October 11, 2000 | By: Laura Skillman

A two-state effort to enhance the beef/forage potential of small and mid-sized farms has received a $750,000 Initiatives for Future Agriculture and Food Systems grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The project is coordinated through the Beef Integrated Resource Management (IRM) teams in Kentucky and Tennessee, said University of Kentucky Extension beef specialist Roy Burris, a project director. The grant is split with $535,000 for Kentucky and $215,000 for Tennessee.

The goal is to increase the income and profitability of beef operations in Kentucky and Tennessee by using an intense educational program which will cause more producers to adopt proven money-making practices, he said.

Kentucky and Tennessee have the abundant forage base and beef cattle industry necessary to expand. But producers have been slow to adopt new technologies and sound business practices.

Yet farmers in both states, who are seeing their income from tobacco decline, are looking for ways to increase their income in order to insure survivability of their farms. If the beef and forage potentials of these states could be attained while maintaining sound environmental practices, small to mid-sized farmers can improve the viability of their operations, Burris said.

The three-year program will use the Kentucky and Tennessee IRM teams comprehensive educational program to take the latest technology and information to producers, showing them how to apply it, assisting them in measuring their performance and developing beef industry leadership in their local area.

Local leadership teams will be trained in counties to plan the delivery of educational programs. These teams will identify the most limiting factors of profitability and efficiency in their county and make a commitment to work on these areas.

Kentucky and Tennessee have more than 2 million beef cattle and the economic impact of this project could be tremendous, Burris said.

Today, less than 75 percent of the beef cows in the two states which are exposed to breeding, wean a calf. Increasing that to 85 percent alone would increase profitability by $90 million in the two states.

If farmers also increased weaning weights by 50 pounds per calf, did proper weaning, vaccination, and marketing of feeder calves, increased productivity and utilization of forage; and used pregnancy checking and culled open cows, the income potential would soar.

Assuming an adoption rate of just 25 percent of these practices, revenue to producers in the two states would increase by nearly $97 million annually, Burris said.

Through this project producers can develop customized management calenders; attend Cow College where they learn management techniques; study forage utilization practices at grazing schools; learn how to use artificial insemination techniques and interpret breeding values; attend income enhancement/leadership development study tours; be introduced to and assisted with comprehensive farm record analyses; see examples of successful practices on IRM demonstration farms; and participate in value-added calf sales.

The program will be conducted by 13 Extension personnel from the University of Kentucky and 7 from the University of Tennessee who have expertise in beef cattle, nutrition, genetics, reproduction, forage and economics.


Roy Burris, (270) 365-7541