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Cattle initiative to beef up Southern Tier agriculture

Mike Baker
Michael Baker, senior Cornell Cooperative Extension associate.

Recently awarded a $627,000 programming and research grant from Gov. Andrew Cuomo as part of the $5 million Southern Tier Agricultural Industry Enhancement program, Cornell University plans to bring an emerging livestock market, known as “stocker” beef cattle, to the Southern Tier.

Along with being a good fit for the region’s agricultural landscape, raising stocker cattle is a developing enterprise in New York state. 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, as they are called, generally are sold to other farmers that 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. And there is great demand for those products from institutional buyers such as schools and hospitals,” said Michael Baker, 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 says the Stocker Cattle Initiative will increase awareness of the 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.

In the next couple of months Baker will hold three to four Stocker Cattle Summits across the Southern Tier, with a goal of drawing 20 to 30 participants to each. Those sessions will provide background data on the demands and rewards of raising stocker cattle.

From there, Baker expects that 20 to 30 participants will leave the summits intrigued by the stocker cattle opportunities, and they will be invited to enroll in the yearlong Stocker Cattle Short Course, which begins this summer and will feature intensive training and apprenticeship opportunities designed to facilitate immediate industry access.

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 agricultural-related industries and not-for-profit organizations to protect, maintain, develop and grow farm, agricultural and related industries in 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 and how to get involved with the Stocker Cattle Summits, contact Mike Baker at or 607-255-5923.

Media Contact

Melissa Osgood