March 7, 2002 | By: Laura Skillman

An educational program funded by tobacco settlement funds will position Kentucky's beef producers to be top producers, marketers and industry leaders.

The Master Cattleman educational program was funded through the Kentucky Beef Network with tobacco settlement money, and schools will be starting in May.

A multidisciplinary team of University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service specialists, county agents and associates has been busy putting this program together, based to a large degree on pilot programs which were done in the Mammoth Cave, Green River and "Center of Kentucky" areas during the past two years.

"In a nutshell it is positioning Kentucky cattlemen to be the very best in the country," said Roy Burris, UK Extension beef specialist and a principal investigator on this project.

"People like to raise cattle, but they don't always make a lot of money," he said. "What we are trying to do, especially with those who have lost revenue from tobacco, is to help them. Also, people are getting more serious about their net income from cattle so the timing is right."

There will be 12 schools conducted across the state this year. All are multicounty efforts. Each school/program will consist of 10 classroom sessions and an optional hands-on session. The classroom work includes these educational sessions: management skills, forages, nutrition, facilities and animal behavior, environmental stewardship and industry awareness, genetics, reproduction, herd health, end product, and marketing and profitability.

"I'm excited about the program," said Alison Sexten, program coordinator. "It's a uniform program but is flexible enough to take into account differences in areas of the state such as with forages."

Sexten was hired by UK to coordinate the program and is housed at the Kentucky Cattlemen Association's office in Lexington.

The program is designed to enhance the profitability of beef operations by equipping producers with vital information. The program provides participants with a ready reference on the 10 educational sessions and introduces them to several different record keeping programs.

"Going through the master cattleman program will make you a better producer, better marketer and a better steward of the environment," Burris said. "It should also develop leadership in the industry."

Completion of the program will provide the participants with beef quality assurance certification and five-state certification. The BQA certification, Burris said, shows that the certificate holder knows how to properly vaccinate and handle cattle. He predicts the certification will become more important to buyers in the coming years. Some marketing alliances require the BQA certification.

The five-state certification will allow producers to participate in the Five-State Beef Initiative. The consortium includes Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan and is funded by a competitively awarded federal grant.

The FSBI is designed to provide feedback to the producer from the time the animal leaves the farm until it is slaughtered, through the use of electronic identification tags and a comprehensive data management system. This information will provide producers with the tools needed to make management and marketing decisions.

"What we want is for anyone in Kentucky who goes through master cattleman's to be able to choose any alliance they might want to participate in," he said. "We want to open doors for them."

There is a registration fee of $50 which goes to pay for meals and other ancillary needs at the session. All the educational materials will be provided free through the $249,000 grant.

"It's an aggressive educational program," Burris said. "We have the confidence that we can change the industry. We have a window of opportunity to change things and make a difference."

The master cattlemen's program is for any interested producer and each class will be limited to between 25 and 35 participants.

Anyone interested in participating can call their county Extension office, or for more information contact Sexten at (859) 278-0899.


Roy Burris, (270) 365-7541; Alison Sexten, (859) 278-0899