Farm record keeping ... Get hooked
By Michel Moisan
- Agriculture and Rural Representative, Alfred
The rapid changes that are taking place in today's agriculture and farming are making accurate farm record keeping and up-to-date records essential to the success of the farm. Record keeping is not particularly the most exciting work as it can be tedious and time consuming. Let's face it, given the choice, most of us would probably want to be in the barn with the animals or out on the tractor rather than at a desk doing record keeping and associated paperwork. However, without good records, you really don't know what is happening to your farm business.
Good records are important because farmers face a great number of choices and decisions in the management of their farm business. Records alone will not provide the answers to questions which farmers will have to face however, a farmer with a good set of up-to-date records will usually handle the problem better than one who does not. Keeping farm records will also help the farmer to remember things that happened on the farm such as rainfall, fertilizer and chemical applications, yields and returns. Farm records are also important because they provide the proof of income and expenses and inventory items reported on tax returns. Government bodies and financial institutions may require them for financial assistance programs and farm loans. Records can also assist the farmer in the analysis of new farm projects as well as in the area of estate planning.
Farmers can collect information on a number of areas on their farm. Some examples would be: Farm Business Records including income, expenses, capital purchases, tax records, notes and loans; Management and Outlook Records including budges, plans and projections or market information; Crop Production Records on field records, yields, weed and insect control; Livestock Production Records on breeding, feeding, DHIA, production, registration, health; Machinery and Building Records with operating manuals, farm building plans guarantees, farm equipment; Home and Family Records outlining personal expenditures, inventories, health, automobiles; Historical Records including Farm Income Tax records, account books, cancelled cheques. It should be noted that the type of information which farmers keep, how much they keep and, the best way for the information to be organized will depend a great deal on the type of information which will be useful to the farmer, how easy it will be to collect and keep and also whether it will provide the information needed.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has many farm recording tools available to farmers. One such tool is the Ontario Farm Record Book (publication 540). This publication is simple yet complete enough to provide details for tax purposes, for credit and also for the analysis of your farm. Another tool is OMAFRA`s Farm Inventory Notebook. This notebook will help you keep track of livestock, breeding stock, crops, produce, feed and farm supplies on hand and estimate their market value. While many farmers record their data by hand, the use of computers and farm record software has expanded in recent years. Today, many different kinds of software are available. In fact, there is a publication available from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs called Agricultural Software Directory, which lists hundreds of software packages distributed in North America.
To conclude, remember that decisions made on the farm can be no better than the information used to make them. Accurate and up-to-date records will help you understand the activities of your farming operation, provide appropriate information when needed and also help you to better handle problems. Farm record keeping is a habit ... once you're in the habit, it becomes much easier to do. If your not already hooked on farm record keeping ... get hooked!!!
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