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The University of Tennessee | Institute of Agriculture

Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics

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The livestock industry is of great importance to the state of Tennessee.  With Tennessee ranking ninth in number of beef cows, 14th in number of all cattle and calves, second to only Texas in equine and meat goats, the livestock industry contributes 30% of the total farm cash receipts.  Tennessee’s livestock industry is well-placed and has access to the abundant resources it needs not only to sustain itself, but to increase its competitiveness and profitability.

The Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics strives to prepare the future leaders of the livestock industry through our teaching programs, by conducting research on the issues facing the industry today, and striving to improve today’s decision makers’ knowledge, understanding and application of economics to issues facing them through our Extension programs.

  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Extension

While no courses in the Department are devoted solely to livestock enterprises, they enter the teaching program in a variety of ways.  Many examples involving beef cattle, swine, and broilers are used in various courses in the teaching program, especially in farm management (Ag Econ 342) and marketing (Ag Econ 350).  Several additional courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels also utilize livestock as objects for discussion and development of economic and business principles.  The economic and business principles developed in agricultural economics courses can be combined with course work in animal sciences, forages, and food science available in other departments to provide an in-depth understanding of livestock businesses.

The following are some current livestock research projects:

"Evaluation of Marketing Channels and Practices for Tennessee Feeder Cattle"
- Dan McLemore, Professor and Damon Drinnon, Graduate Research Assistant

This research project is evaluating feeder cattle price differentials between video board sales and traditional auction markets and examining the sources of those differentials.  Sources of interest include lot size, cattle quality, other cattle characteristics, weighing conditions, price/weight slides, reputations of sellers, health programs, source verification, and other information provided by sellers.  The project was initiated in 2008.

"Analysis of Bioenergy Crops as a Production Alternative for a Representative East Tennessee Beef and Crop Farm"
- James Larson, Associate Professor and Andrew Griffith, Graduate Research Assistant

The objective of this research is to evaluate the risk and profitability tradeoffs of producing bioenergy crops in East Tennessee. Switchgrass production may become a feasible enterprise in East Tennessee because of the proposed development of the biorefinery using switchgrass as the feedstock at the Niles Ferry Industrial Park in Vonore, TN. Because switchgrass can be a high yielding crop on marginal land, it is potentially an ideal energy crop that could be introduced into the feasible farm enterprise mix in East Tennessee. How competitive switchgrass would be with other farm enterprises such as beef cattle production would depend on the risk and profitability tradeoffs among the alternatives. Beef cattle production is an important farm enterprise in East Tennessee that is primarily produced on marginal agricultural lands that might be used for switchgrass production.

"Solutions to Small and Medium Sized Farm and Ranch Challenges"
- James Larson, Associate Professor

The goal of this research is to improve small and medium-sized farm survivability – specifically the sustainability of cow-calf operations – by 1) integrating and leveraging research, education, and extension activities through the creation of a whole-farm economic biological institutional stochastic simulation model (WEBISSM) of and for small to medium cow-calf firms and 2) developing this base model into three distinct application interfaces for classroom instructors, extension professionals and educators, and researchers. WEBISSM will incorporate an existing cow-calf physical (biological) simulation model into region specific firm level, stochastic economic simulation models adaptable for three discrete uses: 1) as a research instrument, 2) as an instructional and training tool for postsecondary educators, and 3) as an extension education and programming tool.

"An Economic Analysis of the Social Costs of the Industrialized Production of Pork in the United States"
- Harwood Schaffer, Pracha Koonnathamdee, Research Associates, and Daryll E. Ray, Professor

One of the explanations for the increase of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) is that they are more cost efficient than smaller operations. Critics have argued that they are more cost efficient because they are able to externalize significant costs ( e.g. air pollution, water pollution) and if these externalized costs were taken into account, CAFOs might be less cost efficient than smaller traditional operations. This study examines that assertion by looking at the issue of manure handling in the production of hogs.

Publications are listed on our Livestock Publications page.

The Extension faculty provide up-to-date market information to Tennessee's livestock producers through weekly and monthly publications.

The Extension faculty are also actively involved with county Extension Agents, Area Farm Management Specialists and other state specialists in teaching producers what is taking place in the marketplace and how that impacts their operations. To learn more about resources available, visit our livestock economics page.