Adding Value to Your Flock through Records and Management
Laurie Johnson, Pipestone Lamb & Wool Program instructor, provided practical tips for increasing value using records and management at the 2019 American Lamb Summit. “Successful sheep operations take three core management steps,” she said. “One, they have a plan. Two, they keep records and actually use them. Three, they find experts to help them along the way.” The summit was sponsored by the American Lamb Board and Premier 1 and held at Colorado State University.
“It’s never too late to start. Begin by taking stock of what you are doing now for production record keeping and thinking through where the gaps are to get you actionable information,” she advised.
During the American Lamb Summit, a great deal of discussion was around technology. Johnson encouraged lamb producers to be business-minded when evaluating new technologies. “Will they add to your operation, save you time or resources? Make you more efficient?”
Having the right records does make a significant difference in farm/ranch success, if those records are used. “Now is the time to use benchmarking to measure performance. This simply means having a baseline to measure against and help you set goals,” said Johnson. For example, a producer she works with used records to realize that he was loosing more lambs than he should be at just a few days old, which led him to make sure lambs were nursing and getting colostrum. He could then compare his records to see if it was solving the problem.
How do you keep records of your flock’s performance? Are you using a computer record keeping system or are you more of a notebook and pen person? No matter the record format you use, the most important factor is that you are keeping records then using them, Johnson emphasized.
Use benchmarking to identify the top performers in your flock and to identify the lowest to cull. “The poor performers are costing the same as the highest producing ewes. There are many different traits that can be tracked, but many times that can be overwhelming. Begin focusing on one or two areas that you want to improve such as lamb born or lambs weaned,” Johnson said. Are you culling the bottom 10% of your ewes year to year? Do you know which ewes are producing twins and raising them to weaning?
For producers searching for computer or paper-based programs to help track financial and production records, Johson suggested starting with an internet search using the phrase “sheep enterprise analysis” or “farm business management.” There are valuable resources from university extension and sheep production services, such as Colorado State University and Minnesota West Community and Technical College.
Start your search for information at the Lamb Resource Center’s Productivity Resources page, https://lambresourcecenter.com/production-resources/, for presentations and videos from this year’s Lamb Summit. This same website has resources on flock productivity, genetics, seasonality and more.