Trying to get a handle on your goat farm’s finances? You’d be surprised how helpful computer programs can be, including farm accounting software and farm management software (not to mention low-tech farming spreadsheets).
But before you even get into the software, have you considered taking an online farming course, or learning from the experience of others by reading goat farming books?
Well, you’re in luck! Because in this comprehensive guide we point you to the best courses, books, software, and spreadsheets for ramping up the efficiency of your farm.
Let’s get into it…
Farm Business Online Courses
Cornell University offers Cornell Small Farms Courses, a suite of entry-level courses for the beginning farmer, including Exploring Markets and Profits; Understanding the Business, Tax, and Regulatory Implications of Your Farm; Writing a Business Plan; Quickbooks for Farmers; and Holistic Financial Planning.They offer a discount for lower-income levels.
The Farmer's Office offers a number of free courses in farm financial education, including Basic Accounting, Basic and Advanced QuickBooks, and Cash Flow Management.
Colorado State University offers online courses in Agricultural Finance and Agricultural Business Management.
Northeast Iowa Community College offers online Associate degree programs in Agricultural Finance, Agricultural Business, and a certification program in Agricultural Business - Agricultural Finance.
North Central Texas College offers Livestock Business Management, including contract terms associated with livestock and real estate, estate planning, livestock industry laws and regulations, management principles, and human resources.
Also offered is Agricultural Finance, examining the acquisition and use of agricultural capital, basic record-keeping principles, financial statements, cash flow, and the analysis of financial statements.
USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE) Presents: A Free Online Strategic Farm/Ranch Planning and Marketing Course. The course is designed to help you make better business planning and marketing decisions, and focuses on keeping your operations profitable. It covers goal setting, finding resources to evaluate new ideas, developing business and marketing plans, risk management, financing, and retirement options. The course can be previewed here.
BeginingFarmers.org offers courses on Introduction to Quickbooks for Farmers Online, and Farm Business Planning
Accountingtools.com offers a basic accounting course with special emphasis on agriculture. Agricultural Accounting is currently $67 for the course.
Farm Finance Books
Establishing A Record Keeping System for Goats is offered free online as a .pdf document by Florida A&M University.
Two other farm finance books to check out include:
Farm Management Software
For the small farmer, raising goats, even as a hobby, is hard work. Your days are spent tending to a herd, ensuring proper nutrition, treating injuries, controlling parasites, and checking fences. The last thing you need when you get home is an argument with a computer while trying to master a program full of glitches.
The right software offers you a clear view of your farming operations, allowing you to streamline operations, improve productivity, and maximize profits by providing the information you need to guide decisions and find and correct problems early on.
Questions to ask when you’re looking into the best farm management software for your operation:
Farm Accounting Software/Farm Record Keeping Software
The most difficult part of accounting for a goat herd should be choosing the best software for your farm. The picks here, and in the combination software section, work for many farms. This does not make them the best choices for you. Most of the software below have free trial periods. Try them out. Find the one that works best for you.
If you use an outside bookkeeper or accountant, ask for an opinion. The key to finding the best management software for you is deciding what your needs are, and which software works to address those needs.
ZipBooks. If you are running a small hobby operation, you might want to try ZipBooks free farm accounting software.
One of the best farm accounting software packages is not farm-related at all. QuickBooks Desktop Pro is a general-purpose accounting program that can be easily customized to fit your accounting needs. It is easy to use, cost-effective, and is supported by outside bookkeepers and accountants. You can track income, expenses, accounts receivable and payable, reconcile bank statements, calculate profit and loss, and manage farm assets. No accounting experience is necessary and QuickBooks Desktop Pro features step-by-step tutorials to walk you through using the software.
QuickBooks Desktop Pro is available starting at $7.50 a month for the self-employed freelancer to $12.50 a month for the simple small business package up to $75.00 a month for the most advanced package with an additional charge for payroll, depending on the number of employees.
NOTE: QuickBooks parent company, Intuit, offers a new version of the program every three years, so if you use payroll, you will have to repurchase the program.
If you want anytime, anywhere access from your home computer, laptop, or smartphone, there is a cloud-based version of QuickBooks Pro called Quickbooks Online.
Receipt Bank. Although not an accounting program, Receipt Bank integrates easily into QuickBooks and provides an easy way to save essential records. Just install the Receipt Bank app on a smartphone, snap pictures of receipts and documents, and save them to the cloud for later use. The price for Receipt Bank starts at $12.50 a month.
FarmBooks. The availability of accurate information is essential to making good decisions. FarmBooks Accounting Software is one of the most complete, easiest to use software packages on the market. With multiple reports and statements built into the software, you can easily generate specific financial reports and statements.
FarmBooks offers an accounts register, allowing you to view your farm's earnings and expenditures, and a detailed register, allowing you to find a specific transaction. Features include check writer, accounts payable, vendor management, accounts receivable, bank account manager, asset/liability tracker, and inventory management. (Although not a livestock management function, Inventory Management can be used to record births, weanings, or sales.)
