June 18, 2003 | By: Laura Skillman

 As Sara Jane Rankin looks over the cattle grazing on her hillside farm in Shelby County, she talks about her plans for the farm she and her two siblings own.

Since retiring as a middle school teacher, the farm and especially the cattle have become her passion.

Over the years, Rankin had been involved in cattle, helping her former husband with their herd, but has never been the decision-maker. To get a better base of knowledge she decided to attend the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture’s Master Cattlemen program. After completing the multi-session program, she said she feels more competent in her role and has high praises for the experience.

“The cattlemen’s class showed me that a lot of things my ex-husband and I had done – that I really didn’t realize – were the right thing,” she said. “The cattlemen’s class then took me to a higher level. It gave me more information and details. I want to take what we had done all those years and what I’ve learned in master cattlemen and put myself on a five-year or 10-year plan for the farm.”

A new bull arrived at the farm in the past few weeks to improve the genetics on the farm, she said. A new corral, watering system and cattle chute have been added to the farm using cost-share money from tobacco settlement money. Other changes she hopes to make are in hay storage, a set breeding season and rotational grazing.

Rankin said some of the things she heard in class were common sense things, but now she has the printed binder and the UK research to back her up.

“I learned something every session that added to the little bit that I knew,” she said. “I can’t imagine anybody not benefiting from taking it.”

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 from 10 educational sessions and introduces them to several different record keeping programs.

A multidisciplinary team of University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service specialists, county agents and associates put the program together and began conducting the program in 2002. It is based to a large degree on pilot programs conducted in previous years.

The program is funded through a grant from the Kentucky Beef Network from tobacco settlement dollars, which have been used to fund diverse agricultural projects.

This year the program is being conducted for 15 groups consisting of at least two counties. Each group contains a maximum of 35 participants.

Each school/program consists of 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.

"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. What we are trying to do, especially with those who have lost revenue from tobacco, is to help them transform their cattle operations into a profitable business.”



Roy Burris, 270-365-7541 ext. 208