The very thought of the word “records” is often enough to send farmers into a frenzy.

But with severe constraints on investment and staff time, accurate recording is often a blessing in disguise.

Accurate recording allows analysis of strengths and weaknesses, says Solihull-based vet Steve Borsberry.

“Once identified, they will provide details of the areas of greatest concern and help identify where efforts need to be concentrated.”

Time is valuable and recording needs to be appropriate and acted upon, adds Mr Borsberry, who will speak on this subject at the Cattle Breeders Conference.

“Consider, for example, a lameness problem due to a solar ulceration.

No amount of antibiotic footbaths will improve the situation, but attention to cubicle comfort and floor surfaces could be more beneficial.”

And the effect of disease and poor animal welfare on staff morale is sometimes underestimated, he reckons.

“Coping with these situations leads to stress on staff, which can result in reduced work efficiency, often unquantifiable.

Outbreaks of mastitis lead to increased pit time and consequently less time available for other tasks, such as oestrus detection.”

But accurate record-keeping must be followed with analysis, he says.

“Simply recording without analysis will lead to despondency.

Even when little action is required, it is essential to inform all concerned that their efforts have been noted and this improves team spirit.”

Whether recording is a simple manual process or a computerised one, the data must be reliable, Mr Borsberry adds.

“This will allow analysis to provide benchmarks to compare future figures and other herds under similar management systems.”

More farms are recording numerous events and using that information to the benefit of the enterprise, he says.

“Something as simple as recording service dates which result in a successful pregnancy diagnosis can be used to predict subsequent calving dates.

“But the whole purpose here is to generate drying-off dates to allow cows’ mammary tissue to repair and regenerate.”

The British Cattle Conference will take place on 23-25 January at Hawkstone Park Hotel, Shrewsbury, Shropshire.

For further information, visit www.cattlebreeders.org.uk or contact Lesley Lewin (01409 241 579; email Lesley.lewin@cattlebreeders.org.uk).

chrissie.lawrence@rbi.co.uk