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Shifting focus

Spring Hill cattle farmer, Randy Lochridge, uses Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program option to improve herd genetics
Story by Allison Farley Photos by Mark Johnson 1/21/2022

 

The Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement program received over 7,730 applications in 2021 including those from cattlemen like Spring Hill's Randy Lochridge, who was one of the applicants interested in the genetics program.
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Spring Hill’s Randy Lochridge, a fifth-generation cattleman and row-crop farmer, is grateful for the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program (TAEP) and the incentives that have helped his operation become more efficient and profitable. Since its establishment in 2005, the popular Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) initiative has offered farmers cost-share incentives to make operational improvements that would be difficult for many to afford otherwise.


TAEP received over 7,730 applications in 2021, with the top three programs requested being livestock equipment, hay equipment, and genetics. Lochridge was one of the applicants interested in the genetics program. 


“I have enrolled in the genetics program, and I am using it to try to introduce a fresh and wider range of bloodlines to my herd,” says Lochridge. “I've already purchased two bulls and plan on submitting those as cost share purchases. TAEP is a worthwhile program, and I can't say enough good things about it.”


The Lochridge farm consists of a cow/calf operation with around 70 cows, hay production, and a small acreage of soybeans. He started farming with his father, James, after completing his studies in agriculture at the University of Tennessee in the early ‘80s. 


“I farmed with my dad for six years after college, and then the Spring Hill area began to boom with the announcement of the General Motors plant to be built,” says Lochridge, a longtime member of United Farm and Home Co-op. “I felt like I needed to look at other income sources for a career, so I went to work for the Agricultural Stabilization Service, which is now the Farm Service Agency. I had a small tobacco operation and I always raised cattle — and still do.” 


In the early years of the TAEP program, Lochridge primarily relied on the cost-share incentives to help upgrade working facilities for his livestock. 


“As my herd has grown, my facilities needed to be updated for safety purposes,” he says. “I was trying to reduce the stress on the animals and workers, and hopefully increase safety as working cattle can be dangerous. This year, I felt the time was right to use TAEP for genetics.” 


The TAEP Herd Genetic Program has been a part of 16,304 projects since its beginnings in 2005, with $17,816,062 given back to farmers in reimbursements for cattle, goats, and sheep. The program works to assist producers in improving the genetics of their operations, while also increasing the quality, value, marketability, and reputation of Tennessee livestock. 


The cattle portion of the program requires a Beef Quality Assurance Certification and rewards farmers who participate in the Master Beef, Dairy, Farm Manager, and Farm Family Health and Wellness programs, with a larger presentation of cost-share.


“Working through the Master Beef

program with UT Extension is good

training,” says Lochridge. “With the

way things change in the agricultural

industry, you've got to continue to grow and expand your knowledge and try to figure out which techniques or technologies are suitable for your operation and

can benefit you.”


UT Extension has recently made training even more accessible in light of the COVID-19 pandemic by offering online courses through the local offices. 


“I'm taking the classes online this year because of the pandemic, which is a new option that they've added,” says Lochridge. “It's been a blessing for me as a part-time farmer with a full-time job to take the classes when they fit my schedule, and I applaud UT Extension for that.” 


The TDA has already announced the continuation of this program in 2022 with the application deadline set for October 1-7, 2022.


“I really appreciate that our state legislators, as well as the Department of Agriculture, continues to support and fund this program,” says Lochridge. “It reassures me that they understand the importance of agriculture in Tennessee.”

Important info for participants


Producers should have received reimbursement packets from their 2021 TAEP application by now. Producers are encouraged to make their purchases early so they can submit reimbursement requests by the deadlines. Your local Co-op is ready to help you with your purchasing decisions.


TAEP deadlines: 


Decline Funding Deadline – Hay Equipment & Livestock Equipment 


March 1, 2022


Reimbursement Request Deadline – Hay Equipment & Livestock Equipment 


April 1, 2022


Decline Funding Deadline – Genetics May 1, 2022


Reimbursement Request Deadline – Genetics June 1, 2022


Decline Funding Deadline – Dairy Solutions, Herd Health, Livestock Solutions, Permanent Working Structures, Row Crop Solutions, Poultry Grower, Producer Diversification July 1, 2022


Reimbursement Request Deadline – Dairy Solutions, Herd Health, Livestock Solutions, Permanent Working Structures, Row Crop Solutions, Poultry Grower, Producer Diversification August 1, 2022



The application deadline for 2022 will be October 1-7. If you are interested in applying or want to learn more, visit www.tn.gov/agriculture/farms/taep.


 
 
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