The beginning of a new year often is an opportunity to reflect upon the past and set goals for the future. On a ranching operation, Kansas State University Beef Cattle Institute experts say it is a good time to make recordkeeping and management adjustments.
Speaking on a recent Cattle Chat podcast, the team of experts agreed what records to keep will vary from operation to operation, but in 2023, there may be some special challenges that aren’t typically a concern, like drought. Records can help you make better management decisions.
“As you think through your grazing plan in 2023, you need to factor in that many parts of the country are still in a drought. That may mean you need to have a contingency plan for your forage resources,” said Phillip Lancaster, beef cattle nutritionist. “It might be helpful to talk with someone with grazing expertise from the NRCS to help you set up a plan for drought-stressed pastures.”
Meeting the herd’s nutritional needs is one aspect of an overall health plan, veterinarian Bob Larson said. “A good overall cattle health plan includes good nutrition, good housing and good biosecurity,” he said.
Specific to housing, Larson said that cattle need to be maintained on pastures that are not overstocked and can be moved easily when needed. He encouraged producers to check water sources and fencing to make sure those are well maintained for the year ahead.
Regarding biosecurity, Larson said it is important to work with the local veterinarian to develop a vaccination program and protocol for introducing new cattle onto the ranch.
Get outside expertise
Veterinarian Brian Lubbers suggested ranchers take the time early in the year to touch base with their veterinarian.
“This is a good time to schedule a routine visit either on Zoom or when they are on your ranch to make sure you are in agreement on your health plan moving forward,” Lubbers said.
The veterinarian is just one of many local advisers who can offer expertise, Larson said. “It is important to build that local group of experts in your community, from your accountant to your banker to your nutritionist, to give you ideas to consider as you make plans for the operation,” he said.
Agricultural economist Dustin Pendell echoed Larson’s advice, adding there are routine records that are important for every operation.
“You are going to want to track your income and expenses so that you have what you need to complete your taxes,” Pendell said. “Your balance sheet will have your assets, liabilities and net worth, and that will be important for your banker to see.”
Another important record that Pendell suggests ranchers track is cash flow. “Knowing the timing of when cash is coming into and leaving the operation will help you manage your income and expenses,” he said.
Pendell also advised that producers incorporate recordkeeping as part of a routine rather than setting aside a day to deal with the accounting.
“Don’t put it off to a free day because that day will never come,” he said. “Instead, make recordkeeping part of your daily routine by jotting down some things while you are having your morning coffee.”
To hear the full discussion, listen to the Cattle Chat podcast online or through your preferred streaming platform.
Moser writes for Kansas State University Research and Extension.