An old adage from my folks can loosely be translated as, ‘businesses fail because of poor accounting’. Contemporary business practices also emphasise the need to have proper records, which can be analysed and be the basis on which decisions are made.
That is good practice right? Let’s come back home, and by this I mean, we, as livestock farmers. Do we keep records and do those records become the basis upon which we make decisions?
In this article, I make a strong case for record- keeping and introduce some must-keep records. Record-keeping should be practiced by all farmers.
It is only with proper records that a poultry farmer can track his or her costs over the months before and after the chickens start laying. The income from the eggs come over months. Analyse the expenditure versus the costs and determine if there is business taking place, or are you just trying to crash water in a mortar with a pestle.
It is with these records that you are able to assess the viability of any venture. This is a valid point in the backdrop of research that shows that most farmers incur losses.
They are unable to detect this until they run themselves out of business. This, therefore, means that as a farmer, if you are not keeping records you may actually not be in business.
Despite the inability to assess the venture’s financial viability, non–record keeping farmers miss the instruments that can help them to institute sound management decisions. A classic example is a dairy farmer, who keeps no records of breeding and, therefore, gets semen from the same bull used to serve a progeny, thus inbreeding.
So, which are the most important records for a farm?
Record-keeping can be complex and detailed, depending on the venture. Thanks to information technology, we now have systems that aid in record-keeping. Even more accessible are mobile phone applications such as Agronote and Myfarm that can be used by tech-savvy farmers with relative ease.
Whichever the case, any livestock-based venture must keep expenses and income, production, health, and breeding records.
The expenses and income records should capture the daily expenses and income of the venture. It is a cut-across record that details what is bought at how much while recording any income from product sales.
The best way to keep records for a mixed farmer is to prepare a separate record for each different venture say dairy, poultry, garden farm, etc. A general farm’s expenses and income record can then be generated from time to time.
This is the record that can tell you if you are making a profit or loss.
Production records are important because this is the engine of the farm. In dairy farming, the amount of milk produced by each animal must be recorded.
The number of eggs collected must be recorded in the case of poultry. This allows you to monitor the performance of the animals.
It is the basis upon which culling can be done. Health records contain information on diseases on the farm. It contains recordings of events such as vaccinations. Farmers must make sure that when an animal health practitioner visits the farm, makes a diagnosis and institutes treatment, he records the disease and treatment given in the health record book.
The right to information must be enjoyed. Breeding records include such things as births, insemination dates, the bull used, etc.
Breeding records can be individualized or a single book used for the whole herd. This helps farmers to identify the difficult breeders, good mothers, and good bulls.
In a nutshell, a farmer should record any significant occurrence on the farm. How and where you record can vary and will depend on you as the farmer. Keep records for your own information. Lastly, to become a good record keeper, start simple and start now.
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