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Rural Routes

In This Issue

Commissioner's Message

Beef Heifer Initiative

Marion Co. TCD Buffer Regulated

Livestock Traceability Checks

Poinsettia Inspections

Cattle Thefts on the Rise

TN Ag Museum Open House

USDA Surveying Cattle Operations


Jan. 15-17

Tennessee Cattlemen's Association Convention, Murfreesboro

Jan 20

Tennessee Pork Producers Annual Meeting, Murfreesboro

Jan. 20-21

Tennessee Jr. Market Hog Show, Murfreesboro

Jan. 22-24

Tennessee Association of Fairs Convention, Nashville

Jan. 23

Pick Tennessee Fruit and Vegetable Workshop, Nashville

Tennessee Fruit and Vegetable Association Meeting, Nashville

Feb. 4-7

Cattle Industry Convention & NCBA Trade Show, San Antonio, TX

Feb. 18

Mid-South Stocker Conference, Cave City

Feb 21-28

National FFA Week

Feb. 27-28

Tennessee Farm Winegrowers Alliance Annual Conference, Nashville



From Commissioner Julius Johnson:

The year-end is always a good time to step back and take stock of where we’ve been and where we're going. 2014 has been a busy year for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, and several achievements and milestones stand out.

The Pick Tennessee Products app is celebrating more than 21,000 downloads since its launch this past spring. Since mid-October, nearly 90,000 burn permits have been issued through our online system. Tennessee has seen $20 million in new investments in the agriculture and forestry industries, and we are on target to continue that growth.

I'm particularly proud of our staff and employees who have taken the new customer-focused initiative to heart. That change is bringing updates to programs and outreach efforts intended to make a difference for the farmers, producers and citizens of Tennessee.

The new year holds the promise of opportunities yet to come. We are finalizing details of a new initiative to grow and improve our beef cattle herds in Tennessee. That has great potential to benefit the entire state and put Tennessee at the forefront of U.S. cattle production. We are also exploring how we can better support agribusiness startups to spur innovation and development. You can expect more information on these programs to be shared in the coming months.

In the meantime, enjoy the holidays and time spent with family and friends. On behalf of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, I'd like to wish you success and happiness in 2015.

TDA Joins Statewide Partnership to Boost TN Beef Industry

In a joint effort to rebuild a declining Tennessee beef herd, the UT Institute of Agriculture, TDA and Tennessee Farmers Cooperative have announced a unique public-private partnership. UTIA will make room at its Dairy AgResearch and Education Center in Lewisburg for 100 beef heifers consigned by farmers from across Tennessee for a development program with the goal of increasing cattle numbers in the state.

Nationally, Tennessee has dropped from ninth in beef cattle production to 13th in the past two years due in part to a decrease in the state’s herd caused by economic and weather-related factors. Currently, the state hosts about 864,000 beef cows. The goal of the new Tennessee Beef Heifer Development Program is to increase that number, which is consistent with the recommendations of the Governor's Rural Challenge.

Issued in December 2012, the challenge sets a goal of making Tennessee No. 1 in the Southeast in the development of agriculture and forestry, emphasizing efforts to increase farm income and agribusiness investment. With beef producers located in every county in the state, enhancing beef cattle production is a natural priority for the state's agricultural community, said Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson, who offered the department's full support of the initiative.

"Tennessee has the land capacity to support beef herd expansion and to recapture our share of the U.S. market," Commissioner Johnson said. "This project ties in with the recommendations of the Governor's Rural Challenge to grow our industry and gives producers another tool with which to improve their operation and to maximize profits."

The most economically straining aspect of beef management is the development of replacement heifers, said UT cattle expert Kevin Thompson, who serves as director of the Middle Tennessee and Dairy AgResearch and Education Centers.

"Replacement heifer development is expensive because of the time and resources it takes to bring a heifer to the point of production--that is, until she produces a marketable calf of her own," Thompson said, adding that research has shown a positive correlation between proper heifer development and longevity of the animal within the herd. "This program will provide producers with the best management protocols intended to optimize development and increase the heifer's lifetime productivity. We will be helping to rebuild Tennessee's cattle herd, improve its quality and increase farm profits over time."

The UT Dairy AgResearch Center in Lewisburg is perfectly located for the statewide program, said Thompson. With support through a $243,000 Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program grant from TDA and an in-kind contribution from TFC totaling more than $125,000 in supplies, equipment and other services over a five-year period, UTIA will construct or upgrade certain facilities to accommodate 100 privately owned beef heifers consigned for intensive management. Improved protocols for animal production -- including nutrition, health, handling and reproductive management-- will be developed so they can be replicated by individual producers across the state. After 11 months of intensive management and care at the UT AgResearch center, the heifers will be returned to consigners or offered in a bred heifer replacement sale. UT Extension has also been involved in the program development and will continue to have a leadership role as the program moves forward.

UT is working to identify select producers willing to consign heifers to the pilot project. Construction of required facilities is expected to begin by the end of the year, and the first shipment of heifers should arrive in October 2015. TDA has agreed to offer TAEP scholarships to producers who participate in the pilot project to help defray a portion of their management costs.

