Let’s take a walk back in time…

The year is 1950.  Approximately half of Canada’s population lived on farms.  The farm had pigs, chickens, beef and dairy cows, and grain. These farms were very self-sufficient, many producing everything the family needed to sustain itself for the year.    The excess was sold to local buyers in town.  Grain produced on the farm was used to feed the livestock and some was sold to the local elevator just a few miles down the road.

Fast forward to today…

I’m sitting at my desk, entering purchase and sales information to our farm accounting software on my MacBook Pro.  Once everything is entered for the final quarter for 2014, I will be able to submit my GST return to Revenue Canada electronically.  When that is done, I will be able to go into my accounting software and in a few clicks of a mouse, have the entire year for our farm summarized on a few sheets of paper.

Working on the books for Q4 of 2014

Farming today is more than a lifestyle, it’s also a business.  Depending on the farm size, depends on how intricately the business is ran, from my observations.  I was at a conference recently, and participated in a “Bear Pit” style session about growing your farm business.  The first question they asked is, “Do you have a formal business plan?”.  Not many people realize that farms today, are not like the farms that their grandparents might have grown up on.

All our farm accounting is done on software designed for a farm business.  It not only tracks our purchases and sales, but also tracks inventory.  Keeping track of inventory on the farm is no easy task either.  We have over 21 grain bins on our farm, and each one of them holds something at various times of the year.  At the end of the year, we do a year end inventory.  Every bushel of grain is counted (we measure by how much grain is in the bin, it’s not an exact count, but we’re usually pretty close).  We then walk through our bale yard and count every bale of hay and straw.  All this information is recorded and is used at various time throughout the coming year.

For our cattle, we do not manually count them.  Because we are Verified Beef Production Producers, we have to track everything we do to the cows.  If we have to doctor one or vaccinate the entire herd, the animal’s radio frequency ID (RFID) tag is individually scanned and information is recorded.  So when it is time to inventory the cattle, I pull up the information in separate cattle tracking software and record the numbers of different classes of cattle.

While living on a farm is a lifestyle choice, farming itself is much more.  A farm is ran like any other business and technology is incorporated in pretty much every aspect of our operation, especially the accounting and cattle tracking end of things.