March 5, 1999 | By: Haven Miller

If you bought your computerized farm record keeping program to reduce your work load, you probably feel let down. Let's face it, record keeping is always going to take time, patience, and commitment to doing it right.

"Some producers have a real problem keeping records because it's not something they enjoy, it's not why they got into farming," said Dick Trimble, Extension farm management specialist in the UK College of Agriculture. "But it doesn't have to be a drudgery for them."

According to Trimble, producers can begin to reduce the negative aspects of recording keeping by viewing it as a way of discovering things about their farm business, a management tool that helps them make better decisions.

"It's no cure-all or magic bullet, but it does give you a better handle on your overall operation. As soon as you view it this way, record keeping starts to look differently to you, whether you do it with a ledger book or a computer," Trimble said. "Software programs like Quicken, FINPAK 99, and others help make data more meaningful."

"Record keeping is not an end in itself, but a means to an end," said Jack McAllister, UK Extension dairy management specialist. "The way to make it less like work is to start with numbers that have been turned into information and see what that tells you."

According to McAllister, a good example of making records meaningful is the dairy farmer who has scheduled a veterinarian to check the herd. The vet will likely charge by the head, so data that helps the farmer develop a list of animals that need attention is valuable information. The same data could also help the vet because it might provide health histories that lead to a better-informed examination and diagnosis.

Although computer software may not necessarily make record keeping more "fun," it can make it more real-world. For example, some programs track purchase of inputs, use of inputs on a particular enterprise or field, or repair and maintenance records generated for certain pieces of farm equipment. Financial software helps farmers produce balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow budgets. Software also can be used to do analysis for different farm enterprises such as corn, beef, or tobacco.

"Software has become more user-friendly over time," said Steve Isaacs, Extension farm management specialist. "One program I've seen makes entry similar to writing a check, and will actually write the check for you if you want."

Isaacs said one way to make record keeping less tedious is to make it a team effort for the farm family. For instance, the husband and wife might sit down and work together. While one spouse reads information from a checkbook ledger or credit card bill, the other keys it into the computer. Another way to make record keeping easier is to do a little bit every day.

"I know a 70-year old farmer who goes in every night right before supper and enters the two or three receipts he collected that day," said Isaacs. "It only takes him a couple of minutes and it saves him from facing a pile of work later on."

For farmers using computers, Isaacs said the real power and satisfaction of record keeping happens at year's end when various reports can be generated with only a few keyboard strokes instead of sorting through stacks of bills laying all around the office.

Contact: 

Writer: Haven Miller
(606) 257-3784

Sources: Dick Trimble
(502) 365-7541

Jack McAllister
(606) 257-7540

Steve Isaacs
(606) 257-7255