Johnny Morgan | 5/9/2016 1:05:20 PM
(05/04/16) BATON ROUGE, La. – Sheep and goat producers received valuable production information at the 11th annual Small Ruminant Field Day held at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine on April 30.
The event, which was co-sponsored by the Southern University Ag Center and LSU AgCenter along with the Kentwood Coop., provided participants with a wealth of information on animal care.
LSU AgCenter professor of animal sciences Ken McMillin said the overall goal of the field day is to provide producers with the latest information available in the industry.
“We also want to make sure that those who are new in the industry are using research-based information in their operations,” he said. “We also want them to know that we are resources for them throughout the year.”
Sheep and goats, along with swine, are among the smallest animal industries in Louisiana, with chickens No. 1, followed by beef and dairy cattle, McMillin said.
“The small ruminants are a growing industry in the state, but they are not yet a dominant factor,” he said.
Consumers of small ruminant products, whether milk or meat are a varied group7.
“There are Muslims and Jewish people who are heavy consumers, and there are some Hispanic groups, but not all are highly involved in the consumption of the milk and meat of small ruminants,” he said.
The segment of the population that is consuming goat and lamb is increasing because of health factors associated with the milk and meat.
About 85 percent of the goats in the U.S. are meat goats, but a segment of the industry has developed for dairy products such as milk and cheese, he said.
“In Louisiana, about 75 percent of our producers are involved in raising goats for meat production,” he said.
Those in attendance ranged from very small operators, who may be raising two or three animals for their children’s 4-H and FFA projects, to some larger operations that have a mixture of sheep, goats and cattle, he said.
In addition to looking at marketing, other topics included forage management, nutrition and health interactions.
Grazing specialist Stuart Gardner, with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, presented information on proper forage management and reminded the group that one of his major goals is to help them learn to work with nature and not against it.
“I’m trying to provide these producers with information that will hopefully help them avoid some of the typical pitfalls that are encountered by small ruminant producers in south Louisiana,” Gardner said.
A major challenge of raising sheep and goats is avoiding unnecessary feed costs when natural forages could be better than the “silver bullet” approaches that tend to increase overhead with limited economic benefits, he said.
“In order for a producer to break even or make a profit in his or her operation, it is helpful to compare the cost of a forage-based diet at about one or two cents per pound of dry matter, versus some goats feeds that costs in the neighborhood of 40 cents per pound,” he said.
Nancy Engelberg travelled from Middleton, Tennessee, to gain more information on producing and marketing sheep as she prepares to enter the business.
“I have 77 acres that I am preparing to start my small sheep operation on,” she said. “It used to be a goat operation, so everything is there, but I just need production information, so I’m attending as many of these type meetings as possible to gain a working knowledge of the industry.”
Her plan is to produce wool with her sheep.
Drug use and off-label issues and parasite control was a topic discussed by Dr. Matt Welborn, professor of food animal health management and a veterinarian in the vet school.
Wellborn explained the complexities of drug use in meat animals and the fact that it can be very complicated.
“One of the major things I want to impart to the producers is the importance of utilizing the services of a veterinarian so they are using drugs in the best and safest manner for their animals,” he said.
Most animal producers haven’t had training in how different antibiotics work, which diseases they work best against and what their withdrawal times are, Wellborn said.
Reproductive performance is a major factor in animal production, said Dr. Clare Scully, assistant professor of food animal medicine and surgery and veterinarian in the vet school.
Scully is looking at transcervical artificial insemination in goats. “We’ve seen some good, positive pregnancy rates, and we are hoping to be able to offer this service at LSU in the upcoming year,” she said.
The hands-on sessions included procedures such as injections, fecal collection, blood collection and body conditioning scores.
During the working lunch, participants were allowed to get their FAMACHA certification, which is a diagnostic tool to help farmers identify parasite infection in sheep and goats. The tool is a chart that matches eyelid color to anemia levels, an indicator of parasite infection.
Southern University animal scientist Sebhatu Gebrelul and veterinarian Dr. Renita Marshall gave a research update on ongoing projects at their university.
“One of the highlights of our program is a new grant from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry that will provide for a Master Small Ruminant certification similar to the Master Cattleman and Master Farmer programs,” Gebrelul said.
The grant also will provide funds for a mobile unit that will allow scientists to take their expertise to the parishes instead of producers having to come to Baton Rouge.
The three-year grant will consist of three levels that will require 20 hours of training in business development, nutrition, marketing and recordkeeping.
Savannah goats housed at the LSU AgCenter Central Research Station in Baton Rouge. (Photo by Olivia McClure, LSU AgCenter)
LSU AgCenter professor of animal sciences Ken McMillin answers questions about nutrition options for sheep and goat producers at the 11th annual Small Ruminant Field Day held at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine on April 30. (Photo by Johnny Morgan, LSU AgCenter)
Grazing specialist Stuart Gardner, with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, discusses the importance of proper forage management at the 11th annual Small Ruminant Field Day held at the LSU Vet School on April 30. (Photo by Johnny Morgan, LSU AgCenter)