Tracking individual animals is crucial since dairying is such an intense method of livestock production. Instead of relying just on generalized predictions of farm performance, such information will be crucial in creating realistic budgets for future farm projects. The dairy business keeps a number of valuable records, including those of production and financial activities. If we want to keep track of what’s occurring on the dairy farm, we must keep some relevant farm records. If farmers keep track of their operations, they may compare their management to that of other farmers. In absence of records, farmers are forced to rely on memory, which might be inaccurate and inadequate and makes it difficult to organize their time. Records also reveal the advantages and disadvantages of their farm activities. Additionally, it is helpful to have precise data when filing tax returns, applying for government assistance, and borrowing money.
A dairy farm has to be kept up with dedication, hardworking labour, and prompt completion of relevant responsibilities. Dairy farm responsibilities include things like feeding, milking, handling of animals, heat detection, breeding, harvesting fodders, disease diagnosis, and maintaining machinery and equipment and a labour force is linked to each task. Dairy farmers also engage in labour force organization and management. A successful dairy farm relies heavily on record keeping due to the time constraints and constant decision-making. For instance, every activity on a dairy farm either directly or indirectly affects the production of milk. Maintaining a balance between these tasks is crucial for milk production to remain at its best. Record-keeping for animal production, finances, and inventory can support management strategies and enhance decision-making to maintain a balance between these activities (Arzeno, 2004).
Good dairy farming practices include keeping farm records. An important component of effective dairy management is record keeping and its maintenance. Farmers must rely on their memory when making judgments about their farming operations since they have no written records. However, memories might weaken after a few hours, days, months, or even years. As a result, documenting animal performances is made simple if the animals have some type of identification or numbering. Thus, both animal recording and identification are always required hand in hand. Records make it simple to retrieve recent and historical farm data, which is helpful for organizing and assessing the effects of management change. For rapid reference, computerized records also offer reports, graphs, and produced lists, such as anticipated cows in estrus, dry period, and date of calving. Some of the most important benchmarks in dairy farms are milk output, reproduction, feed prices, and health condition (Hansen et al., 2005). To analyse the main performance indicators in a dairy farm, records might be combined. For instance, to improve breeding efficiency it is essential to keep record of heat detection, service period, services per conception, , days open, conception rate, pregnancy rate, days in milk, abortion rate, etc. Breeding efficiency is also influenced by feeding and overall health of an animal. Though, this is only the one side of profitable dairy farm practices and nutrition, bredding and surrounding environment of animals also plays a major role (Yadeta et al., 2020).
Types of records to be maintained in a dairy farm
With dairying being such an intensive and integrated form of livestock production, keeping track of individual animals is very important. Ideal records should be like:
- Simple, practical and action-oriented.
- Quickly transformed into valuable information.
- To save time and effort, duplicate information across records should be minimized.
Some of the key records to keep and maintain in a dairy farm are as follows:
- Livestock herd: First and foremost, register which records the total number of the animals at the farm along with their identification number, date of birth, sire number, dam number, its calves and their sex, date of calving, date of purchase, date of sale/auction/death.
- Individual animal history sheet: Maintains history of each and every animal with its identification number, breed, date of birth, date of purchase, sire and dam number, calving details, lactation yield records, health issues, date of disposal/death, cause of disposal etc.
- Milk Production records: The worth and health of the animals are indicated by the production records. These records helps in making decision about culling, feeding and breeding of the herd to increase to production. Milk production recorded daily, monthly or per lactation basis. The milking equipment may be upgraded with technology to automatically record productivity per cow, as well as occasionally milk constituents like fat and protein or health signs like electrical conductivity or Somatic Cell Count (SCC).
- Breeding records: Based on some quantifiable breeding goals that the producers need to define, a breeding programme on a farm should be evaluated (Eckelkamp et al., 2020). These records may include calving rates, heat detection, service per conception, sire information, voluntary waiting period and pregnancy rate (open, pregnant, cystic, etc.). With these records, farmers can know about the cows in heat, time and number of inseminations required, excepted calving date and identification of repeat breeders, cows with anestrus etc.. Producers may prevent inbreeding in their herd, which results in decreased reproductive and productive performance, by keeping records of breeding history (Adamec et al., 2006). For the genetic advancement of dairy herds, breeding data can also be employed. Dairy farmers can choose the ideal bull to breed their cows by consulting sire summaries or sire catalogues.
- Calving records: Since efficient reproduction and calving is the ultimate requirement for milk production in dairy farm. Maintains the records of calving that take place in the farm along with its dam and sire number, calf number, sex, body weight and its date of birth and any other remarks like type of calving (normal/abnormal) (Han and Kim, 2005).
- Calf records: Any dairy business’s future lies with its calves (Bach and Ahedo, 2008). Producers can track back the dam and sire by keeping track of the calves, and they can forecast how replacement heifers or future herd males will behave. Includes calf number, dam and sire records, birth date, sex, birth weight and type of service (AI or natural service). Body weight measurement of calves at regular intervals helps in ensuring growth of the calves. Additional records to maintain in the calf register could be the colostrum feeding history, vaccination record, deworming record and disease history.
