Tips for keeping record books painless

Keeping an animal record book doesn’t have to be a painful process. Use these steps to make record keeping a positive experience for the member and increase the educational value.

Keeping a 4-H animal record book doesn’t have to be a painful process. The following steps will make record keeping a positive experience for the member and increase the educational value.

Post the record book in the barn. Record books should be placed by the feed bin as soon as the animal arrives at the farm. This allows youth to quickly write down when they bought their animal, when they bought new food and other supplies, and when they administer medicines and wormers. Having the record book right by the feed will allow it to be a visible reminder to write down information daily. It only takes a few seconds to jot down the date, how many pounds of food and the cost of each purchase.

Get two copies of the record book from the 4-H office. Posting the record book in the barn will inevitably lead to it getting dirty, fly covered and wrinkled. If a member has a second copy, they won’t have to worry about the shape of the one in the barn. They can simply transfer all the data onto the fresh copy during the final tally of the numbers.

Keep receipts on everything. Members should have a folder they can drop the feed, vet and supply receipts into for quick reference later. This will be very helpful if they forget to write down something earlier as they can just cross-reference the folder to make sure nothing was missed.

Set up an account at the feed store. Many feed stores will set up accounts for 4-H members. These accounts are not to buy things on credit but just to keep a record of purchases. Every time the member purchases supplies or feed, they can tell the cashier their account name and it will be recorded on their account. Members can ask for a print out of their account periodically or just before fair to use as a cross-reference check instead of receipts.

Finish the record book before the animal goes to fair. Once a member gets to the fair with their animal, there is little time left to think about a record book. A member should take time to finish all the questions in their record book and tally all the numbers possible. The only item that will not be filled out will be the final weight and final tallies. However, members should check their fair rules as many fairs allow a member to estimate the animal’s final weight. If estimate weights are allowed, a member can buy a weight tape to estimate the animal’s final weight and finish their record book before coming to the fair. For members that want to keep accurate records for future years, they can still estimate the number but then jot down the actual weight in the margin to be figured out at a later date.

Turn in the record book as soon as the fair will allow. If a member estimated their animal’s weight, they are ready to turn in their record book as soon as they arrive at the fair. Don’t wait until the last minute to turn in the book, turn it in as soon as it is completed to the proper individual and location indicated in the rules.

Keep past records from each year. It is extremely helpful for members to keep past records. This process will help a member figure out how the math formulas work. In addition, it will help them see what items go in which categories or remind them of items they may have forgotten to write down.

For more information on the benefits of keeping past record books, read the Michigan State University Extension article, "What can a 4-H member learn from past record books?" Readers may also be interested in "Why do we have to keep those dreaded record books?" In addition, visit the MSU Extension Record Book webpage. Be sure to check with your county's 4-H and use the record book they support for your program.

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