Ranch Record Keeping – The How and Why

Ranch Record Keeping – The How and Why

November 27, 2019 94 By Kailee Schamberger


Hi I’m Mike, record keeping on a ranch is
essential, and today we take a look at ways to keep track of your herd, no matter the
size and why you should do it on our Wyoming life. Number 6 here is the oldest pregnant cow on
the ranch, she is 12 years 7 months old. Over her years she has had 11 calves, including
one set of twins in 2013. Her last calf was born on April 8th, 2017. Her average calving interval is 362 days,
and her post partum interval averages 77 days. She has created $7476 worth of income for
the ranch and in April of 2014, just 12 days before she gave birth to a bull calf that
weighed about 75 lbs, she twisted her ankle and limped around for almost an entire month
while it healed. Oh and this year, she is due in early June,
and probably is having another bull calf, lets hope she watches where she steps this
year. Welcome back, and thanks for joining us once
again as we continue to explore the ranch life and escape the ordinary, if you would
like to take the ride with us, take a minute and subscribe, make sure you hit the bell
and turn on notifications, so that you know when a new video comes out and if you don’t
mind, hit he thumbs up button, that helps folks like you find us and start their own
journey into the ranch life. On the ranch there is a ton of stuff worth
keeping track of, from rainfall to oil changes, to grazing records and water tests, but one
of our biggest record keeping tasks has to do with the cows. When it all comes down to it, and you get
past the romantic images of sunsets, snowfall, and cowpokes moving their way across the plains,
ranching is business and it has been since the first cow was domesticated and the very
first cow boy, or cow girl, figured out that her time was worth something. From that day forward, cattle records became
a tool that cattle producers use to increase the productivity, safety and the efficiency
of their herds. Unless you only have a few cows, its hard
to remember who had twins last, or the date the cows were exposed to the bull or even
who had a sore leg or hoof and needs a special eye kept on them for a few weeks, days or
even years. The first ranchers kept records on their walls,
depicted as paintings, showing the best bull to breed to and cows that gave the best milk. Over the years that evolved as well, and cowboys
moving herds of cattle across the great plains, had to know how many they left the ranch with
and how many they had left when they got to Kansas city or summer pasture, but even then
it was just about the herd and not so much the individual cow. In as early as 1895 ear tags were used in
breed identification in the United States, Canada began using them in the early 1900’s
to identity cows tested for tuberculosis, but it wasn’t until the 1950s and the advent
of the two piece self-piercing ear tag that we began tracking individual cattle more closely
and I imagine it was then that cattle producers started figuring out how important those records
could be. Gilbert, my father in law, was already a cattle
producer at that time, and the great thing about Gilbert was that in many ways he was
stuck in the 1950’s at least technology wise and up until the day he passed away he
kept a majority of his cattle record keeping on something a rancher always had with him,
his checkbook. Well the cover actually, it was on that piece
of cardboard that Gilbert could tell you how many calves he had on the ground so far, and
how many cows were still waiting to give birth. He would right down cows that needed medication
and even cows that he didn’t like, that he figured needed to go. Also on that check book cover, was about 50
phone numbers Gilbert needed to remember, and a good dose of tobacco juice, from the
chew that he perpetually had in his gob. When Gilbert passed away, I went through a
lot of paperwork, and check book covers to try to make sense of the herd he left us. Then, having come from the corporate world,
a dove into Microsoft excel and started making sense of all of it. I ended up with spreadsheets and what could
only be described as a mess of numbers, dates and eartags, and at some point, I took what
I had, and used it to help me start over. I started with the IRM redbook that actually
put out by the NCBA, or the National Cattlemans Beef Association. While, I don’t agree with them on everything,
I will say that we agree on record keeping and if you need a simple way to keep track
of what is going on with your herd, it’s a great way to do it. It’s a pocket sized book, with more than
100 pages, all designed to help you track calving activity, pasture usage and all kinds
of good stuff. You can get it on the NCBA website, I think
it costs about 7 bucks. I used one for about a year, but each year
