September 5, 2004 | By: Laura Skillman
LOUISVILLE , Ky.

While offering samples of their products to visitors at the Kentucky State Fair recently, members of the Green River Cattle Company discussed how they have moved from simply producing cattle into the value-added part of the beef industry.

“We are a farmer-owned stock corporation formed four years ago by a group of central Kentucky beef producers basically to try to capture some of the added value that we saw in quality, high end beef,” said David P. Givens, cattle producer and corporate secretary.

“We are now buying cattle from Kentucky producers and feeding them out on small Kentucky farms, then having them processed in Liberty.”

The beef is then sold to groceries and restaurants such as Doll’s Market in Louisville and Houchens stores in Glasgow , Hodgenville and Bowling Green. The company works with A. Thomas Food Services in Louisville to place their product into restaurants and institutions.

Over the past four years, they have purchased cattle from 22 different farm families and have fed those cattle on five farms in central Kentucky. The company does not require specific breeds but is quality-specific wanting only cattle that are going to grade choice and that are going to yield grades one and two.

“We are affecting a lot of farm families, not only through buying cattle and feeding cattle but also through buying local grain and using a local processor,” Givens said. “Right now we are purchasing 30 animals a month and have been doing that for about eight months now - as you buy 30, in seven to eight months you have 30 to harvest, it is a continuing cycle. We are hoping to go to 40 animals very soon. The demand is there to go to 40 but we’ve tried to make sure that all the pieces are there at the same time. You can’t let the marketing get ahead of production.”

In addition to its farmer-owners, the company has four part-time employees – marketing director, office manager, production coordinator and meat specialist and hopes to move them to full-time as they increase production.

Beef cattle was a natural place for farmers in Green County to look to add to their farm income to help fill the gap left by lost tobacco quota, said Brian Newman, the Green County agricultural and natural resources agent with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. Green County was the sixth most agriculturally dependent county on tobacco in Kentucky and with quota cuts of 54 percent, farmers in the area were suffering, he said. Beef cattle production was the county’s second most important enterprise.

“What’s so neat about this project is that it started out in our county but it has become regional,” Newman said. “They are buying cattle from six different counties. It’s really reciprocal and is putting money in farmers’ pockets.”

Green River Cattle Co. was one of several groups highlighted at the state fair by the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy and the agricultural development board. The company has been funded twice by the board from tobacco settlement money. The first funds were used for market research.

The second round of funding will move the project into the intermediate stage of growing and purchasing cattle and putting the infrastructure in place to support that system, Givens said. To date, the company has received a little more than $130,000.

Givens also said that the Extension service has been tremendously helpful in getting the company where they are today. Newman said he sees this role as a liaison between the cattle group and the university as well as an advisor and facilitator for the group.

“Brian (Newman) has been extremely helpful,” he said. “We have leaned heavily on Extension specialists Lee Meyer, Kenny Burdine, Benjy Mikel, Lee Maynard and others. All of them have been a tremendous resource for us when we need help and they continue to be. We count a lot on them and thank them quite often.

“Their access to resources and the knowledge base they have and being able to bring it down to the application level has been critical to making this thing work,” he said. “They have been particularly helpful in helping us avoid mistakes.”

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Contact: 

Writer: Laura Skillman 270-365-7541 ext. 278
Sources: David P. Givens, 270-932-9677; Brian Newman, 270-932-5311