Meat Goat Production from Traditional and Non-Traditional Forage Species Mixtures

Final Report for GNC02-008

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2002: $10,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
David Barker
Ohio State University
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Project Information

Summary:

An indoor and outdoor study, which included the same three spatial scales, were performed to determine the forage species preferred by goats. The indoor and outdoor studies consisted of four and nine forage species, respectively. Traditional species used in both studies included orchardgrass and red clover. Non-traditional species used in both studies included chicory and birdsfoot trefoil. Results showed goats preferred chicory, red clover and orchardgrass, and on average the medium spatial scale was preferred. Throughout, forage preferences and spatial scale effects varied between herds and slightly between animals, but goats preferred to choose from a variety of forages.

Introduction:

The fastest growing animal industry in the United States is the goat industry (Sahlu, 2000). With the influx of more than two million immigrants into the United States each year (U.S. Census, 2000), total ethnic food sales (including goat products) are growing rapidly (Luginbuhl, 2000c; Epstein, 2001). This increase in demand for goat exceeds the existing supply (Smith, 1992; Glimp, 1995). Recent surveys have identified approximately 53 million people in the United States as potential goat meat consumers. If the annual per capita goat meat consumption were 1 kg, there would potentially be a $450 million industry in the United States (Sahlu, 2000). In order to help meet this growing demand for goat products, producers need to increase productivity by improving management and nutrition strategies (Huston, 1978; Glimp, 1995) while utilizing current resources.

Compared to cattle and sheep, there is a general lack of knowledge of management and nutrition practices for goats (Sahlu, 2000). This is true even among current goat producers. Poor management and grazing strategies cause economic losses each year for producers (Sahlu, 2000). Increased knowledge of the production options is one way to combat some of the economic losses. One method of increasing productivity would be to maximize the amount and quality of the forages fed to goats. Tilman (2000) found that mixtures of diverse forage species in a pasture tend to have greater productivity and nutrient retention than those of low species diversity.

Another strategy to increase animal intake would be to feed forages with high palatability, although there is uncertainty concerning goats’ preferred forage species. Goats are more efficient at harvesting certain non-traditional forage species than are other livestock (Glimp, 1995). Even with goats foraging non-traditional species, diet choice and feeding behavior of livestock, including goats, may be influenced by previous experiences (Provenza and Balph, 1987; Edwards et al., 1994; Parsons et al., 1994; Baumont et al., 2000). One objective of this study was to determine some of the preferred forage species for goats in Ohio, including forage species that the animals may have not previously experienced.

Livestock grazing may also be constrained by the spatial distribution of individual species (Edwards et al., 1994; Parsons et al., 1994). Bailey et al. (1996) believed that livestock react to spatial patterns in forage distribution and use this information to improve foraging efficiency. It is hypothesized that the spatial scale, or degree of species mixing, and the number of species offered will affect intake by goats. In order to test the hypothesis and to achieve the aforementioned objectives, two studies were conducted. One study took place in the field, while the other was conducted in barns, in more controlled environments.

Project Objectives:

Participate in production workshops/field days

Meetings with current tobacco producers (to diversify family farm income)

Complete proposed research to determine the potential for meat goat production from Ohio pasture

Contribute to a Factsheet to be released by OSU extension

Present at the annual American Forage and Grassland Council’s annual conference

Participate in extension meetings with OSU and producers

Inform producers of the markets through workshops and extension bulletins

Interview/survey consumers in ethnic communities

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • David Barker
  • David Mangione
  • David Zartman

Research

Materials and methods:
2002 Indoor Study

Plastic tubs measuring 35 cm by 47 cm were filled with approximately 25 kg of a growth media mixture containing 50% Crosby silt loam, 25% sand, and 25% peat soil. Two replications of four forage species, namely orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata), chicory (Cichorium intybus), birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), and red clover (Trifolium pratense), were planted in May 2002. Each replication consisted of five tubs of each species in monoculture, and four tubs of all four species mixed in each tub. The seeding rates for the monocultures were orchardgrass at 51 kg/ha, chicory and birdsfoot trefoil at 25 kg/ha each, and red clover at 32 kg/ha. Tubs were reseeded at the same rate 20 days after the initial seeding because of poor germination. Each species in the mixed tubs was seeded at 25% the rate of the monocultures.

Forages were kept in The Ohio State University, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center’s Gourley Hall greenhouse (Wooster, Ohio) where average maximum daily temperature was 30.5 ºC. Forages were allowed to grow under natural lighting for the period of 1 May to 24 September 2002. Daylength for Wooster, Ohio (40º47’N, 81º55’W) at the start of the experiment was 14 hours and decreased to 12 hours at the end of the experiment. Tubs were watered six times per week.

