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Youthful Approach to Keeping Dairy Records

23 September 2014

Much can be learned from record keeping about managing farm animals and farm finances, hence there is lots to be gained from starting with the books early.

A Virginia Cooperative Extension specialist writes that family were instrumental in nurturing their interest.

Dave Winston, Extension Dairy Scientist explains that, as a teen, he developed a keenness to work with the farm's production records.

"I was fortunate that my father and uncle allowed me to become heavily involved in maintaining these records," he said. "I learned much about record keeping from my grandfather, father, uncle, veterinarian, and DHI (Dairy Herd Improvement) technician."

Through high school he maintained the breeding, drying off, calving, culling, palpation, and health data for the herd. 

"The goal of everyone in agriculture should be to inspire youth."

"This experience fostered my present-day interest in dairy information systems. I believe other youth may benefit from similar responsibilities."

Benefits of Starting Young

There are many benefits that may come from getting younger members of the family or other youth involved in keeping farm production and business records, writes Mr Winston.

It can certainly introduce the next generation to basic herd management. This allows the young person to gain an appreciation for the types of information needed on the farm and provides them with responsibility that creates a deeper interest in the operation.

Mr Winston writes that it may also provide a feeling of ownership, encouraging a continued involvement with the home farm.

With proper guidance and encouragement, the youth may be able to enhance current records to improve overall herd management. Youth attendance at seminars, workshops and conferences can also stimulate their knowledge and interest.

What You Can Learn From Records?

As a youngster, I was excited to be able to attend DHI herdbook clinics with my father and learned much in the process, writes Mr Winston. I learned about key DHI parameters and reasonable goals for them.

For farms using or considering using computerized recordkeeping systems including spreadsheets, parlor management software, PCDART, and Dairy Comp 305, having a youth involved could be very beneficial given their natural gravitation toward technology.

For example, a youth could be very helpful in a PCDART herd by doing basic data entry and printing reports. With more experience one could become adept in report creation and even interpretation of the information.

Whenever possible youth should be involved in financial recordkeeping. Parents may be hesitant to do so, but this involvement can foster a better understanding of the financial scope of the business and how production decisions affect profitability of the operation.

Young Business Minds

Additionally, it can be an excellent way to teach them the importance of confidentiality of business matters.

Regardless of the type of recordkeeping system in place – paper or electronic – youth may be an untapped asset on the farm for assistance.

For the young person to be successful, they must express an interest and willingness to learn and be committed to the task.

The farm manager, whether a family member or not, needs to properly train and supervise them, especially until they become proficient.

It would be wise to start with smaller tasks of basic data entry and increase responsibility as merited.

In the long run, efforts could result in a win-win situation for the youth and farm management.

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