October 6, 2005 | By: Laura Skillman

A hands-on field days participant pregnancy checks a cow as UK Extension Beef Cattle Specialist Les Anderson observes.

After hours of classroom instruction, beef cattle producers finally got to practice such things as pregnancy diagnosis, artificial insemination and handling vaccines during the Master Cattleman Program’s Hands-On Field Days.

“The Master Cattleman Program involves intensive classroom training, and this is a portion of the program where we put those things into practice and actually have the time to teach with one-on-one instruction many of the management practices that we recommend,” said Roy Burris, University of Kentucky Extension beef cattle specialist and one of several UK specialists providing hands-on training. “We give them all the basics first, then put it all together here so that they can feel comfortable and go back to their farm and actually do it.”

The two-day event, held at both UK’s Animal Research Center in Woodford County and the UK Research and Education Center in Princeton, was the culmination of months of classroom work for Kentucky Master Cattleman Program participants. They must finish eight of 10 three-hour classes to successfully complete the program, while the hands-on activities are optional. The program was first piloted in 2000 and is in its fourth year as a statewide program funded through the Kentucky Beef Network from the state tobacco settlement. It has just been funded for another two years. 

“We would like 10 percent of the producers in Kentucky to be certified as Master Cattlemen,” Burris said. “The primary objective is for Kentucky to be recognized as the feeder calf producing state in the United States. We want to be No. 1 in terms of quality and in terms of people saying, ‘We want Kentucky calves.’ We want our producers to make money and be economically sustainable, and we want them to also be environmentally friendly. We want it to be something bigger than just one operation. “

Jerene Kunkler, program coordinator, said about 20 percent of the Master Cattleman participants also attend the hands-on field days. Making field days optional allows part-time producers to participate in the classes, which are generally held in the evenings, without having to take time off work to attend the field days, she noted. 

“The reason the other is mandatory is there is some basic information they need to have,” Burris said.

The classroom work includes educational sessions on management skills, forages, nutrition, facilities and animal behavior, environmental stewardship and industry awareness, genetics, reproduction, herd health, end product, and marketing and profitability. Hands-on activities include one day dedicated to reproduction. The second day includes environmental stewardship, herd health, nutrition and genetics.

“I’ve learned so much through the whole program,” said Tom Meadows of Battletown. “I just couldn’t imagine not participating in the field days.”
Jessica Crabtree of Utica said her husband raises cattle, and although she’s been around livestock her whole life, she wanted to learn more about them. A high school teacher, Crabtree said she also likes the hands-on aspect.

“I’d like to see more hands-on,” she said. “That’s the way most people learn.”

Ken Laffoon of Madisonville said he came to the field day to get to see some of the things they had talked about in class.

“I think the hands-on is good but you have to have a small group,” he said. “If I get a chance to do an even more intensive program with more one-on-one, I’d do it.”

For more information on the Master Cattleman Program, contact a county office of the UK Cooperative Extension Service.


Writer: Laura Skillman 270-365-7541 ext. 278

Contact: Roy Burris, 270-365-7541 ext. 208
Jerene Kunkler, 859-278-0899