I know this article is under raising goats but you can apply this article to your other homestead animal also. I also want to say that there records I am recommending you keep are for your personal use and that that of any agency - Local, State or Federal. Your records can be as formal or informal as you like. I have seen some people keep computer spreadsheets while I, on the other hand, keep just a simple hand-written notebook.
When I was doing all my research into getting chickens and goats I read a lot about keeping records on your animals. I really did not pay much attention to this recommendation because it just didn't seem that important. Of course that was before I actually had the animals.........
You will quickly find out just how important it is to keep records on your homestead animals because no matter how good your memory is you will not remember all the details of today a year from now.
What should you keep records of -?
- food purchases
- supliment purchases
Okay let's start at the top with births and work our way down.
Births - It is import to keep track of when a kid is born so you know when each kid will be available for purchase or when they will be old enough to wean. It is also important to keep track of births so you will know when you can breed your does the next time. It is important to give your does enough time between breeding, especially if you are milking them, to allow for their bodies to recooperate after births. Some people will breed their Nigerian Dwarf Goats 2 to 3 times a year. I do not agree with those practices and only breed my does when milk production drops to the point where breeding is necessary. The past time it was over a year between breedings. So it will be well over a year between births. I also note the information about the kids that are born. Who was born to who, coloring, characteristics, weight and how many are born to each doe.
Estrus - Estrus is basically the heat cycle of the doe. If you can keep track of when they go into estrus then you will have an easier time of deciding when to breed the does. Estrus is a very short window for Nigerian Dwarf goats so you have to keep an eye on the girls and their behaviour.
Breeding - As with births it is important to track when you bred your does because you need to be able to track the length of pregnancy. By tracking the length of pregnancy you will be able to roughly estimate when the kids will be born. You want to make sure that someone while be around shortly before the estimated birth just in case the does requires some assistance.
Pregnancy - I keep a little notebook that contains information on each of my does and part of that information is the date I suspect that they got pregnant. From the date that I suspect they got pregnant I count ahead 5 1/2 months to roughly when they should be expected to kid.
Milking - This one I thought was rediculous initially. Why would I track how much they millked if I wasn't planning on selling the kids for milking goats. I am not in the breeding business or any business. I just want my goats to give me as much milk as they can or will. You will find soon that it is good to track their production because it will help you note when something is amiss. You will find that a drop in production could mean your doe is not feeling well (hey they are like people sometimes they just don't feel good), it could be the doe is in estrus ( I usually see an increase in milk those days but a decrease in manners). Most people weigh the milk to record it but I just measure it by ounces. It was when I noted that the girls had steadily dropped in production to the point they were about half of what they were at their peak that I knew it was time to breed the girls again. If you plan on selling any of the kids for milking does then you best track because most people will want to see the records for the mothers and sometimes even for the mother of the father that was used for breeding.
Worming - Worming is a big one. You really need to pay close attention to the worming schedule of your goats. You need to track what you wormed then with and when. I use an herbal supplement and black oiled sunflower seeds for this but if you use the commercial wormers than you must switch the kind that is used periodically so the worms do not become immune to it. How ofent to worm depends on which wormer you use but it is roughly 6 weeks between wormings. So you need to know the last time you wormed your goats.
Food and Suppliment purchaes - I combined them for the purpose of they are both recorded for pretty much the same reason. You want to keep track of your expenses. By tracking what you spend on food and suppliments and how often you are able to determine how much that milk is costing you not only in sweat equitity but in actual, true dollar costs. This will also let you see if there is a sudden drop or increase in consumption which could point to signs of pregnancy or illnesses.
Pretty much the same priciples can be applied to other farm animals. Like with chicken you would track - breed, broody chickens, moulting chickens, hatchings, feed, suppliments and especially egg production. You will start to notice who is the best egg layer and who lays the best but maybe not the most ect. By knowing which eggs belong to which chickens we can track who is laying the best and which breed works the best in our situation. We also have a little polish bantam that when she does lay we all celebrate because its the rare that she does lay. That little bantam, Stitch, is like a puppy with Jonathan. When he goes back to collect eggs or just to see what the chickens are up to she always comes running to him and allows him to pick her up and carry her around. She does this rain or shine for Jonathan but won't let anyone else pick her up. She runs around the yard with her Phyliss Diller hairdo and really give us all a good show.
It is also important to track the death of chickens, as we know it will happen. It is important because you will be able to track if specific breeds seem to have more problems with specific issues. You will notice those that have more trouble with heat and cold etc.
So grab a notebook and start keeping track.