Friday, September 11, 2015

Heifer program on reclaimed strip mine proving to be a success in Central Appalachia

A project in Eastern Kentucky is using a reclaimed strip mine to raise cattle in an effort to spur economic development in a region hurt by the loss of coal jobs, Mallory Powell reports for University of Kentucky News. D & D Ranch, which consists of 1,000 acres, is the home of the East Kentucky Heifer Development Project, which helps local farmers improve their cattle herds. (UK photo)

Charles May, Perry County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources, said "many of the small farms in the area don't have the resources—in terms of land, time or expertise—to properly develop their herds, especially with consideration to genetics," Powell writes. "The project at D & D Ranch, however, can do it for them. Every October, around 300 heifers are brought to the farm from 80 to 100 individual producers. Each heifer is checked, wormed, vaccinated, artificially inseminated and receives expert and dedicated care until it and its calf are sold or returned to their home farm the following September."

More than 6,100 heifers from more than 200 farms in 18 Kentucky counties and five neighboring states have participated in the program, "with an estimated return of more than $1 million in sales going back to the farmers," Powell writes.

The Eastern Kentucky Bred Heifer Sale in 2014 "had a sale average of $2,553, surpassing the previous year's sale average by more than $1,000 per head, and the top-selling heifer brought in $3,100," Powerll writes. "Surveys of farmers indicate that their weaning weights have increased by 150 pounds as a result of the program, and, according to May, local livestock auction facilities credit the project as a major contributor to the improved quality of cattle they sell."

"In addition to its unusual location, the project is also distinctive in its model and standards," Powell writes. "Individual beef producers consign their cattle to the ranch (but retain ownership) for the entire season, instead of keeping them on their own farms, as in most other heifer development projects. Ranch operators "personally take care of each animal from the time it enters the ranch until it leaves. Thanks to such expert and dedicated care, the project has the highest standards of any heifer development program in the state. All animals have to be farm-raised, for example, and the required pelvic measurement is 10 centimeters larger than industry standard in order to reduce calving problems." (Read more)

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