The Kentucky Master Stocker Program
The upper Mid-South is home to a large number of farms that utilize available forage and feed resources to add weight to lightweight feeder calves. With the change in the market conditions, it was evident that an outreach program was needed to provide this segment of the industry information related to management of feeder calves. An interdisciplinary team was assembled to develop curriculum related to all aspects of the feeder cattle industry. A total of eight sessions comprised the curriculum including: enterprise budgeting, economic risk management, health, nutrition, handling and welfare, forages, marketing and environmental management. The program was offered twice during 2011 and 2012. Approximately 380 participants from 30 of the 120 counties attended. A random sub-sample of 150 were mailed a 50 question survey in 2013 to assess post-program impact. A total of 47 questionnaires were returned (31% return rate). The majority (93%) of respondents indicated the program Exceeded or Far Exceeded expectations. Awareness was increased (95%) related to management and marketing and 66% of respondents indicated they implemented changes. The majority (62%) Agreed or Strongly Agreed that their perception of the impact livestock have on water quality and the environment changed with an outcome of agriculture water quality management plans being completed by 79% and 61% indicating they developed streamside buffers or alternative watering sources for cattle. Increases in knowledge for livestock health were noted where 89% Agreed or Strongly Agreed they had a better understanding of how to use various antibiotic products available, 87% had a better understanding of selecting vaccines, 83% an improved understanding of health risk classification and 71% indicated they were better able to diagnose and properly treat feeder calves. Of those surveyed, 53% made changes to their health protocols and 60% indicated they have seen improvements in the health or response from administered products after having attended the session. Cattle handling was altered with only 19% indicating their handling techniques were unchanged and 57% indicated the use of an electric prod was Slightly or Much Lower. The majority (58%) Agreed or Strongly Agreed to have made changes to their feeding program. Economic risk management tools were utilized by 40% of respondents with 88% indicating the strategy limited their risk. The delivery of an educational program for the stocker and backgrounding industry in Kentucky was well received and increased producers’ awareness and adoption of management changes.
Keywords: education, feeder cattle, stocker