August 2008
For What It's Worth

For What It's Worth

by Robert Spencer

Some of you may have observed there are a tremendous number of goat-related activities taking place throughout the state. It is amazing all of the outreach/educational and organizational efforts on a state-wide basis. For those of you who may not be "in the loop," this article will attempt to direct your attention towards a few of those activities.

AL Agricultural A+ Marketing Association (AAA+MA)

This association became a legal cooperative within the past year. It is the first-ever agricultural marketing cooperative in Alabama with a multi-commodity focus on goats, sheep and rabbits. It offers an opportunity for non-traditional and limited-resource livestock producers to unite and collectively market their animals through a state-wide based agricultural marketing cooperative.

The organization will serve the marketing needs of its producer groups and members by utilizing appropriate and effective marketing strategies to collectively market their products. This will include cohesive coordination of uniform production and processing practices with the result being safe and quality food products. This holistic approach is expected to increase the success and satisfaction of all parties involved, increase individual farm revenues for its membership and economically benefit local communities in ways to encourage their support for local agriculture production.

Each commodity group will eventually have its own regional representation; thereby allowing it to better serve the needs of its members. Long-term plans include other producer groups with commodities like shrimp, catfish, sweet potatoes, watermelon, etc. By no means are any of these associations intended to compete with or replace other commodity associations or groups but rather to serve as a marketing facilitator only. Primary Contact: Mr. J.C. Holt 256-446-5210.

2nd Annual Small Ruminant Conference

Goat and sheep producers are invited to attend the Annual Conference on Small Ruminants on August 22-23 at the Alabama 4-H Center in Columbiana. If you visit you can learn more about this second annual event. This Conference is designed to educate sheep and goat producers on genetic and reproductive management issues affecting small ruminant herd productivity and profitability in the Southeast. It is sponsored by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s Urban Affairs and New Nontraditional Programs.

Participants will have a chance to hear experts from across the South.

While there is no fee for the conference, participants are responsible for their meals and lodging expenses. For additional conference information contact Dr. Maria Leite-Browning at (256)372-4954. The Goat and Sheep Producers of Alabama have been strong supporters of these types of activities. 

Master Meat Goat Herdsman Program

This program is in the process of being initiated by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s Urban Affairs and New Nontraditional Programs (ACES/UA&NNTP) and will be launched on a state-wide basis beginning in 2009.  Currently, within Alabama, there are no established best management or production practices/guidelines for meat goat production. Experts within ACES/UA&NNTP recognize this and are taking the lead on implementing a state-wide program for existing and potential meat goat producers. 

Similar programs have been implemented in some states and eagerly embraced by many meat goat producers. The lengthy educational sessions will include classroom training complimented by hands-on demonstrations and activities. The various components will address areas like fundamentals of production, health care and management, parasite identification and management, production concerns and management, marketing strategies and options, and other areas. Educational publications, informational CDs and a diploma will be made available for those completing the entire course. For more information contact one of the following: Mr. Robert Spencer at (256) 766-6223, Tommie Teacher at (334) 624-8710 or Eddie Wheeler at (256) 582-2009.

Word of Caution About Alternative Feeds

As prices of feeds for livestock continue to rise, I more frequently hear stories about producers trying to reduce feed costs by switching to forms of other livestock feeds not specific for animals on that farm and then experiencing problems. This is not a good idea!! In the short run, you may save a few dollars, but, in the long run, your herd may experience health complications, even mortality. You may not be able to readily identify the source of the problem and experience additional healthcare costs. Nutrition specialists formulate these rations to include nutrients, minerals and vitamins, etc. specifically for health factors and needs relevant to each species. In goat rations copper, selenium, magnesium, etc. are included to maintain the immune system and reproductive efficiencies in goats. Goat rations should contain ammonium chloride which is important in preventing urinary calculi in male goats. Also, these rations are formulated to contain high amounts of copper, which sheep are sensitive to and may experience toxic reactions. If you are considering using alternative forms of feed to cut costs, you should be aware of the potential for complications!

Robert Spencer is a contributing writer from Florence.