The Tennessee Department of Agriculture is reminding farmers the deadline for applying for Cattle Improvement cost share funding through the Tennessee Agriculture Enhancement Program is Dec. 1.

“Although funding in some categories of the Ag Enhancement program is limited, farmers are encouraged to continue applying for cost share opportunities in all program areas,” said state Agriculture Commissioner Ken Givens. “With winter weather just around the corner, we encourage farmers to go ahead and make their purchases, file for reimbursement; and, any unused dollars will be redirected to farmers who may be on a waiting list.”

The Cattle Improvement Initiative provides cost share dollars for improvements made in cattle genetics, handling equipment and certain types of feeding equipment. Since Aug. 1, approximately 3,800 farmers have been approved for more than $9.8 million in cost share funding for cattle management projects.

Producers who have already been approved for this program must seek reimbursement for equipment purchases by Dec. 31. Approved producers are also encouraged to go ahead and order equipment now due to a supply backlog of some popular items.

”This has been a tough year for Tennessee producers, but with the programs offered under TAEP, we believe the investments made will pay huge dividends in the years ahead,” added Givens.

The cost share allowance for Tennessee cattle producers looking to purchase livestock handling equipment has been increased to $3,500 this year. Also new, 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.

Requirements for the Cattle Improvement Initiative are otherwise the same as 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 50 percent cost share 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, 50 percent for certified Master Beef Producers, up to the new maximum of $3,500 for the cost 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, with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. 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) 837-5189.

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 information about cost share opportunities through the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program, including a list of eligible cattle handling equipment, can be found online at www.picktnproducts.org. For more information about the Cattle Improvement Initiative, contact program coordinator Wendy Lofton at (615) 837-5309, or via e-mail at Cattle.Improvement@state.tn.us.