Record keeping

Many farmers and ranchers keep many records. Utilization of the records for improved management would be the next step to take to improve efficiency, says Heather Gessner, South Dakota State University Extension livestock business management field specialist.

It can be complicated to track the real breakeven costs. One example would be seed corn purchased in December 2018, to be planted and harvested as silage in 2019, for consumption by cattle in 2020.

Producers undertaking this level of evaluation will require a change in bookkeeping mentality and effort.

Crop records

Production records, combined with an evaluation of nutrient management plans, can provide insight into the amount of fertilizer used. Comparisons of nutrient yield expectations compared to actual yields can be used to make changes that reduce per acre expenses.

Pesticide use records can also be used to determine where critical need areas of a field may be located. Weed, insect and fungus pressure may vary across a field. Targeting areas and reducing the use of product on the rest of the field may reduce total enterprise costs and increase yields in the problem areas.

Additionally, an understanding of problem areas of the field may allow for participating in a variety of conservation programs. The USDA Farm Service Agency and Natural Resource Conservation Service have a variety of programs available to assist with short or long-term conservation improvements.

Further, an understanding of the costs related to planting, maintaining and harvesting the crop allows for improved risk management and marketing efforts. Crop insurance levels can be changed to more closely match yield variability and market price expectations. Producers can also utilize the insurance levels as well as costs to market their production at or above income levels.

Livestock records

Livestock producers may want to evaluate herd health protocols. Utilizing Beef Quality Assurance measures, cattle operations monitor which medications and vaccinations are given and when. These records can be used to determine if the medication worked effectively to treat the diagnosed ailment.

Nutrition records can also be evaluated. Management changes can then be made to improve the efficiency of a supplementation program or increase the frequency of the supplementation.

Other feed records can be evaluated to determine the cost of the ration. As feed contributes 60-80% of cattle expenses, ensuring these costs are known can help with the implementation of risk management and marketing decisions.

Producers already have many of these records on hand. Evaluation of these records can increase the production efficiency and sustainability of the operation.