Small Ruminant Producers Program: A pilot program for small ruminant producers and county agents

Final report for EDS20-14

Project Type: Education Only
Funds awarded in 2020: $31,895.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2023
Grant Recipients: North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University; North Carolina State University
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Andrea Gentry-Apple
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
Johnny Rogers
North Carolina State University
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Project Information


Over the last 10 years, there has been increased interest in small ruminant production in North Carolina, especially goat production. Total sheep and meat goats in North Carolina increased by 7.4% and 4.3%, respectively from 2018 to 2019. In addition, using sheep to manage grass in solar farms has increased sheep inventories. There is a growing demand from ethnic groups to supply lamb and goat meat. Additionally, niche meat market production, grass-fed, and organic production are on the rise. However, the United States continues to import lamb and goat meat for domestic consumption. In order to meet this demand, producers are responding by entering into small ruminant production. However, knowledge gaps exist on proper small ruminant production management, especially nutrition management, genetic selection, and parasite control methods. Feed costs often account for the highest production costs for small ruminant operations; thus, leading to sustainability challenges. To increase animal productivity, sustainability, and profitability, this program will be developed to aid and equip producers with necessary resources and educational materials for small ruminant production. Through the utilization of low-cost production management practices and enhanced animal productivity, producers will achieve optimum production while producing a quality product. The Small Ruminant Producers Program (SRPP) will target to educate producers on total enterprise management, nutrition and feeding, herd health, breeding practices, facility design, and economics and marketing. The program will be designed as a holistic management education program. As the herd progresses through a production cycle, specific management areas will be considered and taught representative of production stage. Introducing producers to year-round production cycles will help their understanding of how production cycles influence and impact their animals and operation’s profitability. As the herd/flock progress through a production cycle, needs and requirements change; therefore, the course will be taught to match the production stage of the animals. The program will incorporate best management practices, novel marketing approaches, and cost-effective management solutions. Developing a program that will allow producers to emphasize nutrition will allow for the utilization of forages, strategize concentration supplementation, decrease production costs, and feed animals to their genetic potential. Overall, the program will emphasize best management practices that will lead to enhanced animal productivity, while incorporating low-cost management practices leading to increased producer viability.   

A statewide small ruminant producer’s curriculum, Small Ruminant Producer, will be developed to aid both producers and county agents in making informed management decisions. Additionally, the program will encourage confidence through education and knowledge gained for producers and county agents. Though the curriculum is being developed for North Carolina small ruminant producers, the manual would have the potential to be used by neighboring states for education and outreach.

Project Objectives:
  1. To further define the needs of small-scale, minority small ruminant producers in North Carolina.
    1. For this objective, a survey instrument will be developed for producers to complete a pre-program survey. The survey will ask producers to detail their current enterprise or operation. Producers will provide information regarding needs, challenges and obstacles, and current successes. The survey will not be limited to animal production assessments but rather open-ended for producers to include feedback such as securing finances and market access. Based on the responses, our group will be better able to understand our participants and prioritize aspects of the program.
    2. Our target audience will be geared towards producers that have had small ruminants less than 5 years, making them a novice in many regards. Because of this, it necessitates the need to poll and survey producers beyond our participant group. Surveys will be mailed or emailed to small ruminant producers across the state to get a better understanding of the needs and challenges facing NC small ruminant producers.
  2. To assist small ruminant producers for long-term, sustainable practices through low-cost management decisions that will lead to enhanced animal well-being.
    1. Increasing producer efficiency will be vital to the success of farm profitability and sustainability. Implementing low-cost solutions that are both practical and effective will allow producers to make subtle, but impactful changes. Emphasis will be given towards producers utilizing forage-based systems for grazing and browsing. Utilization of forage, through grazing and forage management practices, will be advantageous for producers because forage-based nutrition programs are often the most economic decisions (Chaudhry, 2008). However, more information (research) is needed to support nutrient requirements and economical grazing systems for goats (Luginbuhl et al., 1996). For example, but not limited to the following:
      1. Pasture improvements
      2. Mineral incorporation
  • Selective genetics and culling criteria
  1. To develop educational materials for small ruminant producers and county agents that will discuss small ruminant production through improved animal well-being, profitability, and sustainability.
    1. Development of lectures, presentations, and demonstrations that can be used by producers for self-study or by county agents for trainings and workshops.
    2. Development of Small Ruminant Producers Curriculum for North Carolina will be developed. The program team will produce a well-rounded, comprehensive curriculum that will give emphasis to holistic, systems-approach small ruminant production. Narrated lectures and instructional videos will further enhance producer education. Each educational item will be intentional and be able to be read or viewed by the participants.
  2. To determine the impact of the program, project leaders will conduct follow-up farm visits and consultations.

