The Tennessee Department of Agriculture is reminding cattle farmers that in order to receive priority funding for new projects, applications for Cattle Improvement cost share assistance need to be turned in no later than Sept. 30.

“The Cattle Improvement Initiative has really taken off, and a lot of farmers have already applied for limited dollars to either purchase a new bull or invest in some new handling equipment, but there’s still time for others to apply,” said state Agriculture Commissioner Ken Givens.

After Sept. 30, applications will still be considered but on a first come, first serve basis regardless of whether it is a new or second time project.

“This is a great opportunity for farmers to get 35 percent up to $700 toward the purchase of a new bull and 35 percent up to $850 toward the purchase of a new headgate or chute for better cattle management. And, many farm suppliers are offering interest-free payment options, so now is the time to make that investment,” added Givens.

The Cattle Improvement Initiative is part of the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program, a comprehensive agricultural development initiative established by Governor Phil Bredesen and supported by the Tennessee General Assembly with a $6 million state appropriation. The TAEP seeks to improve cattle production, expand animal health services and to encourage farm diversification and innovation by providing cost share funds to farmers for investment in these areas.

In the first year of the program, approximately 1,400 cattle producers were approved for $1.8 million in cost share funds for purchasing better breeding stock and handling equipment. Since July 1, an additional 1,000 producers have been approved for $1.3 million in cost share funding.

“We’re making this investment because cattle and calves represent the largest generator of farm income in Tennessee. If we can help Tennessee cattle producers improve the quality of their herds a little bit, then it translates to big gains for a $500 million annual market,” said Givens.

“Health and proper management is just as important. If you can’t catch and hold your cattle, you can’t properly care for them. That’s why the handling equipment cost share funds are so important.”

To participate in cost share assistance, 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.

An application and more information about specific eligibility requirements can be found online at www.picktnproducts.org, or contact the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Cattle Improvement Initiative coordinator at (615) 837-5304, or via e-mail at Cattle.Improvement@state.tn.us.