Ranch Records

by Dallas Mount

stockflow chart

Calving season is in full swing across most of cow country and so are ranchers armed with a red book or smart phone app taking notes about birth dates, weights, calving ease, and a host of other things we were told we need to record to be good cattlemen and women. At the end of the year that red book often goes on the shelf next to last year’s red book covered in dust, and few if any ranch decisions are made with the information we so diligently recorded. If that’s the way records are used on your ranch then records are a waste of time. However, there might be some records that are extremely valuable that no one is keeping track of or reporting against. Let’s take a look at record keeping as a whole on the ranch. Not just calving season records, but all the records we could choose to keep. What criteria do you use to determine which records you should keep and how those records would be used? Here are some ideas to get you started …

The records we keep must:

  • Inform a significant ranch decision
  • Be simple and low-cost to obtain
  • Be a system everyone knows
  • Be comparable to a plan

Bud Williams taught us that the rancher has three things in inventory: grass, money, and livestock. The rancher’s job is making decisions to balance those inventories. We believe you need records on each of these three inventories and that records need to compare against a plan. At Ranching for Profit we teach the Grazing Chart, Stockflow, Cash Flow, and Economic Plan. 

Each of these should include a projection for the coming year and recording of actuals as the year unfolds. Let’s take the grazing chart as an example. Before the new grazing year begins, a projected grazing chart can be developed with what we expect the coming year to be like. Sure, we don’t know what moisture conditions will be, but we do know pasture conditions from the previous year, and we can estimate inventories of grazing animals for the coming year. That will give us enough to make our plan. As the year unfolds the plan will almost certainly change. After recording our actuals, at the end of the growing season we will know how much we harvested from each pasture, pasture condition and residual forage for winter grazing planning. Each part of this can be assigned to people on the ranch. Someone is responsible for making sure the planning happens, someone is responsible for making sure everyone knows the system for recording actual use, someone is responsible for pulling together the summary data for a meeting looking back on the season just completed.

This same process can be repeated for the stockflow, the cashflow, the economic plan and other records that meet your criteria for vial ranch records. Don’t get caught in the trap of keeping records just out of habit. We are all busy and no one needs more busy work. Look for opportunities to simplify the business but yet have the key information management needs to lead the business. 

What records are you keeping that could be eliminated? 

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