Grazing trials began approximately two months after the initial seeding. Grazing was repeated biweekly for a total of five times, with one or two replicates used each time. Tubs were grazed by goats in a barn at The Harold Swain family farm in Ashland, Ohio. In the barn, six treatments of three spatial scales were arranged by treatment, with 1.0 to 5.0 m between each treatment. Each treatment consisted of four tubs.

Treatment 1, the small scale, four tubs of all four species planted in each tub were placed together and grazed as a mixture (traditional mixture).

Treatment 2, the medium scale, monoculture tubs of each species were placed next to one another (4 tubs total), and animals had the opportunity to select among all four species (“buffet” mixture).

Treatments 3-6, the large scale, each set of animals grazed four monoculture tubs of each species (16 tubs total).

Six non-lactating female goats of mixed dairy breeds, ages 1-5 years, were fasted overnight and then allowed free choice of the treatments as described above. Goats were allowed approximately three hours of grazing and then removed. Ten height measurements per tub were taken before and after grazing. Composition of the mixed species tubs was also recorded before and after grazing. Following measurements, forages were clipped to a uniform height of 7 cm and allowed two weeks of regrowth. At the end of the study (24 September 2002), all forages were discarded.

2003 Indoor Study

The 2002 study was repeated with a few modifications. Plastic tubs measuring 35 by 47 cm were filled with approximately 20 kg of a growth media containing 33% Crosby silt loam, 33% perlite, 33% peat soil, and 5.7 g lime/L soil. Two replications of four forage species, orchardgrass, chicory, birdsfoot trefoil, and red clover, were planted in March 2003. Each replication consisted of five tubs of each species in monoculture, and four tubs of all four species mixed in each tub. The seeding rates for the monocultures were orchardgrass at 75 kg/ha, chicory and birdsfoot trefoil at 35 kg/ha each, and red clover at 46 kg/ha. The birdsfoot trefoil tubs were reseeded at the same rate 30 days after the initial seeding because of poor germination. Each species in the mixed tubs was seeded at 25% the rate of the monocultures.

Forages were kept in the Ohio State University, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center’s Williams Hall greenhouse (Wooster, Ohio), where average maximum daily temperature was 29.4 ºC. Forages were allowed to grow under natural lighting for the period of 7 March to 19 August 2003. Daylength for Wooster, Ohio (40º47’N, 81º55’W) at the start of the experiment was 11.5 hours and increased to 13.5 hours at the end of the experiment. Tubs were watered six times per week.

Grazing trials began approximately three months after initial seeding. Grazing was repeated weekly for a total of seven times, with one replicate each time. Tubs were grazed by goats in a barn at Acer Acres (Bob Kapper and family) in Apple Creek, Ohio. In the barn, six treatments of three spatial scales were arranged by treatment, with 1.0 to 5.0 m between each treatment. Treatments consisted of four tubs each and were arranged in the barn the same as those described above for the 2002 study.

Six non-lactating female Boer goats, ages 1-5 years, were allowed free choice of the treatments after being fasted overnight. Goats were allowed approximately 15 minutes of grazing time and then removed. Ten height measurements per tub were taken before and after grazing. Composition of the mixed species tubs was also recorded before and after grazing. Following measurements, forages were clipped to a uniform height of 7 cm and allowed two weeks of regrowth. At the end of the study (19 August 2003), all forages were discarded.

Field Study (2002 & 2003)

Ten forage species were established at the Harold Swain family farm in Ashland, Ohio (40º50’N, 82º21’W) in May 2002 using a seeding rate of 1,075 seeds/m2 for all species except chicory (540 seeds/m2), birdsfoot trefoil (2,150 seeds/m2), and Kentucky bluegrass (2,150 seeds/m2). The species used for this experiment included red clover (Trifolium pratense L.) cv Starfire, birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus L.) cv Viking, chicory (Cichorium intybus L.) cv Puna, plantain (Plantago spp.) cv Lancelot, alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) cv Winter Crown, white clover (Trifolium repens L.) cv Jumbo Ladino, orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata L.) cv Tekapo, and perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) cv Tonga. Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis L.) cv Park, was also planted but naturally occurring crabgrass (Digitaria spp.) invaded and was used as an additional forage species.

