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RECORD KEEPING: A necessity or just nonsense?

December 2015

RECORD KEEPING: A necessity or just nonsense?Thus far in our series of articles regarding management, record keeping has always been indicated as part and parcel of the management of all aspects of a farming business. When we refer to record keeping it includes all types of record keeping such as production records, financial records, labour records and mechanical records.

It is an undisputed fact that one cannot manage without information. Thus, information of actual events needs to be gathered, measured and recorded. The events must be measured and recorded in a format that will make it easy for the farmer to use, whether you do it manually or use a computerised system. In farming this process is known as record keeping. How many hectares were planted? What fertiliser and what type have been used? And so forth.

By now all should be familiar with the expression – IF YOU DO NOT MEASURE, YOU CANNOT MANAGE. How can you fertilise your crops properly if you do not know what the pH of your soil is? If you do not know that the calving percentage of your herd of beef cattle is only 60%, what are you going to manage to improve the calving percentage? These are events that need to be recorded. The same applies to, for instance, to the yield of your crops, milk production, production of wool, growth rate of your broiler chickens or whatever. To measure and record is the most basic requirement and necessity to any management of any farming business.

However, in today's modern farming environment there is an ever increasing pressure to produce more quality products using fewer resources such as soil, water, labour, and so on. So called sustainable farming because of an ever increasing population worldwide and climate changes and the ever increasing costprize squeeze. To be sustainable and deliver quality products imply that you must farm profitable over the long term. To achieve this you must improve your business from year to year.

To improve their businesses, farmers are more and more using advanced technology and equipment. However, if you do not keep proper records new technology and equipment will be to no avail. How will you know whether the money you spend on advanced equipment is worthwhile if you do not what the production per hectare of your maize crop or wheat crop is? One can state that the commencement for the use of advanced technology and equipment is proper record keeping.

A further step in the advancement of the management of a farming business is to apply precision farming by using even more advanced technology and equipment. The description precision is derived from the word precise – simply meaning you do something as precisely as you can. Again the question can be asked: How do you know your application of precision farming is successful if you do not measure what you are doing and what you are achieving? Therefore the first step to apply precision farming is record keeping.

As already mentioned, the modern consumer, more and more, demands quality products. Products that look nice, good, fresh, healthy and attractive, have a good nutritional value and taste good and come from an eco friendly environment.

In a previous article we mentioned that the market is a tough guy. He wants quality products to supply to his clients/consumers. If you supply him with quality products, he will respond with better prices. To supply quality products also starts with proper record keeping – what have you done and when to produce quality products.

Also keep in mind that this market guy is getting tougher by the day because of pressure from consumers regarding environmentally friendly and healthier production processes. As a result traceability is a reality.

Traceability being a mechanism to keep track of the route that any product takes from the farm to the consumer's plate. This means when a consumer buys a product, he/she can ascertain where the product has been produced and what/where the farming practices and health regime used, and make an informed choice to buy the product or not. Thus again how can you provide all the needed information if you do not keep proper records? The traceability of food products is growing in importance across the world and opens up more marketing possibilities for farmers. It will also assist in combating the spread of diseases.

Thus, to conclude, whether you are a subsistence farmer, emerging farmer or a commercial farmer and/or whether you farm on a smallholding, a plot, a small farm or a big farm, to be sustainable you must keep proper records. Financially wise it is necessary that the management of the production processes on a farm need to improve every year to remain successful. Do you want to be successful? Your choice. Do remember – if you do not measure, you cannot manage.

Article submitted by Marius Greyling, Pula Imvula contributer.
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Publication: December 2015

Section: Pula/Imvula