skip to main content

Are you listening to your data?

By Dusty Abney 
Beef Technical Specialist / Cargill Animal Nutrition 

Data insights allow producers to make more informed business and management decisions. You can’t manage what you don’t measure, so you need the hard data from your records to be accurate and scientific when making decisions for your herd. The insights from your records provide a holistic picture of your operation. Furthermore, by using your records, you can have increased confidence in your decisions.  

The main records I see on cattle operations include conception rates, live birth rates, weaning weights, feed expenditures and body condition scoring. All these records are tied to profitability. For example, if you track conception rates, live-birth rates and weaning weights, you understand how a cow is performing. This historical data can help you determine if an animal should be culled due to sustained reproductive failure. 

The first step is to identify the areas where you have room for improvement. Then, you can look at the records associated with those areas and develop an action plan based on previous performance and current conditions. 

Data management tools can be as complicated or simple as you want; it is all about finding the best fit for your operation. Written notebooks, spreadsheets and specialized software are three common types of management tools. Regardless of your choice, keeping quality records is vital. If you currently keep records but don’t use the information you capture, it defeats the purpose, and your time is better spent elsewhere. 

I recommend you have someone else look at your records and your operation with a fresh set of eyes. Talk to this person about your goals and how you would like to reach them. It could be your veterinarian, nutritionist, a trusted friend or a mentor. Being open and honest about your operation and management practices is an essential step in getting on the path to your goals. 

There will always be a low-hanging fruit on every operation, but there is also room for incremental improvement. Once you outline your goals, you can start putting together a workable plan.   

Editor’s Note: To read the full article on using data to make herd improvements, click here