With the importance of beef production to Tennessee's agricultural economy and the Co-op system, this new project makes "perfect sense for the cattlemen of our state," said Bart Krisle, TFC's chief executive officer.

"This program fits one of our core objectives of helping our farmer owners increase profitability," said Krisle. "Helping beef producers find improved methods and compare management practices and results will strengthen their desire to increase herd size. The opportunity to replicate the program in their own operations is the most valuable part of this initiative, and all the equipment, herd health items, feeds and minerals can be sourced from their local Co-ops. This program will have far-reaching benefits, and we are proud to be a part of it."

UT Institute of Agriculture Chancellor Larry Arrington reiterated the importance of research and extension to the process of economic development.

"Providing real life solutions to production problems is the mission of the UT Institute of Agriculture," he said. "This new program has the potential to truly grow the state's beef cattle industry and to have a substantial and lasting impact on the state’s rural economy."

In addition to its AgResearch program, the UT Institute of Agriculture also provides instruction, research and public service through the UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, the UT College of Veterinary Medicine and UT Extension offices in every county in the state.

Marion County Now Buffer Regulated for Thousand Cankers Disease

Walnut twig beetles which transmit thousand cankers disease, a walnut tree killing disease, have been discovered in Marion County. The county is now buffer regulated. Citizens in buffer counties can move walnut tree products and hardwood firewood within buffer counties, but not outside. Products can also be moved into a quarantine county, but not taken back out.

In addition to Marion County, Bledsoe, Campbell, Claiborne, Cocke, Cumberland, Fentress, Grainger, Greene, Hamblen, Hamilton, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe, Polk, Roane, Scott, and Sequatchie are also considered buffer regulated counties because the walnut twig beetle was found or they are adjacent to a quarantined county. Bradley County is also in the buffer regulated category because it is surrounded by other buffer regulated counties.

"We will continue to survey for the walnut twig beetle and thousand cankers disease to help slow the spread of the disease," said TDA Plant Certification administrator Gray Haun. "We are working with stakeholders to help educate citizens on the symptoms of TCD and how they can help."

TCD is a progressive disease that may kill a tree within two to three years after initial symptoms are detected. The disease-causing fungus, Geosmithia morbida, is transmitted by the walnut twig beetle, Pityophthorus juglandis. Branches and trunk tissue are killed by multiple infections of the fungus as the beetles carry the fungus from one area to the next.

TDA plant inspectors and foresters will continue to conduct a thorough survey of trees in these areas to assess the extent of the infestation and to see if more areas need to be quarantined. Counties already under quarantine for TCD include Anderson, Blount, Jefferson, Knox, Loudon, Morgan, Rhea, Sevier, and Union.

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry estimates that 1.38 million black walnut trees in Tennessee's urban areas are potentially at risk from TCD.

The risk represents an estimated value loss of $1.37 billion. There are an estimated 26 million black walnut trees on Tennessee public and private timberland potentially valued as high as $1.47 billion.

TDA officials urge area residents and visitors to help prevent the spread of TCD:

* Don’t transport firewood, even within Tennessee. Don’t bring firewood along for camping trips. Buy the wood you need from a local source. Don’t bring wood home with you.

* Don’t buy or move firewood from outside the state. If someone comes to your door selling firewood, ask them about the source, and don’t buy wood from outside the state. 

* Watch for signs of infestation in your black walnut trees. If you suspect your black walnut tree could be infested with TCD, visit for an online symptoms checklist and report form or call TDA's Regulatory Services Division at 1-800-628-2631. 

More information about TCD and forest health threats in Tennessee can be found at

Livestock Traceability Compliance Checks Start Jan. 1

TDA will begin conducting routine compliance checks for the federal Animal Disease Traceability rule Jan. 1, 2015. The rule went into effect last year and requires the identification of livestock being transported across state lines.

"The federal rule is an effective way to trace the movement of livestock in an animal disease event so that appropriate action can be taken to limit the impact on producers," state veterinarian Charles Hatcher said. "The rule only applies to livestock being moved interstate, but it’s important that Tennessee farmers work with their local veterinarian to obtain proper documentation.”"

The ADT rule requires all livestock, including cattle, equine, sheep and goats, swine and poultry, being moved interstate to be officially identified, unless specifically exempted. Livestock must be accompanied by an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection or other documentation, such as owner-shipper statements or brand certificates.

Brands, tattoos and brand registration can also be used as official identification when accepted by the shipping and receiving states. Backtags are accepted as an alternative to official eartags for cattle moved directly to slaughter.

Animal health documentation is still required by the state under certain circumstances for livestock being moved within Tennessee. Additionally, some states have documentation requirements that go beyond the federal rule. Producers should consult with their veterinarians to make sure that any livestock that is transported complies with all regulations.

TDA is working to implement a user-friendly online system already adopted by 20 other states that will allow private veterinarians to submit and access documents electronically in order to help with compliance. Veterinarians interested in participating should contact the State Veterinarian's office at 615-837-5120 or

For more information, visit USDA's website at or for details about Tennessee's animal health programs.

