January 2007
Featured Articles

A Year of Helping Goat Producers

By Robert Spencer

 
  Robert Spencer, Extension Scientist and Specialist, meets with a farmer in Limestone County.
Looking back upon 2006, there have been a lot of workshops, seminars and symposiums addressing goat production. Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES), Auburn University and Tuskegee University have made a concerted effort to make sure goat producers receive an abundant amount of information relevant to their needs.

Alabama ranks number eight among other states in their goat population, so it is understandable why so much attention is being given to goat production and producers. Goat production is one of the fastest growing components of livestock production throughout the entire United States.

ACES and producer groups have made a strong effort to help address the needs and challenges of the goat industry within Alabama. Unless someone has attended some of these meetings, they may not realize all that has taken place over the past year. For those who may not be aware, this article will summarize many of these accomplishments.

Beginning in February, ACES held a goat and sheep workshop in Huntsville. It was attended by over one hundred potential and existing small ruminant producers from Alabama and Tennessee. The temperatures outside were cold but the snow cooperated by staying in Tennessee.

Then Auburn took the initiative a few months later and held a goat workshop at their University. They utilized some of their own experts and brought in others from out of state. The event organizers did a good job of bringing in attendees from all over Alabama and Georgia.

About a month later, Tuskegee University held their annual goat workshop. For many years Tuskegee has been doing an impressive job of addressing the needs of goat producers throughout all of Alabama and Tennessee. They were conducting goat workshops when goat production was just beginning to take hold in Alabama.

About a month later Auburn University held another workshop, this time specifically addressed to dairy goat production and producers. This is the first time that such a workshop had solely addressed issues associated with dairy goats and diary goat milk production. The event was well attended and greatly appreciated by dairy goat producers throughout Alabama and Georgia. It is not often an entire workshop focuses on this niche area of production. There are plans for another one in 2007.

In May, the organization of Goat and Sheep Producers of Alabama held their own Goat Festival in Talladega. No, it was not held at the raceway, but it was as much fun as a race. People came from Alabama and Georgia to see a variety of goats and sheep, listen to speakers discussing issues relevant to small ruminant production, and watch a variety of demonstrations including herding dogs working with sheep and goats. It was definitely a well-attended festival that offered some form of fun for all family members, including the goat dressing contest.

In June, the Small Farms Research Center of Alabama A & M University held a seminar that focused on alternative enterprises in agriculture. They addressed goat, rabbit and organic vegetable production. The audience filled the conference room of the Agribition Center in Huntsville. The topics and displays were greatly appreciated by those attending this event.

In July, ACES hired a Scientist and a Specialist whose focuses are on nothing but goat, sheep and rabbit production issues. They hit the ground running, getting the word out that Extension is here to help goat, sheep, and rabbit producers and address their needs.

From July through November, ACES was a part of at least sixteen workshops. That averages out to slightly over three workshops per month! Their efforts took place throughout the entire state, and a few times outside of Alabama. Their goal was to let people throughout Alabama realize that ACES is here to help all producers in the state.

Producers in the counties of Escambia, Mobile, Montgomery, Clay, Randolph, Limestone, Lauderdale, Marshall, and Madison all had opportunities to attend workshops in their areas. If you are interested in having a workshop of this type in your area feel free to contact someone from Cooperative Extension and request such a workshop be held in your county!

What does 2007 hold with outreach efforts that benefit the Small Ruminant Industry within Alabama? So far the following are planned: The Goat and Sheep Producers of Alabama have a meeting scheduled for January 9th in Talladega. Cooperative Extension has plans for a series of goat workshops to be held in various locations throughout the state that focus on parasite identification and management.

They also have planned a Goat Herd Health Management Seminar on March 17 in Huntsville. Auburn University has plans for another goat workshop in March or April. Tuskegee University has plans for their annual goat workshop a short time later. In May or June, the Goat and Sheep Producers of Alabama will host their annual Goat & Sheep Festival.

In June, Cooperative Extension has plans for a Dairy Goat Workshop in North Alabama. On September 29th, Cooperative Extension will host a Reproductive Management Workshop in Huntsville.

As you can see there are already lots of activities relevant to goat and sheep production that are planned for 2007! If you would like to make something happen in your area, feel free to contact Robert Spencer at 256-766-6223 or Maria Browning at 256-372-4954. They are looking for opportunities to help throughout the entire state!

Robert Spencer is the Urban Regional Extension Specialist in the Urban Affairs and New Nontraditional Programs Unit & The Urban Centers in North America for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.