Improving Beef-Forage Systems
Many of the ideas for efficient beef-forage systems promoted by
Extension over the years are now coming to fruition, for two reasons:
- With its large number of beef cattle and a forage base of
6 to 7 million acres, Kentucky clearly is a major beef-producing
state. The latest agricultural statistics show that Kentucky
has more beef cattle than any state east of the Mississippi.
- An influx of tobacco settlement money is funding new options
for farmers for whom expanded beef production makes sense. Many
farmers have raised beef along with tobacco in the past, so
both the knowledge base and infrastructure for marketing and
selling it are already in place.
"It's where we can make the biggest long-range sustainable
impact. We've got a huge opportunity to position ourselves as
the best in the country," said Roy Burris, Extension beef
"You go with your strength. We've got a lot of land that
can't be used for other purposes," said Jimmy Henning, Extension
Curtis Absher, former assistant director of CES for ag and natural
resources, said that when national speakers talk about what's
needed in beef production "it's a checklist of what's happening
Why? Lee Meyer, ag economics Extension professor, said "we're
making better use of our resourcesthe land, for example."
Meyer also thinks Kentucky is improving the nutritional forage
and reproductive efficiency of its cattle herds, resulting in
Meyer said most importantly, "we've got a more professional
beef cattle enterprise manager."
Many of these "more professional" beef producers are
taking advantage of the research-based advice Cooperative Extension
- Best management practices for improving forage, bull genetics,
and cattle handling, so every producer doesn't have to reinvent
- The certified preconditioned health programs for feeder calves.
The calves certified through the program bring, on average,
$40 more per head than calves in other sales.
- Integrated resource management, so producers can mesh their
beef and forage systems for maximum productivity.
- The Five-State Beef Initiative (Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois,
and Michigan), which tracks calves electronically through production,
providing feedback that helps producers make profitable improvements
to their beef management practices.
- Education including grazing workshops, demonstrations, videos,
pocket-sized publications to take to pasture, even a kind of
high school (Master Cattleman Program) and graduate school (Cow
College) for beef producers.
Improving beef production in Kentucky is not a solo act for Extension.
Also involved are the College's research faculty, the Kentucky
Cattlemen's Association, the Agricultural Development Board managed
by the Governor's Office for Agricultural Policy, the Kentucky
Department of Agriculture, the Kentucky Farm Bureau, local veterinarians,
and cattle producer associations. But Extension, with its hands-on
approach and widespread agent base, is uniquely suited to helping
beef producers learn new tricks.
In Bourbon County, more than 130 beef producers have begun to
sell their cattle through a multi-county association, a trend
being played out across the state. "When you join forces
and get volume, you can market in a much larger fashion and see
some premiums," said Glenn Mackie, Bourbons ag and
natural resources agent.
A similar alliance of beef producers in southern Kentucky, the
Wilderness Trail Area Beef Marketing Alliance, has added $45 per
head to the price beef can bring, said Glen Williams, Laurel County's
ag and natural resources agent.
"We've been able to rejuvenate forages and have better quality
facilities," Williams said.
In Madison County, tobacco settlement money has provided funding
"to help do some of the things we knew 15 years ago would
help," said John Wilson, the countys ag and natural
resources agent. Replacement heifer sales are improving the female
side of the herd. The genetics of Madison County bulls are improving
too. "We put out about 99 quality bulls in 2001, 65 this
year, and expect to put out 150 more in the next five years,"
Helping Communities Thrive
A groundswell of change is afoot as Kentuckians use creativity,
positive thinking, and plain hard work to help their communities
grow while they sustain the local way of life. Extension is in
the middle of all this effort and is:
- Connecting people to people, people to agencies, and agencies
to other agencies so that ideas can become reality.
- Providing information communities can use, such as economic
data and expertise in business development.
- Offering written and visual materials and training so local
citizens can take advantage of proven methods to gain participation,
set and accomplish goals, and assess the results.
