December 2007
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A Brief Overview of the Alabama Goat Industry: 2007

By Robert Spencer

The goat industry within Alabama made significant progress in 2007. Additional marketing opportunities began to develop as plans for a new large-scale processing facility in North Alabama is expected to become reality. And, formation of a statewide agriculture marketing cooperative began. Also taking place during 2007, specialists and scientists from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) were making statewide efforts with educational outreach programs. During the course of the year they also developed an abundance of educational fact sheets which addressed areas such as health, management, marketing and reproduction. As you can see, it has been a busy year for leaders and educators within the Alabama Meat Goat Industry.

For years goat producers have been calling for a facility that would commercially process goats with the potential to process sheep and rabbits, and for it to be a USDA inspected facility. This would allow packaged meats to be sold at grocery stores and restaurants across the nation. In the early part of 2007, various parties with a vested interest and businessmen from Pennsylvania met several times with the goal of identifying the potential and a location for a processing facility. Midsummer 2007 Alabama legislatures approved legislation which made arrangements for financial resources to secure a commercial processing facility in North Alabama. As you read this article, arrangements are being made to renovate this facility with the anticipation it will be up and running by mid-summer 2008. Imagine that, goat meat that is graded, USDA approved and a packaged-in-Alabama product becoming readily available in stores and restaurants across America.

While all this was taking place, some of these same Alabamians realized there was the need for a formal agriculture marketing cooperative to serve farmers throughout the state. While their primary focus was goat, sheep and rabbit producers, they have plans to include an array of agriculture commodities with the potential for state and national distribution. It is truly amazing what a handful of people can accomplish when they have unified interests and believe in helping farmers.

Recognizing the potential for growth in the Alabama meat goat industry Cooperative Extension’s Urban Affairs and New Nontraditional Programs (UA&NNTP) has made ongoing efforts to educate potential and existing producers on various aspects of goat production. A series of seminars, conferences and workshops took place throughout much of the state. The Annual Small Ruminant Spring Symposium which took place in Huntsville focused on health and healthcare issues for goats and sheep. The Annual Small Ruminant Summer Conference which took place in Talladega addressed nutrition, feeds and feeding, and natural resource management issues. A series of workshops taking place in most of the state addressed areas like parasite identification and management, reproductive management, marketing, dairy goat production and healthcare. Events were well attended and producer interest was sincere.

Extension Scientist and Specialist from both Alabama A&M University and Auburn University are responsible for developing educational fact sheets which address a variety of areas including disease and health issues, reproduction and reproductive management, marketing and so on.

There currently exist 23 publications on the ACES UA&NNTP website and eight publications on the ACES Animal Science website. How do you find this information? There are several ways: visit the UA&NNTP website, http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/indexes/unpas.tmpl#small; visit the ACES Animal Science website, http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/indexes/anranisci.tmpl#sheep; or visit your local county Cooperative Extension Office and ask one of the office personnel to show you what is available and to provide copies of the publications you desire. This array of publications will well serve the fundamental needs of goat and sheep producers.

I must also give credit to Tuskegee University for conducting their Annual Goat Day in the spring of each year. Their scientists and specialists always do an outstanding job of addressing the needs and interest of goat producers.

The most impressive aspect of all that has taken place in 2007 is the concerted efforts of various special interest producer groups, academic institutions and outreach agencies who hold an interest in the success of the Alabama Meat Goat Industry. Scientists and specialists from both units of Alabama Cooperative Extension System; the Alabama Farmers Federation; the Goat and Sheep Producers of Alabama; Alabama A & M, Auburn and Tuskegee Universities and The Small Farms Research Center have made significant efforts to ensure potential and existing small ruminant producers have the programs, information and fact sheets they need to enhance their knowledge base, managerial aspects and production efficiencies. Equally important are the efforts by the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, state legislatures and others who have made a unified effort to facilitate the development of marketing opportunities and producer cooperatives in 2007 and have plans for them to become operable in 2008.

Thank you everyone for your concerted efforts. On a personal note, I want to thank Alabama Farmers Cooperative and my wife (editor) for their support. Happy Holidays and I wish everyone the best for 2008.

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