TDA Poinsettia Inspections Promote Healthy Plants

We all know that a bright red poinsettia is a Christmas decorating staple. But did you know that TDA plays a role in making sure that beautiful plant is healthy and disease-free before you bring it into your home?

This year, more than one million poinsettias were grown in Tennessee. TDA has inspectors across the state who visit poinsettia producers multiple times during the growing season. “We like to make three or four inspections during the months of August through November,” plant inspector Brick Bishop said. “This ensures that if a problem arises it’s identified and resolved early so that the plants are ready to ship right after Thanksgiving.”

The inspectors are primarily checking the health of the plant. They look for insects, such as the white fly, that can damage the crop. The growers make sure the plants receive the correct amount of light and shade. These two variables, insects and lighting, will make or break a poinsettia crop.

A poinsettia's main attraction is its leaves, not the flowers. The flowers of the plant are the yellow clustered buds in the center. The more than 100 varieties of poinsettias come in a range of colors from red, salmon, and apricot to yellow, cream, and white. There are also unusual speckled or marbled varieties with several colors blended together. Red is the most popular color, accounting for roughly three-quarters of all sales nationwide, which is more than 34 million a year, followed by white and pink.

The best way to prolong the life of this Christmas plant is to avoid hot or cold drafts, keep the soil moist not soggy, and place in a room with sufficient natural light and temperatures of around 60 to 70 degrees. Be sure to water when the soil begins to dry. Once the leaves wilt too far, it's too late. Above all, protect it from exposure to wind or cold on the way home from the store. Poinsettias are highly sensitive to cold temperatures and even a few minutes of exposure to 50-degree or lower temperatures will cause them to wilt. When cared for properly, the poinsettia will usually outlast the Christmas season for which they make such a beautiful decoration.

Cattle Thefts on the Rise in Tennessee

"Count your cattle." That’s the advice of Ag Crime investigator supervisor Max Thomas. The state's Agriculture Crime Unit is working with local authorities to investigate recent cases of cattle theft.

"We have seen an increase in thefts. Beef prices are high, and that can motivate thieves," Thomas said.

Nationwide, the beef supply has diminished yet the demand remains. Although prices can vary depending on sex, size and condition, cattle are currently selling for as much as $3.25 per pound.

For 2014, the department has investigated a total of 22 theft cases involving 151 head of cattle. Thirteen cases remain open. Those active cases include the theft of 30 cattle, taken from a farm in Spring Hill in October.  To better serve rural citizens, farmers and forest landowners, the Ag Crime Unit now has a statewide toll free number. To report a cattle theft, contact TDA's Ag Crime Unit at 1-844-AGCRIME or 1-844-242-7463.

State investigators work closely with local authorities and livestock markets to track and recover stolen animals. However livestock owners are encouraged to take action to guard their investment.

To keep your herd secure:

* Count cattle every day
* Report thefts to local law enforcement immediately
* Make sure gates are locked, and if possible, well lit
* Identification can deter thieves and speed recovery

For more information, you can read a recent interview the Tennessee Cattlemen's Association conducted with our Ag Crime Unit investigators about cattle theft.

Tennessee Agricultural Museum Celebrates the Holidays with a Christmas Open House

The sounds and smells of Christmas filled the air at the Tennessee Agricultural Museum earlier this month during their annual Christmas Open House.

Guests enjoyed holiday music, ham and biscuits, cookies and hot apple cider as they toured the museum and browsed the assortment of Christmas displays and items for purchase.

Nearly 400 people attended the event which has been a holiday staple for more than 20 years. A tour group from Canada even made a stop at the museum on their way down to Florida.

Thank you to all of the museum friends who helped decorate and make the museum especially warm, inviting and festive for the guests.

If you missed it, be sure and put it on your Christmas to-do-list for next year. For information about all of the events at the Tennessee Agricultural Museum, visit


USDA Surveying Cattle Operations Due to Record Low Inventory

In January, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will survey more than 40,000 cattle operations nationwide to provide an up-to-date measure of U.S. cattle inventories.

"In January 2014, NASS reported that the cattle inventory in the United States was the lowest since the 82.1 million head recorded in 1951," said Tennessee State Statistician Debra Kenerson. "Obtaining the current count of cattle will serve as a critical decision-making tool for producers and the entire agriculture industry."

During the first two weeks of January, Tennessee producers will have the opportunity to report their beef and dairy cattle inventories, calf crop, death loss and cattle on feed operations. To make it as easy as possible for producers to participate in the survey, NASS offers the option of responding via the Internet, telephone, mail or a personal interview with a local NASS representative.

"This information helps producers make timely, informed marketing decisions and plan for herd expansion or reduction. It also helps packers and government evaluate expected slaughter volume for future months and determine potential supplies for export," Kenerson explained.

As is the case with all NASS surveys, information provided by respondents is confidential by law. NASS safeguards the privacy of all responses and publishes only state- and national-level data, ensuring that no individual producer or operation can be identified.

The January Cattle report will be released on January 30, 2015. This and all NASS reports are available online at For more information, call the NASS Tennessee Field Office at 1-800-626-0987.
Ellington Agricultural Center | 440 Hogan Road | Nashville, TN 37220