The soil in the plot area consisted ⅔ of Bogart silt loam (fine-loamy, mixed, mesic Aquic Hapludalfs) and ⅓ of Chili silt loam (fine-loamy, mixed, mesic Typic Hapludalfs), both with 0% to 6% slopes. In March 2003, soil samples were taken. The plots were found to be deficient in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Therefore, once the rain from May 2003 had dried, and the applicator truck was able to get into the field, 560 kg/ha of 19-19-19 were added (2 June 2003). Also, the entire field, with the exception of the Kentucky bluegrass plots, was sprayed with 1.1 kg a.i./ha pendimethalin [N-(1-ethylpropyl)-3,4-dimethyl-2,6-dinitrobenzenamine] in April 2003. This pre-emergent herbicide aimed to prevent crabgrass germination, which was prevalent in 2002. Crabgrass was allowed to germinate in the bluegrass plots for two reasons: 1) because there was insufficient bluegrass present for experimental purposes; and 2) in anticipation that a crabgrass treatment could be added in 2003 to compare with observations of crabgrass from 2002. All plots were chopped for silage three weeks prior to the first grazing in 2003 (26 May 2003). This allowed for fresh regrowth when grazing was started. Also, lambda-cyhalothrin [alpha-cyano-3-phenoxybenzyl 3-(2-chloro-3,3,3-trifluoroprop-1-enyl)-2,2-dimethylcyclopropane carboxylate] was applied at 0.03 kg a.i./ha on 17 July 2003 to control economically important insects, namely potato leafhoppers (Empoasca fabae), on the alfalfa and other legumes.

The experiment compared grazing by goats of forage species at three spatial scales.

At the small scale, species were planted and grazed in a mixture (traditional mixture).

At the medium scale, species were planted in adjacent 4.57 x 6.10 m monocultures, and animals had the opportunity to select among all seven species (“buffet” mixture).

At the large scale, each set of animals grazed an individual monoculture.

For 2002, non-lactating female goats of mixed dairy breeds, ages 1-5 years, were stocked at approximately 41.8 m2 per goat. In 2003, non-lactating female goats of mixed breeds, ages 1-5 years, were stocked at dry matter (DM) availabilities equal to the amount per goat that was present in the medium scale, usually around 15.9 kg DM/goat. Each plot was fenced separately with flexible electric netting (MidStates Wool Growers Cooperative Association, Canal Winchester, Ohio).

Two different groups of animals were used in 2003. Animals from a single herd were borrowed from Riddle Ridge farm for the first few replications and were dairy and meat breed crosses. Animals used for the last replications in 2003 were bought from a local auction yard and included purebred dairy breeds, high percentage meat breeds, and a pygmy cross. All goats in both years were treated with anthelmintics as necessary by the owners, and were treated with fly spray as necessary.

Forage heights, rising plate meter (RPM) measurements, and visual forage compositions were recorded before and after grazing. In 2002, goats were allowed to graze for approximately 40 hours with free-choice water. Grazing replications occurred twice from 12 to 14 and 16 to 18 September 2002. In 2003, goats were allowed to graze for approximately 45 hours with free-choice water and trace mineral salt. Grazing replications occurred four times between 19 June to 7 July 2003 with one herd of goats and three additional times between 2 to 14 August 2003 with another group of goats, for a total of seven replications.

Research results and discussion:

The fastest growing animal industry in the United States is the meat goat industry (Sahlu, 2000). With the influx of more than 2 million immigrants into the United States each year (U.S. Census, 2000), ethnic food sales, including goat products, are growing rapidly (Epstein, 2001; Luginbuhl, 2000c). This increase in demand for goat is greatly exceeding the supply (Glimp, 1995; Smith, 1992). Currently, throughout the United States, goats are primarily being used as biological control agents for brush and noxious plants (Glimp, 1995; Luginbuhl et al., 1999). Although this practice has most benefit in Southeastern Ohio, there are people throughout the remainder of Ohio looking to produce high quality goats for meat. Therefore, grazing practices for goat production in areas with no brush should be explored.

Two studies were completed over two years (2002 and 2003). Firstly, an indoor study compared four forages: chicory, birdsfoot trefoil, orchardgrass, and red clover arranged in three spatial scales. Secondly, a field study extended the findings of the indoor study to determine goat preference to more species over a longer period of time. The field study included the four forage species used in the indoor study, as well as five additional forages: plantain, alfalfa, white clover, ryegrass, and crabgrass. The field study also tested the same three spatial scales as did the indoor study.

The first objective of this study was to determine some of the preferred forage species for goats in Ohio, including forage species that the animals may have not previously experienced (non-traditional forage species). Of the species used, the goats’ preference was for chicory (non-traditional) and red clover (traditional). Chicory intake and percent disappearance were the greatest of the species tested in both studies for both years. Red clover was also highly preferred in the indoor studies and the 2002 field study. Orchardgrass also had good intake in the indoor studies, while ryegrass was highly preferred in the 2003 field study. I believe these were readily consumed because they are common grass species found in Northeastern Ohio pastures. Combining the preferred forage species with the familiar forage species would allow goats the best opportunity for increased dry matter (DM) intake and for the highest utilization of the pasture. I conclude that pastures for goats containing these forage grasses, chicory and certain legumes (red clover and alfalfa) will have high intake and production.

