For many reasons, paperwork is often at the bottom of our priority list, especially as calving or lambing begins. Consider this your friendly reminder that we are headed into the season where record keeping should be bumped up on your to-do list.

Time is a large factor in preventing many producers from record keeping. Some will argue that if you aren’t going to use the record in decision making, then what’s the point of keeping them? However, if a wreck occurs a year or two down the road and records will be key to determining the cause. You may have to look back to what was going on at your operation in previous years. This fall, many beef producers experienced high open rates on their operations. Calving distribution was likely moved away from the recommended 60 per cent calved in the first 21 days over the last few years because of poor-quality feed and drought conditions. Unless this was documented and reviewed annually, it went unnoticed on an operation until producers were faced with a much higher percentage of open animals.

Some people also prefer to make decisions based off intuition. That is certainly not all bad, intuition is something that has been trained by years of experience. However, it is easy to fall into the trap of confirmation bias, focusing more closely on information that supports our opinions or beliefs. Keeping detailed records is another tool in the toolbox to double check against your gut instincts. Maybe it aligns and maybe it doesn’t? Either way, you will have more evidence on hand to make and evaluate your decisions.

If your interest is piqued and you’re wondering where to start, the Beef Cattle Research Council has an excellent collection of resources. For lamb producers, you can check out Saskatchewan Sheep Development Board or the Alberta Lamb Producers for additional resources.

Record keeping can vary from a calving or lambing book to a cloud-based software that you can access on your phone. It is important to keep the records you feel will make an impact on your farm and help you make decisions. The Ministry of Agriculture’s livestock and feed extension specialists are also finalizing a project that looks at record keeping software as a production and economic indicator for decision making. For more information on this project, you can contact your local livestock and feed extension specialist or call the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377.

So, what’s the bottom line? As producers head into calving and lambing as well as the seasons of grazing, growing and harvesting the winter feed supply, it’s a good time to look at what goals you want your operation to achieve. Once the goal is in sight, determine what records you need to keep over time to evaluate the success in meeting those goals. Keeping records can also make it easier to qualify for programs like Verified Beef Production Plus (VBP+).