Campbellsville, in Taylor County, made headlines about five years
ago when Fruit of the Loom closed its plant there, taking thousands
of local jobs to Honduras.
development was identified by the Extension Council as Extension's
top priority, said Becky Nash, the countys family and consumer
Keeping the local workforce in Taylor County while hunting new
industry was important. Extension helped a local crisis relief
center consolidate services of several groups in one place.
Another Extension effort has been The Homeplace on Green River
Inc., a 230-acre agricultural treasure trove near Green River
Lake in the area of Taylor, Green and Adair counties. The property,
Nash said, has possibilities for agritourism, education, and conservation.
It could also demonstrate practices for sustainable farming and
Making The Homeplace a reality involved several agencies, three
counties, a tourism development association, and the Nature Conservancy.
Extension was able to help pull people together, point leaders
in the right direction to obtain funding, and help set up the
organizational structure. A coalition of leaders and agencies
has worked to find ways to put the local economy back on its feet.
Most notably, it has brought in the Internet retailer Amazon.com,
which has created new local jobs with a distribution center housed
in Fruit of the Loom's former space. Taylor County's unemployment
rate is now at about 7 percent, Nash saidcompared to 28
percent about five years ago.
In Elliott County, there were few jobs, and geography made it
easier to get out than come in, said Gwenda Adkins, the countys
family and consumer sciences agent. Extension and other groups
began to look at what the county had to offer instead of what
it lacked. They found that Elliott County had more riches than
might first be apparent.
"We had geologic formations, pristine streams, history,
folk artists, traditional crafters," Adkins said. As community
development efforts got under way, Extension offered guidance
and connected the local, state, and national resources necessary
for change to occur.
Now, Elliott County has a hotel, and storefronts and the courthouse
have been remodeled. And, the county has a handicapped-accessible
In Wolfe County, there's a new building downtown with a big blue
awning. It's an Extension education center, but family and consumer
sciences agent Kaye Holbrook thinks the building, used for all
kinds of meetings, is also a tangible sign that her community
is moving forward. "It has become a viable part of this community
because it's neutral ground," she said.
In Pike County, Tim Campbell is blazing a trail as one of the
first community development agents hired by Extension in Kentucky.
Campbell, who previously worked in community development in Wisconsin,
had praise for Pike County's leaders. "It's a real team attitude,"
This fall, he'll work with those leaders to look at the county's
potential for business retention and expansion.
Equipping Kentuckians for Health
Some of the states health statistics are grim andif
you look at the people behind the numbersheart wrenching.
- From 1994 to 2000, the incidence of diagnosed diabetes in
Kentucky went up 50 percent.
- Incidence of lung cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer
is higher than the national average.
- Kentucky ranks near the top of the list nationally in incidence
of heart disease.
More and more, an important part of the mission of Family and
Consumer Sciences is to empower Kentuckians to take better care
of their physical, emotional, and financial health.
"We've got to find the key to make Kentucky well, vibrant,
and healthy," said Bonnie Tanner, assistant Extension director
for Family and Consumer Sciences.
That focus is making itself evident in the commonwealth through:
- Workshops at the county level, with how-to publications to
- The Health Education Extension Leadership (HEEL) initiative,
a groundbreaking approach that's combining resources across
- Resourceful Extension personnel who see the need firsthand
and find creative ways to help.
One notable program is Wildcat Way to Wellness, which began
several years ago as a snappy way to get across the message of
good health. Now, the program has rolled out a 4-H edition
the Clover Cat Way to Wellness for young Kentuckians.
Another popular topic has been how to have healthy indoor airimportant
in a state where, the number of children with asthma is rising,
as it is nationally. Unhealthy indoor air is part of the problem.
The award-winning Keys to Great Parenting program has distilled
research about good parenting into seven concepts supported by
easy-to-read materials, now available in English and Spanish.
Extension also makes sure county agents receive up-to-date information
about the Kentucky Children's Insurance Program (K-CHIP) so all
eligible children can be enrolled in it.