you need a new book, and if you want to track a cow over her entire life on the ranch, you
can be digging through little red books until all you see is red. So I went back to my spreadsheets, took all
the information from the little red books and plugged it in. Then I figured there had to be a better way
and I started testing programs that helped producers keep track of their herds. I downloaded every app I could get my hands
on and tried every one, but the one I settled on was called Cattlemax. At that time, I think it was 2014, they had
a program that you downloaded and it lived on your computer. You still had to take a notebook or something
with you to keep track of what was going on, although you could print calving sheets that
were handy along with inventory sheets to keep track of your herd. Then you had to come home, and enter all that
in the computer. Who calved that day, and any other information
you wanted to track, preg checking, branding, whatever you were up to, but things did get
better. I think it was in 2015 when cattlemax switched
to entirely online system. To be honest, I thought it was the dumbest
thing I had ever heard. All of my cattle information was now online,
there was no program on my computer anymore and it just felt weird. Over time, I’ve gotten used to it and now
I use Cattlemax for all of our cattle record keeping needs. All of my information is in one place, accessible
across any computer, tablet, or even phone. I have everything I need to know about my
entire herd, right at my finger tips and that’s the way I like it. Cattlemax has two programs, one for a commercial
herd like ours and one for a registered herd and the amount of information you can pull
up at a moments notice is incredible. Pricing is as low as 9 bucks a month and you
can get a 21 day free trial at anytime, I’ll put a link to their website down below and
you can check it out for yourself. I do wish they had an app, but maybe that’s
coming someday, for now you have to log into a website, which means you have to have internet
to make changes or edit your information. However you choose to keep records, I urge
you to figure out a way to do it. Over the long run, having certain information
will help you manage your cattle, sheep, horses, water buffalo or goat herd, better, safer
and more efficiently. There are certain things you want to make
sure you keep track of and that starts with inventory. Know each of your cows by number, your breeding
times, your calving times and your cost per cow provides a benchmark to build everything
else off of. In addition, keep track of your pasture usage,
document when you use a pasture each year, how many cows are in there, for how long and
even precipitation rates, that will give you better stocking rate numbers that pertain
directly to you and your pastures. You can also use your cattle records to keep
track of input costs, know how much each cow is costing you, in feed, medical costs, depreciation
and labor. And then keep track of income, this includes
bulls, steers, all your calves and your cows. You can also use your records to keep track
of feed costs, which can dictate how many cows you can carry over the winter. Here on our ranch, we have taken this year
to reduce our herd size. Feed costs are rising, we had hail that took
out a good portion of hay crop and we had aging cows. After preg checking we decided to sell most
all of our empty cattle, and we still had to make sacrifices. We figured out how much hay we have on hand
to feed our cows over the winter. Because we are expecting a hard winter, we
figured in a buffer to help sustain them into calving. And we reduced our 150 cow herd size to exactly
what we expect to be able to feed this winter. 113 pregnant cows. Without, tracking, and keeping track of our
herd, our grazing situation, our hay production, calving rates, calving times and about 50
factors, we would have a lot harder time knowing how to manage our business. The hope is that this spring we can buy some
bred heifers, build the herd back up, and with new blood even and then add them, to
our ever growing database of numbers, facts and figures, that may seem to some, just the
same way Gilberts checkbook cover seemed to me, just a complete mess that I didn’t even
want to touch, but now I know that the more you know about the past, the better prepared
you are for the future, but it does you no good, unless you can find that information
about the past. Thanks for joining me today, we are heading
into the time on the ranch where things start to settle down for a bit. Cows get fed daily and we start to enjoy the
calm before the storm and we can get a lot done around the ranch and in the shop. Again, please subscribe, find us on facebook
and live the ranch life, through us, on our Wyoming life.