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Neighborly gesture

Community cooperation leads to improved equipment for cattle producers
Story and photos by: Glen Liford 3/25/2020


Volunteers assisting with the Washington County Cattlemen’s Association Fall Sale in November were, from left, Jacob Goode, Jackie Fleenor, Kimberly Brocklebank, Robert Monin, John Brown, Ben Brinkley, Landon Gray, Grayson Rader, Jimmy Shipley, Kelly Glass, Nichole Garst, Bo Shadden, Phil Booher, manager of Appalachian Fairgrounds, and Billy Joe Lewis.
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After the Washington County Cattlemen’s Association (WCCA) staged their 2019 Spring Heifer Sale at the Greene County Fairgrounds last April, the members were envious.

The Greene County Angus Association

allowed the WCCA to use the W-W Livestock System that the group had purchased in the spring of 2017 to help advance its sales, and the Washington County producers were impressed with how well the sale went.

“We knew we wanted to do something similar for our [future sales],” says Chad Fleenor, who was a member of the WCCA board at the time.

The WCCA knew they could benefit from such a system for their own sales, as the sturdy panels, hi-pole gates, and other equipment allowed animals to be penned in a way that buyers could easily view them, and volunteers could efficiently move them through the sale process. Plus, it was safer for all involved.

“Safety is always a priority,” says Chad. “And it’s no exception at these sales. We want to do everything to keep our workers, the buyers, and the cattle safe and secure.”

To that end, the WCCA followed a similar approach to sourcing a strong, portable system that could be easily set up and installed for the sales events.

Funding for the project came from a variety of sources, says Chad. The association staged a membership fundraiser for the sales facilities, and top donors included the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Farm Credit Mid-America, and Washington Farm Bureau. WCCA Members John McGinn of McGinn Angus Farm and John Abe Teague of Mire Creek Angus also donated heifers to the organization with proceeds from the sale of the heifers going to the fund.

The group then worked with Washington Farmers Co-op in Jonesborough to get the project rolling. Co-op Manager Tim Smithson, who retired in November 2019, called on Tennessee Farmers Cooperative Hardware Specialist Will Phillips and Home Lawn & Specialty Specialist Daniel Menge, who previously worked at the Jonesborough Co-op, to specify and design a system to meet the WCCA needs and provide flexibility for future use.

“We started with just the concept last spring,” says Will. “We just started drawing out our idea of an ideal system on paper. Then we worked with different manufacturers to get quotes.”

After selecting W-W Livestock Systems as the preferred vendor, they worked with company officials, including Keith Trimble, W-W Livestock Systems territory manager, to create a detailed list of equipment to fit the expected space at the Appalachian Fairgrounds where the 2019 fall sale would be held. They knew the equipment would be installed in the existing livestock barn, and the plan would have to accommodate existing walls and doorways.

The resulting system filled a semi-truck load of equipment and encompassed more than 300 pieces. It offers the flexibility to be configured in a number of different ways.

The equipment system made its debut at the fall sale in November. The setup for the event included around 30 pens for holding cattle, an alleyway leading to the head chute, and a spacious work area around the chute.

New Washington Farmers Co-op Manager Todd Stone, who took the reins of the Co-op in November, says he was impressed with the way the group worked together to meet the association’s needs.

“Everybody just pitched in to get the work done,” he says. 

The Fall Heifer Sale in November marked the association’s return to the Gray Fairgrounds after a long absence. The first WCCA heifer sale was held at the fairgrounds in 2010. Subsequent events were held at the Kingsport Stock Yards before last year’s spring event was at Greeneville.

“It’s a dream come true to come back home [to the fairgrounds] after 10 years,” says Chad. “We sold about 45 head at that first sale, and ever since each of our sales have reached more than 100 per sale. It’s been 10 years in the making, and we didn’t understand how we would ever get to this point.”

The sales are an important event for the region’s cattle producers, says Chad, noting that the events attract buyers from the entire region, including neighboring areas in Virginia and North Carolina. From the start, the association has worked diligently to find cooperative ways to promote the industry in the region and to help local cattle producers tackle issues of importance to all those involved.

They also strive be good neighbors and to give back to their communities. They award annual scholarships to two outstanding youth involved in or interested in agriculture. Concessions are sold by local FFA chapters, and the proceeds from those sales go toward the scholarships.

The WCCA’s 11th Annual Spring Heifer Sale will be held on Saturday, April 18, 2020, at the Appalachian Fairgrounds in Gray. The sale will begin at 4 p.m. WCCA officials stress that producers should note the date, time, and location change from the Appalachian Fairgrounds. Producers are encouraged to come early to view the cattle and register for a buyer number.

The sale will feature 116 heifers that are either bred, open, or have a calf by side, and most of the heifers are commercial. The cattle have been screened and are excellent heifers for anyone interested in improving his or her herd, say officials. The heifers will be pregnancy checked the day of the sale by a licensed veterinarian. All cattle will need to be paid for and loaded out on the day of the sale.

For more information or for a sale brochure, contact the Washington County Extension Office at (423)753-1680.

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