There's also programming on aging gracefully and estate planning.
Extension Assistant Director Tanner, talking about the HEEL partnership
of Cooperative Extension and the Kentucky School of Public Health,
says the joint initiative is "involvement, commitment"
because, in a move uncommon in university circles, Extension and
the Kentucky School of Public Health have both put up money for
faculty to run the program.
If you're prone to forget that this programming is about lives,
all you have to do is hear some of the local stories about Family
and Consumer Sciences' health programs.
At least once a month, Alice Ann Bradley, Letcher County's family
and consumer sciences agent, loads an Extension van with women
who now have an annual appointment on their calendars: a screening
at UK's Markey Cancer Center for ovarian cancer, potentially fatal
and often without symptoms until its later stages.
In Jackson County, Cathy Howell, program assistant with the Extended
Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), is a true believer
in what her program does. She puts her zeal and her cooking skills
together to motivate her clients to eat healthy foods.
Howell also takes UK medical residents who are rotating through
a local pediatric practice along with her on home visits, if the
clients say okay. Having doctors-in-training see the home setting
was the pediatrician's idea, and Howell thinks it's a good one.
"They become aware of who it is they are working with,"
In Taylor County, a woman with diabetes has been coming faithfully
to a Wildcat Way to Wellness exercise class. She no longer needs
to take insulin, and her doctor says that if she keeps it up,
she may be able to stop taking her oral medications as well.
"I like making this kind of difference!" said Becky
Nash, Taylor County family and consumer sciences agent.
Teaching Kids about Money
is helping Kentucky's youth grow smarter about money, careers,
and making life decisions. It uses three programs - Reality Store,
Mini-Society, and Dollars and Senseto help kids acquire
a skill that some of us never learn: how to stretch dollars so
you can thrive financially.
These programs, requested by school systems and supported by
classroom teachers, chambers of commerce, and parents, have been
Martha Welch, the 4-H Extension associate who has been a leader
in Extension's effort to prepare youth for the workforce, estimates
that last year 40,000 Kentucky kids took part in a Reality Store.
"A lot of youth realize for the first time that there is
a connection between the career they choose, the educational requirements
for that career, and the potential lifestyle that career might
produce," she said.
In Metcalfe County, eighth graders show up for their Reality
Store at the Extension office on a day in late January or February.
They all have pre-assigned careers. Those careers determines everything
Atkins, Metcalfe 4-H agent, said "reality hits when they
walk in and are told they have an after-tax salary of $1,000 to
Every student gets a ledger sheet and walks from booth to booth,
"buying" the necessities of life: housing, transportation,
groceries, taxes, utilities, garbage pickup. And the students
make choices among low, average, and high cost items. Every time
they pay a bill or make a purchase, money is deducted from their
As part of the dose of reality, every student has to support
a child on whatever salary he or she makes.
For those who find themselves in financial trouble, there's an
S.O.S. booth. They might hear, "You're running out of money?
Give up that cell phone."
Atkins said the students are amazed at how much it costs to raise
a family. The ultimate goal, she said, "is that they think
about education and career and also realize that budgeting is
part of life and that wants and needs are different."
In Warren County and some other counties, a sixth-grade version
of Reality Store is used. It's called Dollars and Sense.
Instead of a salary, kids get an allowance. Instead of a child,
they get a pet. "It's the same shock factor," said Janet
Turley, Warren's 4-H agent.
Turley says the students who go through the program learn "that
money does have to be stretched."
In about 40 counties across Kentucky, Mini-Society comes to life
for fourth and fifth graders as a way to teach business concepts:
how money works, how businesses develop, how to solve problems
related to competition. The program is funded by the Kaufmann
Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at the Ewing Marion Kaufmann
One year in Green County, Tyrone Gentry, Green Countys
4-H agent, said the kids dreamed up ways to make money, both services
"There was a pencil-sharpening experta fine tip for
a price," Gentry said. "A newspaper developed. Other
businesses could buy ads in it. One kid brought in a karaoke machine;
you could dedicate songs to folks or pay for announcements."
