-by LANCE BAUER | Director of Breed Improvement | Beefmasters Breeders Association

What is one thing all successful businesses have in common? It isn’t the products they sell, you won’t find a steak at Best Buy, and you won’t find an iPad at your local butcher shop. It’s record keeping. Most all successful businesses keep records relevant to the product or service they provide.

For tracking improvement, there must be records. Forward-moving progress or backward-moving progress should be measurable. The only way to improve and keep ahead of the game is to take measurements and record them. The old saying goes, “You can’t improve what you don’t measure.” The cattle business is no different from any other business, and records should be kept on anything that can help a producer make more money.

After all, this is a business. Records are very useful in many decisions to keep or cull animals and progress an operation.

Birth Weight

The first record that many producers focus on is birth weight. Birth weight is essential to most because heavier birth weights are correlated with dystocia or calving difficulties, and no one wants to deal with calving difficulties. Dystocia is a problem with large economic costs such as lost calves and possible damage to reproductive tracts causing infertility in cows.

In addition, calves born to cows with dystocia are more likely to die before weaning than calves born with no issues since the primary goal of most producers in the United States is to produce a live weaned calf. A calf that dies before weaning is lost production.

Calving Ease

While birth weight is important to consider because of its correlation with dystocia, producers can also record calving ease scores. These records can help with culling decisions by trying to eliminate cows that have calving difficulty or bulls that consistently produce large calves that require birthing assistance.

Weaning Weight

Weaning weights are a very valuable record for the majority of producers around the United States. Most calves in the United States are sold at conventional auction barns by the pound, and those that aren’t marketed in a conventional auction barn are sold by the pound.

Therefore, it makes sense to pay close attention to records of weight when pounds are what a producer gets paid for. Keeping cows and bulls that consistently produce heavier calves and culling those animals that consistently produce lighter weaning calves is an excellent way to increase the profit from an operation.

Selecting for weaning weight

in both cows and bulls can be done by utilizing EPDs, which consider the animal’s own performance, pedigree, and the performance of the animal’s offspring. Another way to increase weaning weight is to utilize heterosis or hybrid vigor. Heterosis in the cow and the calf can both lead to increased weaning weights because of maternal and direct hybrid vigor. Beefmaster bulls are a good way to make crossbred commercial females retain in operation and have steer calves that will wean heavy.

Discovery of a bull that may not be producing quality semen

If a producer has a bull to 25 cows and has 100 cows and one bull breeds 40, another breeds 30, another 15, and the last one breeds 5, it is of value to know which bulls performed the best. There are other production records that can be kept and are kept by producers to help improve their operations.

Financial Records

The final type of records that all businesses keep are financial records. These records can help the producer know when a cow has broken even and will start producing a profit, which cows and bulls make them the most money, and which cows and bulls cost them the most money.

These financial records are all tied to production of the cows and bulls. Keeping these records may seem like common sense, but they are important for the growth of a business. Banks do not do deals on a handshake anymore and need to see these records in order for a producer to take out a loan and expand their cattle operation. Financial records are what makes a business a business and not a hobby.

It is extremely important to keep records in the cattle industry because to be successful, a producer must treat his cattle as a business and try to make a profit. Therefore, performance records need to be kept as these records drive the profit/loss of the business. Animals with consistently low performance are like products that do not sell.

Any business knows that it is best to eliminate products that do not sell and focus on those that do. It is the same in cattle. Using records to cull low-performing animals and replace them with higher-performing ones just makes sense.

Financial records are important to see how the business is doing and growing and are essential to financial institutions that help to grow operations.

The cattle business is just like any other business – it is important to keep records and make decisions based on those records to grow a business.