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Tools in place

Co-op ready to help producers secure TAEP-approved purchases
Story by Glen Liford, photos by Sarah Geyer, Glen Liford, and Chris Villines 1/26/2017


Washington Farmers Cooperative director Lawton Saylor, left, applied his most recent TAEP cost-share dollars to the purchase of a Polytin Calf Catcher from the Co-op. Here, he discusses the device with Tennessee Farmers Cooperative hardware specialist Gary Satterfield, center, and Washington Farmers Cooperative sales manager Daniel Menge. This was the first year that the innovative unit was on the TAEP list of approved items.
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The Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) says that since its inception in 2005, the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program (TAEP) has helped fund more than 46,500 on-the-farm projects in the areas of livestock genetics and equipment, hay storage, and feed and grain storage, as well as a wide range of producer diversification opportunities.

The standard cost-share reimbursement rate of the program is 35 percent, with matching funds of up to 50 percent available to producers who complete additional educational classes. The initiative helps put the tools in place to allow producers to do a better job and improve the efficiency of their operations and the quality of their products, say TDA officials. They add that the TAEP cost-share program allows producers to maximize farm profits, adapt to changing market situations, improve operation safety, increase farm efficiency and make a positive economic impact in their communities.

And, says Gary Satterfield, Tennessee Farmers Cooperative hardware specialist, the stimulus of the TAEP to the state’s farmers is undeniable, “We continue to hear positive comments from our contacts in the Midwest feed yards about how Tennessee cattle are improving. I think that’s directly related to the TAEP program. Producers are more likely to band and vaccinate their cattle when they have the proper facilities. And many have enhanced their herd genetics, too.”

Other types of producers are seeing upgraded results, too, he adds.

With 2016 TAEP approvals already distributed, producers are working hard to make all approved purchases by the May 1 deadline for livestock equipment and Sept. 1 for the remaining programs. Co-ops across Tennessee stand ready to assist producers in obtaining items for which they have been approved in time to meet the TAEP deadlines.

“Co-op customers have come to rely on the TAEP, and we are happy to help,” Gary says. “The program has allowed many to vastly improve their operations at a much greater pace than they would have on their own.”

These producers discuss participation in the program:

Lawton Saylor, Jonesborough

Washington Farmers Cooperative director Lawton Saylor has been involved in the TAEP since its inception in 2005. He runs about 200 mama cows — mostly Angus crosses — on some 700 owned-and-rented acres and grows about 350 acres of hay.

Lawton applied his most recent cost-share dollars to the purchase the first new Polytin Calf Catcher sold by the Co-op. It was the first one of the calf catchers sold by Co-op, and 2016 marked its first appearance on the list of TAEP-approved equipment.

The innovative device is designed to make rounding up calves a breeze. It consists of a heavy-duty, tubular frame and panels on wheels and attaches to most ATVs quickly and simply. Lawton says the unit allows him to safely work the calves without stressing the calf or the mama cow.

The catcher’s spring-loaded gates are opened when the operator pulls a rope while seated on an ATV. The gates are held open by a latch until the calf is securely inside the cage. Then, the operator can close the gate by stepping on a release with his or her right foot while still seated on the ATV.

A flip-down floor and a pinch gate located at the rear of the cage constrains calves during the working process.

“The mama cow can see the calf while you are working on it,” says Lawton. “If you need to take it to the barn, she can follow along behind without ever losing sight of the calf.

“This time of year when it’s muddy, it’s hard to catch these calves. You can’t hardly get a truck to them. I can take the calf catcher and do it myself.”

That’s important because Lawton primarily works alone on the farm. His grandson, Josh Censor, helps out when he can, but since he’s attending college, Josh is often busy with his schoolwork, says Lawton.

 “[TAEP] has been a big plus for me,” he adds, noting that he has been involved with the program since participating in the first Beef Quality Assurance class held in Washington County. 

The educational classes have been helpful, even for a veteran beef producer like Lawton. “The classes refresh you on a lot of stuff, and you learn a lot of new things, too,” he says. “There are a lot of hands-on demonstrations.”

Lawton has improved his facilities by building a hay barn and purchasing numerous pieces of cattle-handling equipment like sweeps and scales, feeder wagons, and other items. He has also added top-notch genetics to his herd through the purchase of quality bulls.

“The enhancement program has probably helped farmers more than anything that has come along,” the veteran cattleman adds. “I hope they keep it going. It’s just a big plus all around.”

