ROGERSVILLE — The area sheep and goats will be bringing home a better price this year thanks to a Hawkins County Agricultural Extension Office program that sends them in bulk to Pennsylvania, where the demand is higher.

In March, Hawkins County Extension Director Blake Ramsey will be organizing the first of about seven Appalachian Sheep and Goat Load Outs, which make it cheaper for local farmers to get their livestock transported to better-paying markets between March and December.

“We usually schedule our sheep and goat load-outs around ethnic holidays because they bring a better price,” Ramsey told the Times News. “Easter is a big one, and they do better in the spring. We send them to New Holland, Pennsylvania, which is right there next to Philadelphia and other major metropolitan areas. There’s a lot of different ethnicities, and sheep and goats generally bring 30-40 cents per pound higher there than here.”

Ramsey added, “So we’ll have different farmers participate, and this guy has a double-deck trailer that can hold up to 140 sheep. You’ve got to have the USDA scrapie tag to trace them back to their original farm, and he hauls them for about $10 per head. New Holland takes $5 so it’s $15 per head to participate. You’re going to get another $30-$40 on a 100-pound lamb, and it sometimes can be more. It just depends on how hot the market is.”

Anyone interested in participating in the Appalachian Sheep and Goat Load Out should call the Hawkins County UT Extension Office now at (423) 272-7241 and get put on the list with the number of animals that will be transported.

The load out location will be at the Hawkins County Cattlemen’s Building near the intersection of Stanley Valley Road and Highway 11-W at 110 Stewart Lane in Rogersville. Each load out will take place on Saturdays with dates tentatively set for March 20, April 10, May 1, July 17, Aug. 7, Sept. 4, and Dec. 11.

Master Small Ruminant Producer class each fall

If you’d like to learn how to become a sheep or goat farmer, Ramsey generally offers one Master Small Ruminant Producer class each fall.

There was a class this past fall, and Ramsey said he hopes to have another class this coming fall.

Anyone who is interested in participating in a fall class should call Ramsey at the Hawkins County UT Extension Office at (423) 272-7241 to reserve a seat now.

The class costs $75 and there is a financial incentive to completing the class through the Tennessee Agriculture Enhancement Program, which will match 50% of any farm equipment or infrastructure purchase up to $7,500.

Master Beef Class goes virtual

The Hawkins County Extension Office’s 2021 Spring Virtual Master Beef Producer Program will consist of six evening classes on March 2, 4, 9, 11, 16, and 18, with the last night being the BQA (Better Quality Assurance) certification. The registration fee is $75.

If you have an up-to-date BQA you are not required to attend the last class. If you have no internet access there will be viewing sessions available each night at the Rogersville Extension office.

The Master Beef Producer educational program uses research-based information to teach you current beef cattle management practices. These practices are important to the profitability and sustainability of the industry.

Ramsey noted that if you missed the deadline to register for the March classes, or you’re hearing about this after the classes have already begun, there’s still an opportunity to participate.

Each class will be recorded, and the Extension Office is planning a late registration for participants to review the recorded classes.

“Put up a $15,000 barn, they’ll give you $7,500”

There’s also a substantial financial incentive. As with the Master Small Ruminant Producer class, if you complete the Master Beef class you’ll receive a 50% match farm-related purchase through the Tennessee Agriculture Enhancement Program.

“Anybody in Tennessee can take the Master Beef class, but in order to do that cost-share program you’ve got to have at least 30 head of cattle, Ramsey said. “You can go out and buy a mineral feeder and spend $100 and get $50 back. There’s no minimum. There’s a $7,500 maximum, so if you put up a $15,000 barn, they’ll give you $7,500.”

Ramsey estimates that there are at least 600 eligible cattle farmers in Hawkins County, and about half of them have taken the master beef class.

If you register for the virtual Master Beef class you must: download Zoom to your computer or the Zoom app to your smart phone.; provide an e-mail address that is live and make sure to check it for directions to log into meetings; attend the online Zoom test session on March 1 from 6-7 p.m. at the Rogersville Office located at 3815 Highway 66-S Suite 12.