- Author: Dan Macon
Keeping track of production records, income and expenses, grazing use, and other key information is an important function for any ranching business. These records provide critical information for decision-making and operational planning. As I've realized recently, they can also provide essential documentation in case something happens to me. My family - and others involved in our sheep operation - could use these records to pick up my work if I somehow become incapacitated.
Record-keeping requires discipline - for me, this means recording activities and expenses when they occur (I find that I'm easily distracted - if I don't record these things immediately, I forget them). I've tried handwritten journals with limited success - we keep and handwritten journal during lambing to record each lamb's birth, but I have never been good about recording other day-to-day activities in this manner. Usually, the diary gets left in the truck or on my desk at home - and eventually it's forgotten or misplaced.
Several years ago, I decided that my smart phone might offer a more readily available method for recording these activities - after all, I have my phone with me at all times (not always a good thing, but helpful in this case). Smart phones also have the ability to take photographs, which can aid in recording detailed information. After several attempts at using journaling apps that my family and my partner could also use, we decided to create a "secret group" on Facebook. With a secret group, only members of the group can access and post information - and those of us in the group control this access. Nobody else knows about it or sees it on their feed. Since it's Facebook, we can post as many photos as we need to. We can search for specific terms or dates. We can post photos with the serial number and expiration date of the vaccines we use. And each of us can see what the other members of the group have posted.
Ours is not the perfect system - I sometimes worry whether anything in the cloud is truly private. But it does help me be more disciplined about recording my activities. It has provided a detailed record of where the sheep are, what we're doing with them, and what kinds of financial transactions we're making. The combination of photographic and written records is useful for comparing forage conditions and sheep management from one year to the next. For us, it's become a virtual day book that everyone involved in our business can contribute to and see.