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Reduce stress with good record keeping

Record keeping may not be every farmer’s favorite activity, and probably not the reason someone chooses farming as a career. With time, patience and a commitment to get it done, it can make your financial life a lot less stressful.

Record keeping doesn’t have to be difficult. It’s a way to keep track of things about your operation that will help you make better long-term decisions. You can use a ledger book or a computer — whatever helps you maintain consistency. Software programs can make your data more meaningful.

Software has become more user-friendly over time, and while it may not make the record keeping process fun, it could help you see the overall picture of your operation. Some programs track purchases and how you use each item on a particular enterprise or field. You’ll be able to keep track of repair and maintenance records for specific farm equipment and produce balance sheets, income statements and cash flow budgets.

For many livestock operations, a good time to start keeping records is when the veterinarian comes to check your animals. Vets usually charge per head, so that data can help you develop a list of animals that need attention. You can use the same data to develop health histories of your animals, which will lead to more informed exams and diagnosis in the future.

Make record keeping a team effort for your family. Sit down and work on the records and budget together. Perhaps one person can read the information while another person types it into the software program or writes it in the ledger book. Also, if you do a little bit each day and don’t save it all up for the end of the year, you won’t become overwhelmed.

If you’ve done the work throughout the year, year-end procedures can feel more satisfying. You can generate year-end reports with a few simple clicks and not have to sort through stacks of bills lying around the home or office.

The University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment’s Department of Agricultural Economics has several tools online that could help with budgeting and decision making. Visit http://www.uky.edu/Ag/AgEcon/extbudgets.php to see what is available.

For more information about record keeping and a variety of other farm management topics, contact the Bell County Cooperative Extension Service.

Stacy White is the Bell County extension agent for agriculture and natural resources. Educational programs of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability or national origin. Sources: Steve Isaacs, extension agricultural economist