Before you buy computer software to keep cow/calf production records, you first need to decide what information you need to keep.
Selecting cow/calf record keeping software: Choosing what works for you!
By: Jay Jenkins, UNL Extension Educator, Range Livestock Systems
Before you buy
Before you buy computer software to keep cow/calf production records, you first need to decide what information you need to keep. Make a checklist that includes the items that you need. Include not only the necessities, but also those things that while not necessary, would be nice.
What do you need?
There are many items to think about before you make your purchase:
• How many cows do you have? Some programs limit the number of cows, while others keep records on unlimited herd sizes.
• Do you wish to keep individual historical data on the cows’ previous calves? Most programs allow you to do this, but a few old programs only kept a running average of previous calves' performance.
• What data do you want to record?
• Make sure the program does not require data you do not collect. For example some programs require individual weaning weights, while many ranchers do not record individual weights.
• What reports do you want? There are as many different styles of reports as there is software available. Make sure the program you select will deliver what you need.
A couple of other things may not be obvious to people evaluating cow/calf recordkeeping software for the first time.:
• Can the program handle your cow identification scheme? Some programs require that the cows be numbered in a certain way. This may or may not be an issue for you.
• Is the program based on a calendar year? Some programs can be confusing in the way they handle the "production cycle." Since cows are bred for next year’s calf before this year's calf has been weaned, programs that are "production cycle" based, can become confusing if records are not kept up to date. Going back and entering past data into some programs can be confusing.
Locate potential choices
Once you have made a checklist of what you need and want from a software program, you are ready to find out what is available. There are many programs available. Any list that you make will soon be out of date. Collect information from as many companies as possible.
Evaluating the software