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Cornell sets up cattle initiative

Grant to bring emerging stocker beef cattle industry to New York's Southern Tier agriculture.

After recently being awarded a $627,000 programming and research grant from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo as part of the $5 million Southern Tier Agricultural Industry Enhancement program, Cornell University plans to bring an emerging livestock market — stocker beef cattle — to the Southern Tier, which is the region of New York along the border with Pennsylvania.

In addition to being a good fit for the region’s agricultural landscape, raising stocker cattle is a developing enterprise in New York. Its low start-up costs are tailor made for beginning farmers and those who want to diversify their farm holdings. Through the initiative, Cornell will hold regional stocker cattle summits and create a training program geared for success in the industry. It will also provide personnel to assist in grading and marketing and conduct research to support farmers and agri-service personnel.

Stocker cattle typically are acquired as young, lightweight calves that spend a summer grazing on pasture lands, which allows them to add weight inexpensively. At the conclusion of the grazing season, the stockers generally are sold to other farmers, who finish the animals to market weight.

“Cattle and beef values are at an all-time high, especially for locally produced products and livestock finished on grain or grass. There is great demand for those products from institutional buyers such as schools and hospitals,” said Michael Baker, Cornell senior extension associate, who will lead the initiative. “Those market developments, along with the region’s abundant high-quality forage lands, make Southern Tier counties well suited to grow their position in the stocker cattle market.”

A major appeal to growing stocker cattle is that the venture requires minimal investment in machinery and buildings, creating a low barrier to entry. The only major requirements are access to grazing lands, which can be leased, and the capital to purchase cattle.

“This project is especially exciting to me, because the stocker cattle enterprise is one of the few agricultural businesses that beginning farmers can get involved in without a lot of overhead. What they do need is training, and this project will provide intensive training to increase their opportunity for success,” Baker said. “I think it will also appeal to farmers looking to transition out of dairy production.

“The Southern Tier is the perfect location for this project as there are thousands of acres of idled farmland that are very suited to grazing,” Baker added. “This is our competitive advantage, and this project will support use of this idled land by new farmers and farmers wishing to diversify.”

Baker said the Stocker Cattle Initiative will increase awareness of this business opportunity, train a workforce, provide personnel to assist in marketing, conduct research to support farmers and agri-service personnel and develop and train market reporters to analyze and grade livestock.

The $5 million Southern Tier Agricultural Industry Enhancement program is part of the overall $30 million program of the same name. It provides funding for agriculture-related industries and not-for-profit organizations to protect, maintain, develop and grow farm, agriculture and related industries in New York's Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Alleghany, Steuben, Schuyler, Tompkins, Chemung, Tioga, Broome, Chenango and Delaware counties.

“The state is investing in the Southern Tier like never before, and these new projects no doubt keep the momentum going,” Cuomo said. “A robust and competitive agriculture industry is key to the Southern Tier’s success, and this initiative provides vital resources that promote growth into the next century, creating more jobs and boosting the region’s economy.”

For more information on the Cornell Stocker Cattle Initiative, contact Mike Baker at mjb28@cornell.edu or (607) 255-5923.

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