September 15, 2004 | By: Aimee Heald-Nielson

Over the past three years, more than $52 million has been funneled to Kentucky’s beef-forage enterprises. In a time when other states have used Master Settlement Funds to balance budgets, political leaders in Kentucky decided that a good portion of the funds needed to go toward helping farmers and communities that have suffered as tobacco declines.

“Farmer-oriented programs from across Kentucky have benefited from Ag Development Board funds, including Master Cattleman and CPH-45 sales,” said Jimmy Henning, assistant director of agriculture and natural resources for the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. “In addition, better cattle genetics, more handling facilities and investments in better forage will pay dividends in the days ahead.”

The Kentucky Agricultural Development Board’s investment in improved beef genetics has helped producers purchase approximately 13,000 bulls. Most of these sires should improve calf weaning weights by 25 pounds, Henning said. Assuming 30 cows per bull and an 80 percent calf crop, Kentucky farmers should realize a $7.8 million increase in cattle income. Seeing the benefit of improved sires, many Kentucky cattle producers are now using their own funds to purchase additional improved sires, thus improving their income even more.

By encouraging farmers to take advantage of cost share programs to seed hay and pasture crops that will produce 30 to 50 percent more yield than their basic grass fields, the ADB funds have helped farmers greatly improve their forage programs. Henning said these improvements also will improve forage quality, leading to greater beef production at less cost.

“UK Extension agents have done the soil testing and have given producers recommendations to utilize more than $17 million in Ag Development funds,” he said. “Most of this has gone to support new seedings of alfalfa and red clover. Considering the improved yield and forage quality, this investment should be worth as much as $400 or more per acre seeded over the life of the stand for alfalfa and about $240 for red clover, due to better varieties alone.”

At an estimated $110 per acre seeding cost, at least 300,000 acres of improved forage have been established. Henning said based on this improvement alone, this practice should generate at least $30 million in increased forage value.

More than $13.5 million in ADB funding has been matched by farmers to purchase or make improvements to cattle handling facilities.

“An estimated 11,000 handling facilities have been added or improved across Kentucky,” Henning said. “Based on the 50 calves per facility and $15 per calf income gain as a result of improved health and management programs, the value of this Extension/Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy/local organization effort totals $8.25 million more potential income for Kentucky producers.”

The Kentucky Master Cattlemen program is a four-hour Extension education program that receives support from the Kentucky Beef Network, funded by ADB dollars. Extension specialists and agents teach producers to manage their cattle to the best economic advantage. Participants learn about all areas of cattle production and marketing. Since 2000, 1,000 producers from 101 counties have gone through the program. In 2003, producers representing a total of 51,000 cattle were in Master Cattlemen. Due to their adoption of these profit-oriented recommended practices, those producers are realizing increased economic returns of $12,000 annually, based on an average herd size of 102 cows, Henning said.

UK Extension is increasing the educational effort for CPH-45 sales in hopes that many producers improve their beef cattle income.

“In 2003, UK Extension agents, in partnership with KBN facilitators and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, assisted local cattle groups in hosting 31 special CPH-45 health and management calf sales at 13 locations around the state,” Henning said. “More than 30,000 feeder calves were marketed.”

The average premium per hundred-weight over the average sale price was $7.27. The calves gained on average an additional 80 pounds for a total of 2.4 million pounds. Considering the premium and the weight gain, these producers increased total income by more than $4.7 million.

“UK and the county agents of the Cooperative Extension Service have invested countless hours to determine county priorities for ADB dollars and the get the funds in the hands of farmers,” Henning said. “The financial impact on Kentucky’s beef industry already has been significant. There is a new spirit of excitement and a renewed vision for Kentucky agriculture in the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy regarding the future projects for the Ag Development Board funds.”


Writer: Aimee D. Nielson 859-257-4736, ext. 267

Source: Jimmy Henning 859-257-1846