Surveys will be mailed and/or emailed to first-year participants. Follow-up visits to assess program incorporation will be conducted on program participant’s farms. The leaders of this group acknowledge that not all participants will want to participate in follow-up visits; however, we will strongly encourage this activity. 


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Dr. Janine Parker (Educator)


Educational approach:

Curriculum Topics:

  1. Introduction to small ruminants and production goals:
    1. Business basics
    2. Budgets
    3. Record keeping
    4. Species differences (i.e. grazing behaviors) 
  2. Fencing and Predator Protection
    1. Temporary vs Permanent
    2. Guardian Animals
  3. General Husbandry
    1. How and why to perform certain management practices (not all inclusive, examples provided):
  1. Hoof trimming
  2. Body condition scoring and weighing
  • Restraint
  1. Ear tagging
    1. Recommended production tools
    2. Balancing Rations
  1. Before breeding:
    1. Selecting quality breeding stock
    2. Dam management
    3. Sire management
  2. Breeding season:
    1. Strategies
    2. Animal health
    3. Nutrition
  3. Gestation: animal health and nutrition
    1. Maintenance requirements until late gestation
    2. Monitoring doe/ewe condition
    3. Flushing ewes/does
    4. Vaccinations, parasite control
    5. Necessary supplies and equipment
  4. Lambing/Kidding season: pre-parturition management, stages of parturition, lamb/kid care, and dam nutrition
    1. Management of new offspring (not all inclusive, examples provided):
  1. Tube feeding
  2. Castration
  • Dehorning
  1. Lamb/kid nutrition
    1. Dam management
    2. Vaccinations and herd/flock health
  1. Weaning: dependent on production goals and market strategies
    1. Culling strategies
  2. Dry season maintenance: animal health and nutrition
    1. Evaluate and review management practices and production goals
  1. Adjust management practices if necessary

Additional Topics

  1. Nutrition: beyond the basics
  2. Economics and Marketing
  3. Strategic Deworming and Parasite Control Methods
  4. Options for seeding pastures without a tractor



Methods of delivery

To encourage participation, many different delivery methods will be utilized throughout the course of this project. Previous extension programs have utilized non-formal structure delivery which allows for more flexibility in program delivery (Guion, 2006). Combined approaches incorporating experimental, reinforcement, and integrative methodologies will be used throughout the project. Classroom education will be delivered through several platforms including, but not limited to the following:

  1. PowerPoints and lectures
  2. Open Group Discussions
  3. Handouts
  4. Curriculum book
  5. Videos
  6. Farm tours of local small ruminant producers
  7. Visual aids: management tools, anthelmintics, types of minerals, types of feedstuffs, anatomy models.


Additionally, methods of delivery will also include day workshops and demonstrations with various methods of presentation applications that will be utilized to enhance participant learning. According to Franz et al., (2009), farmers prefer to learn first through hands-on learning then through demonstration. It will be vital to the success of this program and producer education for the program leaders to offer a variety of teaching methods. After the completion of the program, participants will have the opportunity to schedule follow-up farm visits in order to receive feedback and recommendations for production improvements. Also, to further aid in producer participation Zoom sessions will be offered to enrolled producers who are unable to be physically present for certain activities. For example, during lambing and kidding season parturition could occur anytime; therefore, we would offer real-time, immediate access through Zoom (or Zoom-like platform) for our producers to view the birthing process.

Educational & Outreach Activities

1 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

5 Farmers participated
5 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

We are looking to have five farmers at the North Carolina A&T State University farm. 

Project Outcomes

1 New working collaboration
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.