Good to Great - Data Tracking

Good to Great - Data Tracking

What makes a good producer great? Over the next few weeks we will be covering 5 key qualities that push good producers to be great producers. These qualities can be applied to everyone from the back-yard farmer to those with large calf ranches.

The third quality we will be discussing is data tracking. How do we know where we are going, if we don’t know where we have been? Allowing data to help make decisions removes all the guess work. Recently I had the pleasure of visiting with Bethany Marcks, a manager at Halls Calf Ranch in Wisconsin. She has ~8,000 calves from 30 different farms under her care at one time. Here are some thoughts from her on how tracking data helps them with raising the calves and also communicate with the home farms.

Question #1: How do you track data?

Bethany’s Response: All the calves that we get have an RFID tag. We scan them into a system called Heifer Pro., where we are able to see their number, the owner, the day we receive them, their start weight, and their serum total protein. Then we can transfer them all into Dairy Comp, and we can share info back to home farms through the calf codes.

We also record treatments into our dairy comp system. We have the pocket cow card and we also have a scanner so when they receive a treatment or vaccine it goes right into dairy comp. We also do that will calf movements, and weaning weights also get entered.

Question #2: What kinds of data are most important for your calf ranch?

Bethany’s Response: Weights and ADG are most helpful for us. We can see how well or poor calves are doing. We use that information to make decisions or choose who to cull. 

Question #3:  How do you use data to improve and set goals?

Bethany’s Response: This relates back to average daily gain, we use the data from the weights and how long the calf has been on our farm. If there is a lower average daily gain, we look for trends in health and look for opportunities to improve health and average daily.

We can see trends between each farm. Some farms we have 1,000 calves from and some farms only 20 or so. We try to have really good communication with every farm. If calves are having problems we can trouble shoot maternity area, etc. 

Question #4: Who is in charge of recording data and making reports?

Bethany’s Response: There are a few of us are involved. We have certain people that enter in new calves, this is done daily. We have another person that enters treatments, and another person that records all the calves that we send back to the home farms. Each person makes reports for their area of responsibility. 

This was some great insight on data tracking from Bethany! There are definitely a lot of benefits of recording calf information for future reference and decision making!  We still have 2 weeks left in our Good to Great Blog Series!  Stay tuned for more producer tips! 


Written by: Mariah Gull, M.S.

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