financial records are as important as good production records. “Do not mix household
and farm business expenses and incomes together,” says Dr. Fernandez. Don’t just keep
track of farm costs, classify them, such as the cost of operating the tractor, feed
costs, veterinary bills, fertilizer, etc. Once you know what you are spending, compare
yourself to the rest of the state.
If your costs are out of line with other farms of your type and size, find out why.
High feed bills may indicate an opportunity to reduce costs and increase profits,
says Dr. Fernandez.
“Good record keeping is not enough. You must analyze those records. With the data
in hand, producers can make changes to reduce costs and increase profits,” adds Dr.
For information on record keeping or livestock production, contact Dr. Fernandez at
(870) 575-7214 or email@example.com.
By Carol SandersWriter/editorUAPB School of AgricultureFisheries and Human Sciences(870) firstname.lastname@example.org