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Cain Family Farm wins State Prescribed Grazing Hero Award

Cain Family Farm

Cain Family Farms was just recently awarded the Grazing Hero Award at the Kentucky Association of Conservation Districts Annual Convention in Bowling Green in August. The award is one of the top honors a farmer can receive and is given to the most sustainable beef cattle operation in the state. 

Farms in contention for the award are utilizing methods to improve grazing efficiency by moving rotating cattle to different paddocks to improve forage performance; excluding animals from creeks, rivers, and ponds and maintaining high fertility levels and desirable forages.  Also, farmers must be serving as a mentor for other farmers and youth and allowing agencies to use their farm for training activities. The Cain family ranked higher than any other operation in Kentucky in all of these categories.

Cain Farms comprises approximately 350 total acres located in the Tye Bend area of the Fighting Creek Watershed of the Cumberland River in Knox County; the Mackey Bend area on the Cumberland River in Knox County; and the Lawson Bend on the Cumberland River in Whitley County. 

The Cains operate a beef livestock, corn, and hay operation.  Weed control and improving the forage and hay on their acreage was a primary concern when they decided to begin this operation. Cain Family Farms is owned and operated by Bill Cain (father), Larry Cain (son), Billy Cain (son), Joshua Cain (grandson), and Zachary Cain (grandson).

The Cain family began implementation of the prescribed grazing process in late 2006, when they sought technical assistance from NRCS.  High water inundation by the Cumberland River and a contaminant weed problem led the Cains too consider the benefits of implementing a prescribed grazing plan.

After consulting with local NRCS staff, the Cains recognized they were carrying too many animal units on the amount of pasture available and they had a considerable stream bank erosion problem due to livestock roaming.  As a result, the Cains decided to reduce the number of animal units and fence off their pasture from the river because they had previously lost stock due to crippling and drowning. 

They also decided to install pipelines and watering facilities as planned by NRCS. These improvements greatly contributed to the improved quality of forages, due primarily to increased rotation via paddock use.

The Cains wish to further their efforts for Prescribed Grazing by additional division of pastures. This will be addressed with the implementation of items as set forth in their current Natural Resources Conservation Service Environmental Quality Incentives Program Contract. Also, the contract includes additional fencing and watering facility installations.

By following their grazing plan, the Cains are beginning to see the economic benefit associated with the improved quality of their pasture and hay. Also, the reduction of soil loss and improved soil quality as a result of proper stocking and rotation is apparent. The reduction of weed control cost has been a pleasant surprise to them and lime and fertilizer expenses also are beginning to decrease.

The Cain family is devoted to stewardship of natural resources and participates in farm field days with local student groups. They provide instruction with the ethic of sustainable agriculture at its core and provide a model of conservation and sustainability for the state.