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Second Round for Cattle Improvement Initiative Begins July 1

Wednesday, June 14, 2006 | 07:00pm

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Cattle farmers can apply for the second year of Cattle Improvement cost share dollars beginning July 1 announced state Agriculture Commissioner Ken Givens. The Cattle Improvement Initiative is aimed at increasing farm income in Tennessee by providing cost share funds to farmers for the improvement of beef and dairy cattle genetics and livestock handling facilities.

“The interest in the Cattle Improvement Initiative has been overwhelming. Demand has exceeded the availability of dollars so we’re pleased that Governor Bredesen and the General Assembly have approved an increase in funding for the program,” said Givens. “In the first year, we approved over 1,400 projects totaling $1.8 million and have actually delivered on more than $1 million so far to help farmers improve their cattle operations.

“Ultimately, this program is designed to help farmers take full advantage of better prices at the market and to improve their bottom line through better genetics and better management.”

In May, the Tennessee General Assembly approved Governor Phil Bredesen’s proposal for a $1 million increase in funding for the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program. The TAEP is a comprehensive initiative to improve cattle production, expand animal health services and encourage farm diversification and innovation. State lawmakers also approved an additional $2 million for a total of $6 million in TAEP funding for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Requirements for the Cattle Improvement Initiative are the same as last year with a few modifications according to program coordinator Charles Hord. “First, we’ve expanded the approved equipment handling list to include palpation cages and semen tanks. Secondly, we’re requiring that bulls purchased or leased be within the top 50th percentile instead of the 60th percentile of EPD requirements.

“With these changes, we feel that we can better meet the equipment needs of producers and bump up the genetic quality of cattle in Tennessee,” said Hord.

As with last year’s program, Tennessee beef and dairy farmers can apply for reimbursement of 35 percent, up to $700, for the cost of a bull purchase or lease, or for artificial insemination to improve cattle genetics. The department will also reimburse producers up to an additional $175 for the cost of a herd evaluation by an approved evaluator.

Applications must be approved before qualifying purchases and lease agreements will be accepted.

“Because we had so many requests in the first year, we’re giving priority for funding to those applications filed prior to April 1, 2006 and placed on hold. We expect to be able to fund these and new applications that will be accepted after July 1,” added Hord.

Cattle farmers can also apply for reimbursement of 35 percent, up to $850, of the costs of cattle handling facilities such as headgates, holding chutes and other approved equipment used for managing cattle.

In order to be eligible for cost-share funds under both the Cattle Genetic Improvement Program and the Cattle Handling Facilities Program, producers must register their livestock farm, or premises, for the National Animal Identification System. Farmers can register their livestock premises at Farm Service Agency, UT Extension, Farm Bureau or Tennessee Farmers Co-op locations. Premises registration forms and instructions are also available from TDA online at www.tennessee.gov/agriculture/tpis or by calling (615) 837-5120.

Producers must also be certified under the Beef Quality Assurance Program, a two-hour educational course on cattle management and care sponsored by the Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association. Certification is $10 for members and $20 for non-members. More information on BQA classes is available by contacting TCA at (615) 896-2333 or info@tncattle.org, or by visiting their Web site at www.tncattle.org.

In order to qualify for reimbursement under the Cattle Genetic Improvement Program, producers must also:

· Maintain ownership of purchased bulls for a minimum of two successive breeding seasons, or lease bulls for a minimum of 60 days;

· Only lease or purchase bulls that pass a Breeding Soundness Evaluation performed by a licensed veterinarian;

· Identify leased or purchased bulls with an electronic tag registered with TDA;

· Lease or purchase beef bulls that are in the 50th percentile of their breed in at least two Expected Progeny Difference (EPD) traits for birth weight, weaning weight, yearling weight or milk. EPD is the standard used to determine an animal’s expected genetic potential;

· Lease or purchase dairy bulls that are in the 80th percentile for Lifetime Net Merit, or meet criteria based on type and production indexes;

· Be certified through an accredited program if performing artificial insemination, or utilize technicians affiliated with an approved artificial breeding company or a veterinarian offering artificial insemination services.

Other equipment purchases eligible for reimbursement under the Cattle Handling Facilities Program include headgates, squeeze and holding chutes, curved or offset working chutes, loading chutes, crowding tubs and gates, weaning or holding pens, single animal scales, hoof trimming tables, headlock stanchions and catch lanes.

Applications and additional details about program requirements can be found online at www.picktnproducts.org or by calling Hord at the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, P.O. Box 40627, Nashville, TN 37204, (615) 837-5304, or via e-mail at Cattle.Improvement@state.tn.us.

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