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A good time to update the ranch record-keeping system

Contributed by Glenn Selk Published on 23 March 2020

The current COVID-19 situation has temporarily changed a great deal about our daily lives. For many farm and ranch families, it means the son or daughter that had been going to high school or college is now at home and helping with the chores. Why not take advantage of the technology skills these young people could bring to the operation?

They probably still have online classwork to complete. Plus, you need their assistance watching cows or heifers at calving time, and with feeding and caring for all livestock on the ranch. In addition, that low spot on the south 40 needs to have the fence repaired or replaced.

After all of that work is done, perhaps they could perform an especially important task of starting a new digitalized record system for the cattle operation. If the ranch already has an older computerized system in place, a modernized update of the system may make it more “user-friendly” and valuable.

A good place to start on recordkeeping would be to study the National Beef Quality Assurance Manual, Chapter 6. This document gives guidelines of key items to record on the vaccinations and treatments that are given to cows, calves or yearlings. The accurate, up-to-date health records can be of value to both you and your veterinarian in assessing the effectiveness of treatments and disease protection. Plus, these records can serve as aids in protecting your operation in the rare case that a violative residue is found in an animal that previously was in your control.

Health records are not the only items of information that could be put to good use by having an easily updatable record system. Production records have always been useful in selection and culling decisions. Current inventory of cattle by pasture location will be very useful in the aftermath of wildfires or tornadoes where fences are destroyed, and cattle are scattered and mixed with others.

Working alongside that young, tech-savvy son or daughter as you develop a record-keeping system will make it easier for “old-timers” to understand the record program that was developed. The young people will learn a little more about the ranch operation, and you will learn a little about computer software. Who knows, you both may come away from this effort with more appreciation of each other’s skills.  end mark

This originally appeared in the March 23, 2020, OSU Cow/Calf Corner newsletter. 

Glenn Selk
  • Glenn Selk

  • Emeritus Extension Animal Scientist
  • Oklahoma State University

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