How to Keep Records for Cow Herds

By Robert Fears

Keeping records for cow herds is an important function, yet it is ignored or improperly executed by many producers. If done correctly, cattle records show profits and losses, non-producing cows and inefficient components of the operation. Good records can be used at the end of the year to analyze the business and determine how it can improve. Records on individual animals are good marketing tools because they allow you to relate the complete production history to the buyer. Animals with documented histories usually sell for a premium.

Select a record-keeping method that matches your expertise and work habits. Cattle management software is available for maintaining complete ranch records on a computer. If you prefer to keep records with pencil and paper, purchase loose-leaf record books.

Number your cattle with a brand or ear tag. Most cattleman use a two- and three-digit numbering system with the first digit representing the year in which the animal was born. For instance, the number 11 on an animal signifies that it was the first calf born in 2011.

Organize calf records that contain birth dates, dams' identification numbers, birth weights, weaning dates, weaning weights and yearling weights. Record these data under the corresponding individual calf number. These records show the types and number of calves a cow is raising.

Maintain health records that include dates of dehorning, castration, branding, implanting, vaccinations, deworming and spraying. Record vaccine and dewormer dosages, brand names and required market withdrawal periods. Document dates, types and administered treatments of injured or sick animals.

Number or name your pastures and prepare a map of the farm or ranch showing fences, ponds, windmills or water pumps, piping, water troughs and buildings. Draw or produce a map to scale. Record dates of fertilization, herbicide applications and pasture improvements under each pasture name or number. Note when cattle are moved on and off pastures and the stocking rates.

Keep records of the date, amount, cost and name of the feed and hay that is fed. Maintain a ledger of all expenses and income pertaining to your cattle operation.