Success StoryTeaching small ruminant production to new farmers

Teaching small ruminant production to new farmers

Author: Jerusha Lay

Planning Unit: KSU Administration

Major Program: Small Ruminants

Outcome: Intermediate Outcome

Teaching small ruminant production to new farmers

Kentucky State offers a variety of programs to help small and beginning livestock farmers. These programs range from educational presentations, hands-on workshops, small ruminant herd appraisals, funding opportunities/grants, and email or phone consultations or on farm consultations. Sometimes situation arise that farmers may not be prepared for. For Mike Long and LHC farm this came when a close friend suddenly passed away. At the time of his death his friend had a herd of goats. With no family or anyone else to help with the animals, Mr. Long acquired them. While he had prior experience with cattle he was new to the world of goats. After a couple months struggling with a variety of problems from predators, to breeding management, death and illnesses and parasites, Mr. Long reached out to Dr. Lay for advice in 2017. That year out of a total of 112 goats (adults and kids), he had a death loss of 22%, reproductive losses and poor growth rates and 14 of 23 kids produced died. 

Kentucky State University’s Animal Health Specialist, Dr. Lay, made an onsite farm visit to assess what areas of management needed improvement. For new and beginning small ruminant farmers, trying to become an expert overnight is often overwhelming. Dr. Lay provided education and guidance on areas that could help Mr. Longs’ production. Topics on facility management (fencing, feeders, shelter, and predator protection), nutrition of the herd, and health were addressed. Once these areas were under control, the farmer was able to set up a breeding program. Mr. Long also attended workshops on how to identify and treat parasites, Third Thursday, Fort Harrod goat association educational meetings and followed up with several consultations throughout 2017-2019.

Mr. Long worked hard and made all the necessary adjustments. Slowly he began seeing many positive changes in his herd. After two years consisting of three site visits and numerous consultations and a lot of work on his part his farm, the farmer said, “I found some pictures of when I first got my goats. It was awful, skinny, with long coarse hair coats and wormy. I was so proud of them and didn’t even realize how bad it was. If any of my goats looked like that now, I would be calling you in an absolute panic.” The farmer has increased his herd size of breeding does, his animals are in overall better health and higher producing. In 2018 he only lost 10 of 58 kids born and in 2019 his losses were down even more to only 6 deaths of 79 kids, (compared to 2017, death loss 14 of 23). His farm has become more profitable and his farm more sustainable. Mr. Long has also recently been awarded the small scale farm grant for 5,000 dollars in agroforestry to expand his goat production and maintain forest on his farm. We will continue to stay in touch with Mr. Long as well as other small farms throughout the state to be an educational resource to improve animal health and sustainability of small farms.

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