Record Keeping for Livestock Farmers

Winter 2006-2007
by Diane Schivera
MOFGA’s Livestock Specialist

Record keeping serves many functions for livestock farmers (and for all farmers), and it’s a requirement for organic farmers.  We all say, “I’ll remember that …,” but then we often forget.

The MOFGA Certification Services Practice Manual says the following regarding animal-related record keeping:  Individual animals, and in the case of poultry, individual flocks, must be identifiable to the farmer and to the inspector. We must be able to verify the source of breeder stock or replacement animals.  Records (purchase, sale, medical, etc.) must be maintained for each animal and available to the inspector.

Farmers should keep the following records:

Identification and family history

•    Identifies the animal, preferably with a picture or drawing and number on a tag
•    Date of birth
•    Parentage
•    From whom it was purchased
•    Whether it’s a twin, triplet, etc.

Reproductive and health

•    Dates heat observed
•    Breeding dates, sire, services per conception
•    Animal’s condition score at breeding and birthing
•    Pregnancy check date, settled (pregnant), condition of reproductive tract
•    Offspring size or weight, number of offspring per birthing
•    Dystocia, description of problem, method of assistance, success
•    Colostrum received, amount
•    Health issues, method of treatment, response
•    Mastitis – symptoms, whether teats are involved, when milk was sampled for bacterial count, bacterial cause

Production (Varies by species or production goals.)


•    Days in milk, pounds per month and per lactation, including butterfat and solids

Slaughter Stock:

•    Kill weight, dressed weight or percentage, quality of meat

Fiber Animals:

•    Weight and quality of production each year

Many methods are available for keeping these records.  The least costly option is a notebook with a sheet for each animal or a box with index cards. Farmers who prefer to have a printed record for each animal can buy record forms from companies; some permit copying.  Among the sample records that I can provide for farmers to copy are:  

•    Dairy Record from Virginia Tech. Dept. of Dairy Science – complete for health and reproductive records
•    Organic Valley’s and Crystal Creek’s Individual Cow and Life-Time Health Record (Organic Valley’s is more detailed). 

Also free are Organic Livestock Documentation Forms from the Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas at or 1-800-346-9140.  These forms are extensive, including health, field livestock and other inventories, feed records, production records and more.  They are available for many species.

The National Agricultural Supply Company at 1-800-558-9595 or has record keeping systems for different livestock.  The company’s Web site describes, for example:

•    Record File Folders – Item Details:  These are the same folders that are used in the Michigan Dairy Breeding and Health Record System. Each folder holds important notes, registration and vaccination papers, breeding receipts, etc. In addition, they allow you to record important information for each cow, such as: date of birth, tattoo or ear tag numbers, vaccination dates, mastitis and udder health, breeding record, calf record, production records, reproductive and other diseases, and more. Each folder even includes a diagram for you to draw the cow’s markings. Pkg. of 100 folders (8-1/2″ x 11″). $43.50.

•    Livestock Production and Health Records – Beef Cow – Item Details:  Keep track of your livestock’s production and health with this handy loose-leaf binder system. Each page lets you identify each animal by drawing or number, then record breeding, performance, and other important management facts. Binder is ideal for barn use; holds 100 sheets. Each page is 5-1/2″ x 8-1/2″ $12.95.

For those interested in keeping records on a computer, these two examples seem reasonable:

•    StocKeeper at for PCs has an easy-to-use interface and a powerful features to manage your herd’s medical, fertility, production and pedigree information. Each animal retains a lifetime record…even after it is culled from the herd…offering an amazing amount of information to mark herd performance over time. StocKeeper provides a fully-functioning, 60-day demo that includes a sample database, or you can enter your own animals. StocKeeper will run for 60 days from the day you install it. After that, you can call for a registration code that will allow you to keep using the data you already entered.  After 60 days, if you decide not to purchase the software, you can extend the demo period or continue using StocKeeper 2000: Freeware Edition, which StocKeeper converts to when the demo expires. This Freeware Edition has a 100-animal limit; cannot generate reports; and you cannot import data from DHI.  The demo can be downloaded from the Web site or ordered on a CD via mail or by calling a local representative.

•    CHAPS (Cow Herd Appraisal Performance Software), a data-intensive beef production record system for PCs, is available at CHAPS was developed by the North Dakota State University Cooperative Extension Service through the North Dakota Beef Cattle Improvement Association and has been reviewed and approved by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association – National Integrated Resource Management Coordinating Committee.  The program tracks beef cattle production from conception to carcass, yielding data about performance, genetics and meat quality.

The Web site for CHAPS says: “The more documented records you have available on each of your cows, the better equipped you are to make bold… decisions about culling, selecting and mating systems. The managerial decisions you make today can have a huge impact on the future of your herd for many years to come. As an aggressive cattle producer competing in today’s …market, you need to utilize all the tools available to reduce guesswork, adding predictability to your herd performance.” This quote sums up the reason for and value of record keeping very well.  It is to easy to say “ I’ll remember” and then forget why that animal has mastitis again!

Diane is MOFGA’s organic livestock specialist.  You can contact her at 568-4142 or [email protected].

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