November 30, 2015

Tips for Computerizing your Cattle Records

The days of spiral or pocket notebooks to keep your cattle records are giving way to a variety of improve record keeping solutions, including computer software programs designed specifically for cattle records. As time has passed and more ranchers have adopted the use of cattle software, programs such as the CattleMax herd software have become a cornerstone to producers making better and more informed decisions.

Why keep cattle records?

Some producers, for years, have not kept records on their cattle at all and instead decide to keep all heifer calves and sell all male calves. While this may continue working for you, the current conditions have more ranchers making deeper culling decisions.

An often used phrase  “You can’t manage what you don’t measure” comes to mind, and is so true.  With culling and herd reductions become more common, it’s critical to be culling the lowest performing cattle based on their actual numbers and history, rather than relying solely on visual appraisal.

Learn which cattle are truly productive. With good records, it is easy to determine which cows are your top producers and are worthy of maintaining and promoting.

Track sales and purchases for financial records. View your sales and purchases to learn where you are more profitable, and which breeders may be better for your herd. Come tax time, simply click a few buttons to have a list of expenses from last year, a list of cattle you purchased and sold in a nicely formatted report. This is much better (and easier on your accountant/tax preparer) than bringing in piles of receipts and hand-written notes for them to sort through.


Benefits to your record keeping investment

By committing to and using a cattle software program, you’ll realize a variety of returns that pay back your money and time investments over and over.  A few of the many returns on your investment include:

Save time – It does take time to get setup with any new program, but  you’ll realize time savings as you enter new records and update existing ones. Many of us would rather be outside and working with our cattle, so CattleMax is designed to help you make the changes/additions you need, print reports, etc, with minimal time and effort.

Quality and accuracy – Which would you rather work with at your pens or in the pasture – a printed list of cattle that you will be working, or multiple pieces of notebook paper that have a handwritten list of ear tags? Plus, CattleMax helps you be aware of possible data entry problems, therefore helping to keep your records accurate.

Improved decision making – This is a core benefit to keeping better cattle records and can be overlooked.

Understood by others – Your accountant, consultant, veterinarian and others helping with your ranch will appreciate nice, organized reports, plus they will have more information and details to work with thus providing you with even better recommendations.


What records to maintain

While the specific cattle details that are kept may vary by ranch, there are core records that most producers should plan to maintain.

Recommended records: Current herd inventory, herd bulls and breeding cows individually and uniquely identified. Start with gathering as much information about your current herd as you can and enter those details into the software. Later on (as you have the time and interest), you can enter historical records such as previous calving records, sales, treatments, etc.

Nice to have records: Pasture locations for cattle, current cow palpation results, calves individually identified, individual weaning weights for calves. Individual calf records are effective for most cattle ranches, but may be a limited option for others due to herd size, acreage, etc.


Investing in a management system

Wondering what’s involved to get started with an identification system for your herd?

There’s the setup time, which involves tagging cattle (such as with ear tags), entering their information into a cattle software program, and learning your way around your new record keeping solution.

To ensure your records stay current, you’ll want to enter details about your cattle as often as possible, such as the day you gave medical treatments, when a new calf is born, etc. Ideally, you get into a habit or schedule so your records are at least updated once a week.

Also keep in mind the up-front costs, such as  the purchase of a software program, identification needs (tags, applicator, etc) and possibly other hardware such as a weigh scale setup and/or Electronic ID reader.



Comments from other readers...

  1. Morning

    Thanks for the vital information of record keeping for cattle`s, however, I would like more information on the following areas:

    1. Up-front costs, of the purchase of a software program and accredited companies in South Africa selling the
    2. Identification needs tags
    3. Electronic ID reader

    Kind regards.

    Luvuyo Reginald Mtsabe

  2. I like the idea of the cattle software.. But seriously, the prices are insane. I’d rather just make my own records on my laptop and it’s Free…

  3. JK – have you checked out the new CattleMax Online ( It starts at $9/month for up to 100 active animals… about the price of a square bale of hay or a little over 2 gallons of diesel.

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