Recordkeeping is more than just Writing a Note on the Wall

Published on Fri, 09/09/2022 - 10:47am

Recordkeeping is more than just Writing a Note on the Wall.

 By Fred Hall- Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

 There are things to record to manage a dairy goat operation efficiently. For many smaller operations, keeping track of basic information in a pocket calendar works well. A three-ring notebook in the milkhouse or office also works well. However, as the number of does increases and hired labor, the system for keeping records tends to get more complicated. When you add in official production records, registrations, health records plus the need for advanced management information; a computer is generally the answer.

The first thing to establish, is what should your records include?  Or maybe a more basic question would be what information do I need to manage the herd efficiently? Let’s start with the core information that every dairy needs. Animal name, birth and kidding dates, breeding dates and what sire was used in the mating, dry and due dates and drug treatment dates along with meat and milk withdrawal dates.

Good feeding and breeding will not result in maximum production if goats are not healthy, so let’s outline health records. It is imperative to work with your veterinarian to create a herd health plan. And a good herd health plan has records for each animal regarding medications, vaccinations, de-wormers, injuries, production, breeding, and culling.  Remember, prevention is almost always less expensive than treating an illness.

This leads us into how daily observations fits into record-keeping. Spending time learning what “normal” behavior is for your goats means you’ll be able to identify what is abnormal. Then once you have examined the animal enter what you found in your records. If your memory is like mine, better write it down. When you look back through the records you can easily see trends developing or pens that pose unique issues that create problems for your goats.

From the 2019 dairy goat survey we found that only seven percent of Iowa operators use a computer to keep records for their operations, with 49 percent not keeping production records on individual goats. So let’s dive into using PCDART for keeping individual doe records.
First, I recommend you review the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach dairy team webinar “Making the most of your dairy goats records”. During this webinar, Greg Palas, manager of User Support Services Dairy Records Management Systems at Iowa State University, provided information on useful reports that can be created to monitor dairy goat health. During the webinar, he demonstrated how to generate reports and points on using the reports to tweak dairy goat management.

I find five primary things that PCDART can do.
• The opening page gives the herd statistics for the day. This includes total milking and dry does, plus a reminder of who will be in heat, due or to dry off in the next week.

• On the doe page all individual data and herd data is at your fingertips. This includes barn name and id number, pedigree information, fresh/dry dates and breeding information plus current production. The next click takes you to the status tab which gives all information since the animal has been the herd including breeding, vet checks, freshening dates and dry off dates. The test day tab gives all record information for her lifetime.

• Because we all don’t need or want the same information, PCDART has a user-defined field that allows you to create the information that is useful to you. There is also a tab called “lifenotes” that allow you a place to record unique information useful to you- show winnings, photos that showed up in the local paper or just about anything else.
• Maybe the most useful tab is “chores”. It notes when an animal has protocols that should happen on a specific date or time puts all the items in a chores list.

The other recording-keeping recommendations comes from the Dairy Goat Production Handbook from Langston University. It’s my go-to reference and has a great chapter on record-keeping written by Vincent Maefsky from Poplar Hill Dairy Goat Farm. What I really like about his recommendations are the forms he includes- everything from inventory and a kid birth record to heats and breeding records plus heath and production records. The failure of most record systems is that that they are not convenient or are too time consuming. Simpler is better.

Remember we all need reminders. That red chain around a doe’s neck can mean her milk shouldn’t be saved for sale! It’s a great way prevent contaminating a tank of milk. Think about what has caused you the most heart-burn, things that just can’t be over-looked and then concentrate on what visual reminder would it take for you to notice it. Tags, neck-chains, paint- they all can work, you just need to decide what will work for you.

My final thought is from the whole farm management side, I must mention a couple of items. Record feed purchases or harvested feed. Knowing how much feed is in the bin gives you the opportunity to “buy a bargain” before you are out of feed- especially for forages. A few weeks ago the local hay market topped the market with several loads of alfalfa over $300/T. Last week there were no loads over $250/T. The point is someone was out of hay and had no choice.

Along with pounds, have the forage tested. Then watch production. Sometimes a few more dollars per ton can make more milk and put more dollars in your pocket. But it takes good records to evaluate if it was profitable.