What can a 4-H member learn from past record books?

There are many benefits to keeping records in life. Some of those benefits occur during the process and others occur when reviewing the records. Past 4-H record books are great tools for saving time, increasing your profit margin and providing education.

There are many benefits to keeping records in life. Some of those benefits occur during the process and others occur when reviewing the records. Past 4-H record books are great tools for saving time, increasing your profit margin, providing education and more. In particular, looking at old records can help youth decide:

  • When to purchase their animal. The date of purchase and the birthdate of animals are both very important. For example, youth may have established from their records that they can purchase an animal with a late January to early February birthdate but anything later will make it very difficult to finish the animal properly for fair. On the contrary, an earlier birthdate could indicate the animal is likely to finish out too heavy for the fair. It is also important to consider the purchase date. If a member purchases their animal the same weekend every year and the fair is the same week as in the past, youth have a good idea of what the animal should be eating to be successful. However, if the member purchases the animal a week or two later, they may have to increase the fat in their feed or need a longer time to finish since most animals receive a lower fat or protein feed at the breeder’s, due to being in larger groups (litters or herds).
  • How much to spend on the animal. Purchasing an animal can be a different experience each year. Some years it may be easy to find an animal as there a lot to choose from. Other years, there may be a limited amount and 4-H’ers may be forced to spend more. Referring back to past record books can help a member understand how much more they can spend and still make a profit. It can also help them find places they may be able to cut expenses to help make up the difference, such as mixing their own feed.
  • What feed to use. Past record books are helpful in assisting a member with the decision to change their feed source. They can compare past feed tags and prices to the one they are considering. When considering this, the record can show them how much more they can spend and still turn a profit or how much less they need to spend in order to make the project more lucrative. Comparing the feed tags will also assure them they are getting the correct nutrients necessary for proper growth and health.
  • How the weather affects their project. Weather can play a big role in finishing out an animal, as animals often eat differently when the weather changes. Recording the temperatures and humidity each year can be very helpful for future years, as it will help the member understand when it’s necessary to alter the feed to make the animal eat. Youth will also learn tricks for changing the feed throughout their project years and writing them down will help in future years.
  • On proper worming programs. It is very important to worm animals regularly: an animal with worms will not be as healthy and will not gain weight properly. Writing worming dates into the record book will help the member to stay on a schedule each year and ensure proper withdrawal times are followed before going to fair.
  • How to build muscle. Writing down how much time an animal is worked will be helpful later in determining if enough time was put into the animal to build proper muscle. It can also be helpful to write down if the animal was active when worked or even when in the pen. In future years, looking back at past records may help members determine how much time to work their animal or if they may want to adjust the time based on how active the animal is.

For more on the life skills members learns through record books, read the Michigan State University Extension article Why do we have to keep those dreaded record books? For tips on how to make the record keeping process easy, see Tips for keeping record books painless.

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