The cost share allowance for Tennessee cattle producers looking to purchase livestock handling equipment has been increased to $3,500 announced state Agriculture Commissioner Ken Givens.

Aug. 1 marks the first day the state’s cattle producers may apply for cost share funds in this fiscal year. This is the third year cost share dollars have been offered to Tennessee’s farmers through the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program (TAEP).

“This is a great program that just got better,” said Givens. “The fact that Governor Bredesen’s budget passed with a $21 million increase in funding for TAEP shows that the Tennessee General Assembly recognizes the investments we’re making in Tennessee farms are paying off.”

Also new to the program this year, cattle farmers who are Master Beef Producer certified can qualify for 50 percent cost share reimbursement for both handling equipment purchases and genetic improvements. The Master Beef Producer certification program is a 12-week course offered by the University of Tennessee Extension that focuses on cow/calf production and issues facing the beef industry.

“Considering the drastic blow to Tennessee’s hay crop this year, we have added hay cone feeders, as well as creep or self feeders to the list of eligible equipment to help our farmers stretch out their hay supplies,” said Givens.

“Some of these investments take a little while to see the results, but others have an immediate impact. Investments in equipment like creep feeders, new panels and a good head gate pay off right away because they make your facilities safer for you and your cattle, and you suddenly benefit from a better health program and a higher quality herd.

“The whole point is to help producers take full advantage of the marketplace and improve their bottom lines through better genetics and better management.”

Requirements for the Cattle Improvement Initiative are otherwise the same as those required for the last fiscal year. Tennessee beef and dairy farmers can apply for reimbursement of 35 percent, up to $850, for the cost of a bull purchase or lease, or for artificial insemination to improve cattle genetics. Certified Master Beef Producers can receive up to $1,000 maximum cost share for genetics. The department will also reimburse producers up to an additional $175 for the cost of a herd evaluation by an approved evaluator.

Applications must be approved before qualifying purchases and lease agreements will be accepted.

Cattle farmers can also apply for a 35 percent reimbursement up to the new maximum of $3,500 for the costs of such cattle handling facilities as headgates, holding chutes and other approved equipment used for managing cattle.

Dairy producers have the opportunity to receive cost share on items such as vacuum pumps, commercial hot water heaters, and headlock stanchions.

In order to be eligible for cost share funds under the Cattle Improvement Initiative, 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.

For more information on local Master Beef Producer Programs, contact a county UT Extension agent.

Applications and additional details about program requirements and eligible equipment can be found online at www.picktnproducts.org or by contacting cattle improvement program coordinator Wendy Lofton at the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, P.O. Box 40627, Nashville, TN 37204, (615) 837-5309, or via e-mail at Cattle.Improvement@state.tn.us.