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Rebuilding with Bluegrass Heifers

June 5, 2014
By: Wyatt Bechtel, Dairy Today google + 
BT Replacement Heifer
This Angus-Charolais cross heifer will be up for auction at the upcoming Central Kentucky Premier Heifer Sale on June 7 with approximately 200 other fall calving heifers.  

The Central Kentucky Premier Heifer Sale hopes to aid in rebuilding the national beef herd through their twice yearly female auction and private treaty sales.

The national cow herd is in the middle of its biggest decrease in decades thanks to regional droughts and record high cull cow prices. An organization of cattlemen from Kentucky aims to change that trend through the Central Kentucky Premier Heifer Sales (CKPHS).

CKPHS consists of five different farms or producers from the central region of Kentucky who came together in 2005 to market quality replacement heifers. The group has representation in Marion, Nelson and Washington counties and includes Geoghegan Farms, Downs Consignment, Harned Farm/Meadow Ridge Farms, Sandusky Farms and Curtiss Ice. Ice no longer sells cattle through the sale, but he is still active as treasurer for the group.

David Sandusky of Sandusky Farms in Lebanon serves as a chairman for CKPHS and he says the group sells between 175-200 bred heifers each June and November at an auction they host. Spring calving heifers are sold in November, while fall calvers will be auctioned in June.

In addition to the cattle sold at auction, another 1,000-plus heifer are sold private treaty.

"We continue to try and grow our market base. We would like to be able to market 1,000 spring and 1,000 fall calvers is where we have our goal set," Sandusky adds. "Right now for spring of 2015 calvers we’ve got about 750 heifers exposed."

Heifers are bred to calving ease (+7 CED or better) Angus bulls either by artificial insemination or natural service. Ninety percent of the heifers sold are Angus-based and are either home raised by the member producers or purchased from local farms at the sale barn to be backgrounded.

BT Replacement Heifers

"We are getting our heifer numbers where we want them, but our challenge has been finding enough customers to accommodate the supply," Sandusky relates.

A lot of cattle will stay locally in Kentucky, but cattle also go to neighboring southern Indiana and northern Tennessee on a regular basis. Heifers have been sent to North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas and Missouri, too.

"Right now it is easy to sell bred heifers because the market is so strong," Sandusky says, "but the challenge is when the market is not as strong it is harder to find and maintain that customer base."

CKPHS has also worked with Superior Livestock Auction and other Internet type sales to help market cattle.

The group works with a consulting veterinarian for the heath program and receives guidance from local University of Kentucky extension specialists on management practices.

Sandusky believes the quality of cattle would stand with any other cattle in country, but the main problem is just the travel distance for producers in droughted out states to the west.

"As they get more moisture in that part of the country they are going to want to rebuild herds. Cattle from Kentucky will work real well for that," Sandusky says.

He relates that because the heifers have grazed entophyte-fescue grass in Kentucky, once they leave the Bluegrass State for other areas heifers tend to still do well on other forages like brome, Bermuda or native pasture.

Interest has picked up in the program with a prospective customer from Iowa visiting this past month.

CKPHS will be hosting a heifer sale this Saturday, June 7. For more information on the heifer program visit the CKPHS website.

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