- Feeding register: Records the quality and quantity of concentrate, dry fodder, green fodder and other feeds offers to the animals on daily basis.
- Health records: Enables producers to track diseases, treatments and vaccination history. Enables farmers to identify the diseased animals. Animals with a chronic illness should not be allowed to mate again and may be ideal candidates for early culling.
- Treatment records: Maintains the record of daily treatment given to the affected animals.
- Labour register: Maintains the daily attendance of lab our, their allotted works, timings, wages, incentives etc.
- Inventory register: Inventory records should include all the resources which involved in the dairy enterprise and comes under the assets and liabilities of dairy organisation. The owner’s resources that can provide future cash flow are referred to as farm assets and include land, constructions, cattle, feed stored and machineries. Liabilities in the farming industry refer to resources or money owing to third parties, such the bank or loan agency. Information on resource inventories and their value enables the farmers to determine the net worth of their farms, which is crucial for requesting bank loans and assessing farm productivity.
- Economic records: Economic records provide information about managing credits, taxes, future plan improvements, understanding of cash flow and income source and expenses for the farm. Consists of expenditure and revenue records which are essential for cash flow analysis and making financial decisions. Include cost of production, price of milk per hundred weight, equipment cost, etc. It is simpler to determine the farm’s net value on a certain date with the use of balance sheets, income statements, and monthly cash flow statements.
Methods of keeping and maintaining livestock records
Basically, there are three primary methods for record keeping (Moran, 2009):
- Loose system is recorded on a loose sheet daily for particular animal and keep for reference. e.g. Pedigree and History sheets
- Bound register system which records the particulars about an animal which is kept in a convenient sized bound register e.g. non-consumable stock register and milk production register.
Potential benefits of keeping and maintaining dairy farm records
There are several ways to keep records, including manually, digitally, or using both at once. Finding crucial information and making judgments are typically time-consuming and difficult in a manual recording system. Therefore, a farmer often invests less time in analysis and uses the findings for subsequent action. With the development of science and technology, information technology (IT) systems are becoming a prerequisite for the dairy business. Toady’s, many computerized dairy recording systems were developed and have been applied in large dairy farms. However, small-scale farmers extremely seldom use computerized recording systems and do not prioritize doing so. The system’s high purchase price, the program’s complexity, and the level of technological literacy are a few of the key causes of low utilization (Yadeta et al., 2020). More than 70% of small (30-99 cows) and larger (100-499 cows) farm operations employ handwritten recordkeeping, according to USDA (2014) statistics. Most large operations (94%; 500 or more cows) use a computerized system of record keeping. Similarly, in India also only few big commercial organized dairy farms only use the software for maintaining dairy records. The choice of record-keeping software is influenced by the producers’ individual management preferences and the system’s usability. As the number of the herd has grown over time, so has the usage of electronic record keeping systems. However, both systems have their benefits. Systems for retaining handwritten records are simple to use and require little upfront expense. However, they require a lot of time, offer more chances of error and little room for in-depth study.Computerized record keeping systems are more expensive to install initially and could need some training. However, they can be viewed from multiple locations, have less opportunity for mistakes and provide record analysis and data visualization. The best results come from using both handwritten notes for initial data and electronic record keeping for long-term preservation and analysis.
Constraint in maintaining livestock records
Keeping records of the dairy farm is often seen as an ordinary task. However, farmers are faced with limitations to keep record of their animals. The absence of keeping and maintaining farm records is more pronounced due to the high levels of illiteracy among small holder’s producers. Farmers also face the challenge of having to spend a lot of time keeping records because most of them work in many businesses and agricultural systems (Poggio, 2006). Therefore, time constraints hamper them from keeping records. Also, the subsistence nature of livestock farming does not produce any encouragement for keeping the farm records by the farmers. A research in Gujarat, India’s Anand District found that farmers’ illiteracy, a lack of time, and their ignorance of the many forms of record keeping were the main reasons they did not keep agricultural records (Prajapati et al., 2015).
Farmers must produce high-quality milk more efficiently at lower costs in the present environment of intense economic competition if they want to raise their enterprises profitable. Identification of factors that affect milk production and revenue and their economic importance is necessary to help dairy owners to manage their limited resources and economic opportunities would help them to improve their productivity and their ability to stay in enterprise. Good record keeping is important, not only for income purposes but also for efficient farm management. Record keeping and sound data interpretation will help you define the weakest links of your dairy farm enterprise and enable you to start corrective action plans. The ultimate goal of a recording system is to raise the herd’s performance level by doing tasks more effectively, managing the farm more skillfully, or lowering the likelihood of future underwhelming performances.
Priyanka Patoliya1, Kathan Raval2, S. Praveen3 and Priyanka Meena21,2,3 PhD Scholar, 2 MVSc. Scholar, Dairy Production Section,
Sothern Regional Station, ICAR- National Dairy Research Institute, Adugodi, Bengaluru, Karanataka – 560030