AgCenter Outreach Strengthens Goat and Sheep Industry in Louisiana

Rodney Johnson, Edwards, Ashley K, Lavergne, Michael A., Devall, Hannah

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Rodney Johnson, Hannah Devall, Michael Lavergne and Ashley K. Edwards

Although small compared to poultry and beef cattle, the Louisiana goat industry continues to grow due to the public’s demand for goat products and the ability to raise the animals on smaller pieces of land. Statewide, the goat industry consists of 834 producers in 59 parishes with the total gross farm value of meat goats being $1.95 million. Dairy goat production continues to increase annually, particularly in the southeastern part of the state. A total of 525 does are milked by 37 producers and produce 604,000 pounds of milk, making the gross farm income of the dairy goat industry more than $310,000 annually.

Stemming from this growth, the LSU AgCenter provides an ongoing Master Goat Producer Program in which participants attend three daylong classes that feature lessons and demonstrations by fellow producers, as well as LSU AgCenter, School of Animal Sciences and School of Veterinary Medicine personnel. Topics covered include facilities, breeds, behaviors, selection, management, marketing, food preparation and safety, nutrition, health care and reproduction. Participants receive hands-on opportunities with dehorning, castration, hoof trimming, and certification in use of the FAMACHA card, which is a color-coded tool used to compare the color of animals’ eye mucous membranes to identify and manage internal parasites. Each of these management practices is essential to operations becoming more efficient and economically viable. Interestingly, the two major issues that course participants reported they would like to receive additional information on are reproductive technologies, such as transcervical and laparoscopic artificial insemination, and health care issues pertaining to internal parasites. These will be expanded upon in future programs and events, such as field days. To date, five of these classes have produced 107 graduates.

To further the learning experience for Master Goat Producer Program graduates, the LSU AgCenter previously provided an educational trip to Oklahoma. The trip featured tours of Langston University’s meat and dairy goat farm, a reproductive technologies facility specializing in artificial insemination and embryo transfer, and a leading show goat operation. Being able to learn from producers, industry leaders and specialists outside of the state allowed producers to bring knowledge back to their own operations, which can enhance Louisiana’s meat and dairy goat industries. Positive feedback and success from this first trip led to a second trip being planned for subsequent graduates of the Master Goat Producer Program within the upcoming year.

In addition to the Master Goat Producer Program, LSU AgCenter agents and specialists conducted two small ruminant field days during 2021, where more than 120 producers participated. The first field day focused on meat goat production and was held at C & J Farms in the north-central part of the state. Topics included the implementation of breeding soundness evaluations, nutrition during gestation, body condition scoring and general health care. The second field day emphasized dairy goat management and the production of dairy products and was held in the southeast portion of the state at Circle M Farms and Southern Maids Dairy. Some topics from the first field day were repeated, and milk processing laws and a milking demonstration were also conducted. Additional small ruminant field days will be held in the future to continuously provide goat producers with up-to-date management strategies for their individual operations.

A vital portion of Louisiana’s small ruminant industry, which includes sheep and goats, are the youth raising and exhibiting their animals at livestock shows. These projects take an immense amount of time and afford the participants both educational and leadership opportunities outside of the classroom. To highlight their hard work and achievements, the LSU AgCenter hosts two separate educational opportunities — one for goat exhibitors and the second for sheep exhibitors.

Twenty outstanding goat exhibitors at the LSU State Livestock Show earn the chance to participate in a trip to tour small ruminant research stations, veterinary schools and premier meat and dairy goat farms in surrounding states. This opportunity is designed to increase knowledge of modern technologies in all aspects of small ruminant production, including reproduction, nutrition, parasite control and various marketing options.

For sheep exhibitors, a very similar educational trip is offered in which 20 outstanding exhibitors at the State Fair of Louisiana earn their chance to participate in the North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Kentucky, the largest purebred livestock show in the world. Exhibitors and their animals are transported to the event to compete in what is often a once-in-a-lifetime trip. These youth strive to improve their livestock projects and knowledge of the livestock industries to earn a spot on this trip. LSU AgCenter agents, specialists and volunteers travel with the participants to help prepare their sheep projects for the show ring.

As Louisiana’s goat and sheep industries grow, the LSU AgCenter continues to seek appropriate educational opportunities for producers and youth to further improve their operations. For more information about LSU AgCenter’s small ruminant programs, please contact your local LSU AgCenter Extension Office or Rodney Johnson at rjohnson@agcenter.lsu.edu.

Rodney Johnson is a livestock agent and the Small Ruminant Program coordinator based at the Dean Lee Research and Extension Center in Alexandria. Hannah Devall is the 4-H livestock specialist at the statewide 4-H Youth Development office in Baton Rouge. Michael Lavergne is a livestock agent in Beauregard Parish, and Ashley K. Edwards is the state extension livestock specialist based at Dean Lee in Alexandria.

This article appears in the winter 2023 edition of Louisiana Agriculture.

A selection of goat milk cheeses and desserts sit on a table.

Goat milk products were available for purchase at the Small Ruminant Field Day held Aug. 27, 2021, at Circle M Farms in Franklinton, Louisiana. Photo by Hannah Devall

Two men stand inside an enclosure with goats and speak to people outside the enclosure.

LSU AgCenter livestock agent Rodney Johnson, in pink shirt, shares information with participants at the Small Ruminant Field Day held Aug. 20, 2021, at C&J Farms in Jonesboro, Louisiana. More than 120 producers, combined, participated in the Small Ruminant Field Days held last year. Photo by Ashely Edwards

People gather under a large tent in a field.

Clare Scully, of the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, standing, discusses health care for goats at the Small Ruminant Field Day held Aug. 27, 2021, in Franklinton, Louisiana. Photo by Ashley Edwards

3/14/2023 6:45:26 PM
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