FarmBooks is available for a one-time payment of $395 for one farm, with an $85 a year maintenance fee, and $5 per month for password-protected, off-site data backup.
Alabama A&M and Auburn University Extension Service hosts instructions on using Excel spreadsheets for farm financial records.
Itstillworks.com proffers a course on "How to Manage Livestock Information in an Excel Spreadsheet."
Template.net has a farm budget spreadsheets available.
The Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) has a number of free farm and ranch spreadsheets available.
Livestock Management Software
Livestock management software allows you to track each goat from inception to sale or butchering, including size and weight, along with any health issues. It also provides aggregate information on the herd, routine medical costs, such as vaccinations and worming, and exceptional medical costs, such as wound care. Maintaining precise up-to-date records can mean the difference between profit and loss.
EasyKeeper. If you are looking to keep a close eye on your goats, EasyKeeper Herd Manager, designed especially for goat herds, is for you.
In addition to a calendar for task management, with the ability to send you an email reminder, EasyKeeper gives you the ability to track and record body condition, body weight, breeding and kidding, health and wellness, milk production, pedigree and progeny, photos, vital statistics, and contact management.
For dairy goats, EasyKeeper gives you the tools to track daily milk production, daily average, periodic average, and lifetime production to date. Having this information means that you can identify your best producers for breeding, and discover problems and possible health issues early on.
The weight tracking feature allows you to monitor weight history, including at different stages as the animal grows, and average daily gain calculations.
Body condition and health and wellness scoring allow you to look-up an animal’s body condition history quickly and easily, letting you address health issues early.
The time of manually creating and updating pedigree charts is over. When you add information to the pedigree and progeny section, it updates all pedigree references to all related animals.
Livestocked. Livestocked is a herd management tool working through one easy-to-use online application that will work on Windows, iPhone, iPad, or Android.
Cloud-based, you can use Livestocked in your home office or out in the field. Livestocked allows you to manage your herd, semen and embryo inventory, sales and financials, as well as set reminders for medications.
Livestocked pricing starts at $70.00 per year with a free trial period and a less functional free version.
Ranch Manager Open. Ranch Manager Open software by White Mountains Livestock Company is the first Livestock Management software to use a voluntary licensing model. That means it is supported by donations from its users. To get started, just download the software and start using it on your computer.
If you want to link up to and work through, the cloud, you are asked to purchase a flex license for the RM Cloud Service, starting at $50. This allows you to link your database across several devices.
The software helps you manage your operation, run reports, perform analysis, and synchronize your data with other devices running RM Cloud. Each device can work offline, then synchronize change when you connect to the internet.
Combination software covers programs that integrate multiple functions into one package.
Farm Biz. If accounting is not your strong suit, and customizing a general accounting program such as QuickBooks Pro is not for you, consider Farm Biz. Farm Biz is an easy to use, no experience necessary accounting program designed specifically for farm business.
A complete entry-level, cash-basis, farm financial management program, Farm Biz requires no bookkeeping experience. You just pick what you need from a predesigned chart of accounts, interactive invoices, and statements such as budget projections, profit and loss, cash flow, and farm-related tax accounting.
Farm Biz is computer-based Windows compatible software, with no internet connection necessary. This does not mean that you are restricted to your home computer. If you want to use the Farm Biz at home and out on the farm, just install the program on both your home computer and your laptop. You can save the data from your home computer to a USB thumb drive, use it on your laptop in the field, and transfer it back to your home computer later.
Farm Biz comes with an automatic backup and restore feature, allowing you to recover data that might otherwise be lost in the event of a power outage or system failure.
There is a one-time purchase price of $249 with optional updates and free customer support.
Ultra Farm Accounting. Offered by the same parent company as Farm Biz, Ultra Farm Accounting is a deluxe version of Farm Biz. It offers all of the Farm Biz features, plus enterprise analysis to help you identify your needs and catch problems early on, invoicing, payroll, and inventory. Reports include livestock analysis, cashflows, and a balance sheet function with supporting IRS documentation. The complete program is $550.
FarmBrite. Farmbrite is a complete farm and livestock management system. It is designed to help get organized, keep records, manage resources, track production, and make good decisions.
The various sections allow you to schedule tasks and events, include information on both the herd as a whole and on individual animals, track price and use of equipment, record transactions, view profit and loss statements, record the marketing of animals and products, and maintain a directory of contacts. Prices range from $15 a month or $165 a year for the basic Essentials, to $30 a month or $330 a year for the Livestock edition, up to $50 a month or $550 a year for the premium Professional version.
Tips for Managing Farm Finances
The basic accounting equation states that there are limited resources, such as money, but virtually unlimited wants, needs, and desires.
Small farmers can benefit greatly from the "pay yourself first" investment philosophy, putting profits aside as money comes in, then planning operations around remaining funds.
If you use an outside accountant or bookkeeper, make you’re your financial software is compatible.
SCORE, in partnership with the USDA, offers useful Help for Farmers and Ranchers.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has several resources for the small farmer.
Six Steps to Better Farm Bookkeeping by HarvestProfit has some good suggestions.