University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environment Cooperative Extension Service will be hosting its Master Finisher Program for McLean County throughout this fall and winter.

“This is a brand new program from UK that has never happened before,” said David Fourqurean, the county’s extension agent.

Fourqurean said that the agency has been able to hire a nutritionist and beef specialist, Dr. Katherine VanValin, who has been getting the program up and running.

The program will focus on all aspects of feeding and finishing cattle, such as forages, nutrition, facilities, processor relationships and marketing through both in-person and Zoom webinars led by specialists.

“We’re still in the COVID realm, so we’re doing some things virtually,” Fourqurean said. “A lot of (the) presentations are PowerPoint, but then at the end, there is a Q&A session where you are actually seeing the specialist and actually ask questions to them directly. ...You’ll have that interaction.”

Two in-person meetings on nutrition will take place Nov. 30 and Dec. 13 at the Myer Creek Park Extension facility, with a time to be announced shortly.

Fourqurean said that it was intentional to have this program offered to folks in the county to help both their businesses and to provide them with more knowledge.

“We have a bunch of people and … with all the different supply chain problems that we’ve had in the past in the last year or so, a lot of people that are now finishing cattle on their home farms,” Fourqurean said. “They’re selling those to people around the community. This is something we haven’t done a lot of in the past. We need some information about … (how) to finish the (cattle), what types of feed and what kind of facilities that we may need. (This program) is something we feel is very much needed.”

Fourqurean said that the program hasn’t seen big demand from the public, but that changes in the current economic environment has made this type of program a necessity.

The program had its first virtual area meeting on Oct. 19 — which included people from Daviess, Hopkins and Ohio counties, with approximately 36 people in attendance.

“When you’re talking about finishing beef cattle, that’s a lot of people in a small area,” Fourqurean said.

One of the challenges that Fourqurean said many farmers may face is the marketing aspect.

“From an economic standpoint, our folks really don’t know or understand how to market their cattle and market that beef through a finished product. That’s not something that we’ve normally been doing,” Fourqurean said. “To be able to help them understand all the things that will transpire and all the different things that they have to do so they can market their product … and hopefully be able to add to their bottom line and make a profit doing it.”

Fourqurean adds that marketing can be a hurdle for farmers due to having the lack of knowledge of how to do it efficiently and effectively.

“Word-of-mouth advertising is great,” Fourqurean said. “But if you’re trying to do this on a little bit of a larger scale, you may need to do some advertising in different publications…”

One of the other goals of the program is to teach people about safety and due diligence.

“We obviously want to put out a safely-produced product for the consumer,” Fourqurean said. “In the end, the consumer is the one that will kind of tell you if you’re doing a good job or not.

“(We want to) make sure that the farmers are doing the things they need to be doing and doing it the right way.”

Fourqurean hopes that the program will be effective and educational through the hybrid structure, despite the cattle trade being physically hands-on.

“It’s been tough on agricultural agents across the state,” Fourqurean said. “It’s been tough to do virtual meetings that … farmers are not used to doing (these) types of things. ...We, as an association of (agricultural) agents, we want to get back to more of (hands-on), and we’re trying to. We’re doing the best we can do right now.”

The program is also available to anyone interested in learning about the process, regardless of age.

“A lot of time, beef operation … can include the entire family,” Fourqurean said. “There’s not anything wrong with a young person wanting to learn about this and helping their parents.”

For more information on the program and to sign up and receive access to the Zoom webinars, contact the McLean County Extension Office at 270-273-3690.

Freddie Bourne, fbourne@mcleannews.com

Freddie Bourne, fbourne@mcleannews.com

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