The Schoolfield Family, Paris

The Schoolfield family, who farm near Paris, are another group of producers who have benefited from the TAEP.

Patriarch Doug Schoolfield, sons Monty and Curt, and grandson Chris work together on their farms.  Doug moved to the area in 1969 after getting a job with the Tennessee Valley Authority. He started with six acres of ground, and today the family farms around 2,500 owned-and-leased acres, where they raise Angus beef cattle and row crops.

With their diverse farming activities, they work hard to make every dollar count, says Doug, and that includes relying on cost-share programs like TAEP when available. 

The Schoolfields have applied TAEP funds to help build three hay barns, purchase three WW cattle handling systems, grain bins, bunk feeders, and other equipment, and to upgrade the genetics of their beef herd.

“We try to consider what we need the most and go in that direction,” says Chris.

This year the family concentrated on their herd’s genetics.

“You always want to improve,” Doug says. “It’s a lot like fertilizing your crops: If you fertilize, you will usually get a good return. It’s the same way with animals: If you come up with a decent bloodline, it will usually work for you. We had been using the Brilliance bloodline for several years. We knew it was time to try something different.”

The Schoolfields say they are grateful for the assistance TAEP provides.

“Look what the program does for us farmers out in the rural areas,” says Doug. “It helps the farmers, and it also helps the people who make the products and the dealers who sell them. There’s no telling the dollars that it has made all of us by helping us be more efficient. You can look [at the cattle] in our fields and tell that we have a better product.  It’s not doing anything but gaining ground for us.”

Marshall Moss, Adams

Marshall Moss has utilized TAEP cost-share funds three different years to upgrade his operation. He farms about 200 acres of his own land and another 100 or so leased acres where he raises hay and pasture in maintaining a commercial beef herd of about 135 mama cows.

The Robertson Cheatham Farmers Cooperative employee built a hay barn in 2014 and last year added a Powder River cattle squeeze chute to his operation with the help of the TAEP funds.

The hydraulic-powered, low-profile chute features a bolt-on neck extender to enhance head control. Its lower height made it a better fit for his facility.

“I have enjoyed using it,” says Marshall. “It’s a lot faster and easier to use than the manual chute I had before.

“Many of our farmers are getting older, and as you get older you think about things like, ‘How can I get hurt?’ This system will pay for itself if it helps me avoid one person getting hurt.”

“I wouldn’t have been able to add these things without the TAEP funds,” he adds.

Jason Crawford, Greeneville

Jason Crawford, salesman for Greene Farmers Cooperative, has been depending on the TAEP to help him improve his farm for several years. As a young farmer, he says dollars can be tight for farm improvements, but the TAEP funds make it hard to say no to needed projects.

Jason, who farms in the Pine Grove Community near Greene-ville, manages a herd of 35 beef cattle on about 200 acres of owned and leased ground. His operation includes about 150 acres of row crops — corn, soybeans, and five acres of wheat — which is his primary emphasis. The cattle are secondary, he says.

Jason, who graduated in 2011 from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville with a bachelor’s in ag business, has been taking part in the TAEP program since his graduation.

“I hadn’t been out of school that long when I started the master beef producer classes,” he says. “But I have really learned a lot.”

His most recent TAEP-funded purchase was an Ag Spray 300-gallon sprayer with an elliptical-shaped tank and 35-foot booms. The new unit is more than four-and-a-half times the size of his previous 65-gallon sprayer, allowing him to complete his spraying chores

much quicker.

“I just couldn’t get much spraying done because I had to keep refilling the tank,” he says. “I have much more coverage with this sprayer, and the booms give me more consistent coverage.”

His previous sprayer, with its oval tank, “just didn’t sit in the saddle” well, he says. He also likes the fact that he can see from his tractor seat how much product remains in the new sprayer’s opaque yellow tank.

“With the other one, I would have to stop and get off the tractor to see how much product remained,” he adds.

This type of increased efficiency has allowed the producer to experience increased efficiency and profitability in his operation faster than he would have been able to accomplish on his own.

“The [TAEP] program has allowed me to buy certain things that I just normally wouldn’t buy on my own,” Jason says. “It has helped me get going a lot quicker. It halved my expense.”

For more information about TAEP or to learn more about items eligible for TAEP cost-share, contact your local Co-op.

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