September 26, 2001 | By: Laura Skillman

Tommy P'Pool began selling feeder cattle through the Certified Preconditioned for Health (CPH) program when it was first introduced in the state more than 20 years ago.

"I thought it would make a difference with the feed lots," he said.

Kentucky's calves did not have a good reputation with buyers because many were weaned and immediately sold, not allowing them time to become adjusted to feed and water. Many also were not immunized. That caused sickness and death.

"I think it has improved the reputation of Kentucky cattle," he said.

P'Pool said over the years cattlemen selling through the CPH sales have gotten premium prices for their stock. But, he said they probably should get more.

The Trigg County farmer said some farmers say it costs too much to wean the calves and feed and vaccinate them. But, based on his own records, he said they gain weight allowing him to sell a heavier calf, so the feed cost is not a factor.

The program simply ensures that farmers are doing everything they should be doing, if they are serious about the cattle business, he said.

"The program in my mind is wonderful," he said. "It's what we should be doing to give Kentucky cattle a good name."

University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service along with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and the Kentucky Cattlemen's Association operate the program.

Roy Burris, UK Extension beef specialist, said some 20 years ago the program may have been ahead of its time and didn't have great support from buyers. Only one location, Hopkinsville, stayed with sales over the years, he said. But in the past few years, the program has gained in popularity with sale sites around the state. The beef quality assurance program that was developed about a decade ago has aided in that because it gave farmers more awareness in the quality of their cattle.

"The cattle sold in these sales have been tracked for more than 20 years, so we have a pretty good idea on how they perform as far as health goes," Burris said. "We've been able to trace any problems back to the origins.

"What we are trying to do as a state, is first of all, improve Kentucky feeder calves and secondly, to bring their price to more closely reflect what they are worth," he said.

Every year prices from these sales are compared to regular sales in the same market area, and generally are higher.

The calves average about $40 a head above other sales when all costs are included, he said.

There are certain requirements farmers must meet in order to sell calves through these CPH-45 sales. Those include the calves have to have been weaned 45 days to allow them to get used to feed and over the stress of weaning and immunizations. The calves must also be capable of drinking from a water trough.

They are required to be immunized for diseases, dehorned and castrated. Males must be guaranteed castrated and heifers as not being pregnant. The shots are to be given in accordance with beef quality assurance guidelines and are listed on the certification papers that cattlemen must fill out.

Certificates have to be filled out to participate in the sales. Those are available at the county Extension agent's office and they are sent special blue tags to be placed in the calves' ears to identify them as CPH-45 calves.

The certificate must be signed by the farmer and county agent. Then the calves are graded by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture by grade and breed. The idea is to end up with large lots of uniform calves.

"CPH-45 is the best way for all producers in Kentucky to get the marketing advantage usually only realized by producers large enough to put together ‘load' lots of like cattle," said Tim Dietrich, Beef Cattle Marketing Specialist Kentucky Department of Agriculture.

"The data retrieved from past sales as to the health of the cattle confirms this program is second to none and the feedlots are very pleased with their performance upon arrival," he said.

Burris said 10,000 feeder calves will be sold through the program this year but they need to do much more. For every 20,000 calves sold this way, it could do probably bring producers an additional $1 million, he said.

"The way I look at it is that if a person is really interested, which you have to be nowadays to make a living farming, you'll do well with the specialty wants of the feeder calf sales," said Charles Dailey of Paris.

Three years ago, Dailey was searching for ways to improve his beef cattle herd, both for personal pride and financial gain and opted to sale through the Central Kentucky Feeders sale. He sees following the required guidelines of the pre-conditioned sales has results that far outweigh the extra efforts.

John Wyatt is convinced the beef cattle industry will make you a success if you are always searching for betterment. The Bourbon County cattleman said by using the Central Kentucky Feeder sales and the CPH-45 program, he felt he had been rewarded for his extra efforts of vaccinating and weaning his feeder calves for the first time.

According to Wyatt, he definitely sees the advantage of marketing feeder calves in large groups because the order buyers are willing to pay a bit more just to save the hassle of coordinating similar calves on their own. They will pay for convenience and health assurance to the producer's advantage.

"CPH-45 was designed to ensure health and build confidence in Kentucky cattle among buyers and I believe we will continue to see increased demand for cattle that have been through the program," Dietrich said.


Roy Burris, (270) 365-7541; Tim Dietrich, (502) 564-5665