The University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment Co-operative Extension Service will run its McLean County Masters Graduation Program throughout the fall and winter.
“This is a whole new UK program that has never happened before,” said David Fourqurean, the county extension officer.
Fourqurean said the agency was able to hire nutritionist and beef specialist, Dr Katherine VanValin, who set up the program.
The program will focus on all aspects of feeding and finishing livestock, such as forages, nutrition, facilities, processor relations and marketing through in-person and Zoom webinars led by specialists.
“We’re still in the COVID business, so we do some things virtually,” Fourqurean said. “A lot of (the) presentations are PowerPoint, but at the end there is a question-and-answer session where you see the specialist and ask them questions directly. … You will have this interaction.
Two in-person nutrition meetings will be held on November 30 and December 13 at the Myer Creek Park Extension facility, with a time to be announced shortly.
Fourqurean said it was intentional to offer this program to county residents to both help their businesses and provide them with more knowledge.
“We have a bunch of people and… with all of the different supply chain issues that we’ve had in the past over the past year or so, a lot of people are now finishing the cattle on their home farms,” said Fourqurean. “They sell them to people in the community. This is something that we haven’t done a lot in the past. We need information on… (how) to finish (the livestock), what kinds of feed and what kind of facilities we might need. (This program) is something that we think is very necessary.
Fourqurean said the program has not seen great public demand, but changes in the current economic environment have made this type of program a necessity.
The program had its first virtual zone meeting on October 19 – which included people from Daviess, Hopkins and Ohio counties, with around 36 people in attendance.
“When you talk about finishing beef cattle, that’s a lot of people in a small area,” Fourqurean said.
One of the challenges that Fourqurean said many farmers might face is the marketing aspect.
“From an economic standpoint, our people don’t really know or understand how to market their cattle and market that beef through a finished product. It’s not something we normally do, ”Fourqurean said. “To be able to help them understand everything that is going to happen and all the different things that they need to do in order to be able to market their product… and hopefully be able to increase their bottom line and make a profit by doing so. “
Fourqurean adds that marketing can be a barrier for farmers due to the lack of knowledge on how to do it effectively and efficiently.
“Word of mouth is awesome,” said Fourqurean. “But if you are trying to do it on a larger scale, you may need to advertise in different publications…”
One of the other goals of the program is to teach people about safety and due diligence.
“We obviously want to provide the consumer with a product that is manufactured in a safe manner,” said Fourqurean. “At the end of the day, the consumer is the one who will kind of tell you whether you are doing a good job or not.
“(We want to) make sure the farmers are doing what they need to do and doing it the right way.”
Fourqurean hopes the program will be effective and educational through the hybrid structure, despite the fact that the cattle trade is physically convenient.
“It has been difficult for agricultural officers across the state,” Fourqurean said. “It was difficult to organize virtual meetings that… farmers are not used to doing (these) types of things. … We, as an association of (agricultural) agents, we want to come back to more (practice), and we are trying to do so. We are doing our best at the moment. “
The program is also accessible to anyone interested in learning more about the process, regardless of their age.
“A lot of the time, cattle ranching… can include the whole family,” Fourqurean said. “There is nothing wrong with a young person wanting to know more and helping their parents. “
For more information on the program and to register and access Zoom webinars, contact the McLean County Extension Office at 270-273-3690.
Freddie Bourne, firstname.lastname@example.org