The Value of Good Record Keeping

It’s the beginning of aKerkaert_Barry new year, and everyone is looking over their 2014 records and planning how to have an even better, more profitable 2015.  In today’s world of business, people use record keeping for everything.  In fact, we may go as far as combing through our online bank statement looking for that accidental $5 charge.   Yet when it comes to record keeping for our hog farm (our investment, our business) often times we fall short.

I’ve been a swine consulting veterinarian for 20 years with Pipestone Veterinary Services, and have learned that accurate record keeping can save and make you money.  It is extremely difficult to improve when you don’t know where you currently stand.  It doesn’t matter the size of your herd (whether you turn 2,000 head a year or 200,000) record keeping will bring value to your business.

Point #1:  Start Now!  Keep it timely, keep is accurate.

According to Hal Schmidt, Pipestone Grow Finish Vice President, “You don’t know what you don’t know until you’ve measured.  We’re willing to invest in auto steer for our tractors, but hesitate when it comes to good record keeping for our hog barns.  It’s time to get sophisticated with our swine production records.  We have rarely had a client that didn’t make a production or management improvement based off high quality data.  There is always room for improvement.  In fact, we’ve seen a difference of as much as $12 to $15 opportunity per full value pig.”  Record keeping can show you where you stand within these variations, and give you the tools to make better business decisions.

As with many businesses, record keeping can be as basic or as technical as you choose.  It may be as simple as chicken scratches on a notepad, all the way up to sophisticated record keeping software.  What is most important is that you do it, and that it is accurate and timely. It’s essential that you resist the temptation to “put it off”.  You must record and enter data frequently and accurately so timely decisions can be made.

Point #2: Focus!  What are the opportunities?

How do you know where you’re going if you don’t have an end destination?  You’re goals will determine what you measure.  As the producer and the business owner, you decide the priorities for your farm.  A couple of examples of goals Pipestone Grow Finish has made for 2015 are 94% full value pigs and 1.78 ADG for all wean to finish groups.  These goals are based on past performance, current nutrition programs, and the genetic potential of the pig.   Your goals should take into account the same information.  Ask yourself this question:  Are my goals manageable based on the health and genetics of my current pig source, my chosen nutrition program and my facility flow?  These are all important factors to consider.

The Pipestone Grow Finish team often uses benchmarking as a tool for determining goals and prioritizing focus, but understands that each producer has its own unique situation.  Benchmarking is definitely one of the values of using a high quality, third party service for swine record keeping.  Knowing where you stand among your peers will most likely help you make more focused choices going forward.

Point #3:  Make improvement.

Now that you have your data what do you do with it?  I honestly believe that when it comes to good record keeping, you need a third party to validate and report.  Record keeping isn’t just gathering data, but analyzing it so you can influence change, whether it’s change for pigs in the barn today or pigs you will place tomorrow.  Records without support or validation are just numbers.

Perhaps the most important “lesson” to be learned from record keeping is this: If you cannot identify opportunities for improvement, you cannot make changes.  Responding to these opportunities based off of timely, accurate records will allow you to focus on key areas and fix mistakes before it is too late, ultimately increasing your profit margin – and who doesn’t want that!

As you head into 2015, please keep the value of good records for your swine production in mind!  I guarantee if you start today, you will be glad you did when 2016 rolls around.

By: Dr. Barry Kerkaert