Improving Farm Profits by Developing a Niche Market for Green-Certified Senior Calf Beef
This two-year project aims to increase profits for beef producers by developing a premium market for a non-traditional product: senior calves that have been raised without hormones and antibiotics using rotational grazing methods and streamside best management practices. By developing a market for these eight- to ten-month-old calves, participants hope to cut production costs associated with raising traditional larger beef animals, and to produce a leaner niche product aimed at health-conscious consumers. The project also addresses development pressure on farmland and local concerns about farm impacts on water quality.
Unprofitable family farms in West Virginia’s Potomac Headwaters region are being sold for development. The pastoral community and rural lifestyle they create is at risk. Farmers are also confronted with community concerns over the environmental impacts of farming, but have little disposable income to apply toward improving their environmental management.
The goal of this project is to make environmentally sensitive farm management a sound business decision that increases farm profits instead of draining scarce resources by catalyzing the development of a local, certified, premium market for rotationally grazed, naturally lean, senior calves raised without hormones and antibiotics on land using streamside Best Management Practices. Development of that market will be linked to members of the watershed community who value clean environment, rural lifestyles, healthy food and the consumption of humanely raised animals. A nationally known master chef will develop a recipe book for this non-traditional beef product.
The move from current agricultural methods to full compliance with certification requirements will take several years. We envision a stepwise certification process in which early buyers (who have pre-purchased beef) become partners in the process of change.
1. Of the eight farmers initially involved in the certified beef project six of them will achieve higher incomes within 2 years and agree to fully adopt the management requirements of the certified product within 3 years of the start of this project. (While the target farmer group is small, we expect that other farmers will become involved as success becomes evident.)
2. Of the 5000+- watershed residents and property owners exposed to the product and concept in the first year, at least 150 will encourage/support change in farm management practices by advance-purchasing beef produced by local farmers within two years of the start of this project.
WVU Extension Service
Hampshire County Development Authority