Department of Animal Science


Date of this Version

December 1997


Published for Proceedings, The Range Beef Cow Symposium XV December 9, 10 and 11, 1997, Rapid City, South Dakota.


Over and over we as producers are told we need to know our cost of production. As the title of my college accounting book stated, accounting is the basis for business decisions.

The question comes up: how do we track these costs and make sense of all the numbers? As soon as we realize the importance of the office work and the need to get it done in a timely and efficient manner, we address how to get it done. What has been the answer for the past 20 to 25 years to help get the work done? That's right, get a machine to do it (for better or worse!). Just as none of us rode the train or brought the team and buggy to this symposium, record keeping has progressed with the times with the advent of the computer, and an abundance of software programs. But remember, the computer is just another machine that helps us do our office work, much like the baler and stacker helps with the haying, it won't do the work for you, just help you get it done.

When considering software, remember what is said of financial reports like the balance sheet, they give you a picture of your financial position at a given time. When you take a picture, a camera is used, so think of the software that produces a balance sheet as a camera. As with cameras, which come in many models; from the simple point, shoot, and throw away to the more sophisticated studio models; software varies. As you can imagine, programs like cameras, vary in price and the degree of skill and experience needed to get the very best out of them. But have faith, the good news is that with today's advances in computers and programming, even the most old fashioned cowboy or the most educated animal scientist can get a good set of financial records established.

Selecting computer software is really just asking and answering a series of questions. If a lot of thought goes into what and how you want to examine your business, the selection process will be much easier. To put this in rancher (not photographer) terms, think of buying software just like buying a pickup. Before you buy a pickup you figure how you are going to use it. Will it be used primarily for going to town, or will it pull a 8x24 trailer filled with horses on mostly gravel roads, plow mud, and be used to fix fence and haul out mineral. Just like pickups, software comes in many makes and models to suit a variety of needs. And especially like modern pickups, newer programs come with many bells and whistles which you can compare to electric seats and fancy stereos.