Gentry is enthusiastic about Mini-Society. "The things the
kids come up with, the creativity with services, productsit
never ceases to amaze you," he said. One Mini-Society "graduate,"
now in high school, makes $8,000 to $10,000 a year selling lawn
furniture. Gentry says the young man learned some of his business
skills in Mini-Society.
He sees long-term value in what Mini-Society teaches, not only
for individuals, but for his community as a whole. It offers kids
a chance to learn how to create a business or service that can
provide them a living in their hometowns. They won't necessarily
be forced to move or commute long distances to find work.
"It's really workforce development," Gentry said.
Marketing Our Garden
Much of Kentucky's agricultural landscape used to be painted in
the rich browns of tobacco, but as the market for that product
shifts, farmers are beginning to grow a broader palette: blackberries,
blueberries, tomatoes, green peppers, corn, and so much more.
Producers are finding that the marketing of fruits, vegetables,
and nursery products is a crucial and complex part of the job.
Extension specialists and agents are helping producers move into
this brave new world, where you have to think more like Madison
Avenue and less like Mayberry. Growers are joining up with other
growers, and farmers are traveling outside the state to ferret
out market possibilities. Producers may have tomatoes in the back
of the pickup truck, but they have spreadsheets in their hands.
Through demonstrations, workshops, publications, and conferences,
Extension has worked to make sure horticultural producers have:
- Know-how to package and promote their products.
- Market research data on what buyers want.
- Backup for local and regional marketing efforts.
Extension, working with agencies including the Kentucky Department
of Agriculture and the Kentucky Farm Bureau, is helping farmers
successfully market their horticultural products through farmers
markets and roadside markets, on-farm sales, and cooperatives
(three out of the four horticultural cooperatives in the state
have sprung up in the past five years).
Success stories abound. In Daviess County, Annette Meyer Heisdorffer,
Extension horticultural agent, helped Western Kentucky farmers
find a market for their sweet corn. It seems that a growers cooperative
in Florida needed a supplier of corn in July and August (when
it's too hot in Florida to grow it) so it could offer its customers
corn year-round. It just so happens that July and August is when
Kentucky's corn is at its best. It was a match made in heavenor
at least by the West Kentucky Growers Cooperative, which grew
out of the venture. The cooperative is now 65 members strong,
and sales top $3 million.
On a smaller scale, Meade County now has a farmers market that's
Extension staff, working with local producers, found out that
customers wanted to buy produce in the afternoons, on the way
home from work. In the past, farmers had unsuccessfully tried
to market their wares in the mornings.
So, the market was set up from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays
in the Extension parking lot, which faces the bypass. It has been
In the Lincoln Trail and Mammoth Cave areas, consumers and farmers
have begun to connect through the Farm to Table programs. They're
learning marketing techniques they can use for direct selling.
"We're honing in on what's easy: milk crates, folding tables,
bales of straw," said Janet Johnson, Allen County Extension
agent for family and consumer sciences.
Farm to Table has also given growers in the Lincoln Trail and
Mammoth Cave areas a chance to network. Meeting other growers
and consumers at two annual conferences and other events has sparked
ideas for new products and forged business relationships.
Tim Woods works with the College's New Crops Opportunities Center
to gather the hard data on packaging, size, and taste that growers
need to tweak their products. Sometimes that's as simple as handing
a shopper a spoonful of blackberries to sample. "The market
research helps them get the most out of the opportunity,"
The kind of systematic and comprehensive gathering of market
information Extension is able to providewith the help of
research colleaguesgives Kentucky's horticultural producers
that much more of a competitive edge.
The background photos in this annual report are of the
sand mural that hangs in the upper lobby of the Agricultural Science
Center. Records show that the mural was completed in the early
1960s by Mr. and Mrs. Louis Frederick, Louisville artists.