Goat grazing preferences were not strongly related to forage quality. Birdsfoot trefoil had the highest CP and lowest NDF, but was the least preferred species of this study. Conversely, orchardgrass had the highest NDF and lowest CP, but was one of the more preferred forage species. Chicory, though, was a preferred species and had low NDF and one of the highest CP values.

The second objective was to determine the effects of spatial scale on goat intake. It was hypothesized that the spatial scale, or degree of species mixing, and the number of species offered would affect goat intake. Goats prefer a variety of forages, as was evidenced by the 2002 medium scale results and the significant 2003 small scale results for the indoor studies, as well as the results for both years of the field study. The medium spatial scale with pure plots of multiple species averaged the greatest amount of disappearance overall for the 2002 field study. The medium scale had the largest DM disappearance and results were consistent with the hypothesis that spatial scale affects goat intake. Individual species also had an effect on disappearance, but on average, the medium spatial scale was consumed more than individual species. Goats preferred a variety of forages to choose from (large and medium scales), rather than consuming multiple species in one bite (small scale).

The last objective of this study was to determine if the number of plant species, or species richness, affects goat intake. It was hypothesized that the number of species offered would affect goat intake. Similar to the results for the previous objective of the effects of spatial scale, the number of species had an effect, but it was the degree of mixing of these species that was more important in goat intake.

Combining the preferred forage species with the familiar forage species would allow goats the best opportunity for increased DM intake and for the highest utilization of the pasture. Overall, knowing the specific forage preferences and forage species familiar to a herd will allow a producer the opportunity to maximize intake and production.

One unexpected result was the variation I found between individual goats, and between goat herds. For a multiplicity of reasons I used goats from at least five different herds and as many producers over the two studies in each of 2002 and 2003. Although these goats represented six breeds (and their cross-breeds), this did not seem to be a dominant factor in their preference for forage species and spatial patterns. Of primary significance seemed to be the familiarity of goats to grazing the forages for this study. Goats with a predominance of corn in their diet, and goats relocated from another location did not graze as well as goats that were familiar with grazing.

Throughout the project I have been unable to find references to research on the grazing preferences of goats to chicory, plantain, crabgrass, and birdsfoot trefoil. This project has explored new ideas for the production of goats from grazing in Northeastern Ohio and other similar areas. Through some extension opportunities, the goat producers I have talked to are very excited to learn about the preferred forage species of goats. Previously in Northeastern Ohio, grazing has been an exercise activity for high production goats and many of these producers would like to change grazing to be their primary means of production. Increased goat production in Ohio and throughout the United States calls for additional grazing and production research for goats and will provide significant implications for producers.

REFERENCES

Epstein, V. 2001, December 15. Ethnic foods are all the rage. Omaha World-Herald. Omaha, Nebraska.

Glimp, H.A. 1995. Meat goat production and marketing. J. Anim. Sci. 73:291-295.

Luginbuhl, J-M. 2000c. Meat goat production in North Carolina. College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Cooperative Extension Service, North Carolina State University.

Luginbuhl, J-M., T.E. Harvey, J.T. Green, Jr., M.H. Poore, and J.P. Mueller. 1999. Use of goats as biological agents for the renovation of pastures in the Appalachian region of the United States. Agroforestry Systems. 44: 241-252.

Sahlu, T. 2000. The American goat situation. pp. 894-896. In: L. Gruner and Y. Chabert Organization of goat research. 7th International Conference on Goats. Tours, France.

Smith, G.C. 1992. Goat meat production and processing in the United States of America. pp. 1507-1518. In: Recent advances in goat production. Proceedings and Papers Presented at V International Conference on Goats. New Delhi, India.

U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder. 2000. U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census. 8 January 2003 .

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary

Education/outreach description:
Publications

Burgess, M.R. 2003. A salad bar for goats. Buckeye Meat Goat Newsletter. 1(2):6-7.

Burgess, M.R., and D.J. Barker. 2004. The ideal goat buffet. Ohio Forage Network’s Amazing Graze Newsletter. July 2004.

Burgess, Megan. 2004. Forages for Goats. OSU Factsheet. Pending submission.

Burgess, M.R., D.J. Barker, D.A. Mangione, R.M. Sulc, S.K. Harrison and D.L. Zartman. 2004. Financial analysis of three pasture types for meat goat production from grazing. Proc. Amer. Forage and Grasslands Council. 13: 22; 245-249.

Burgess, M.R., D.J. Barker, D.L. Zartman, R.M. Sulc, and S.K. Harrison. 2002. Dietary intake of goats on pasture mixes at three spatial scales. ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meetings Abstracts No. 143736 [CD-Rom Computer file] Madison, WI.

Burgess, M.R., D.J. Barker, D.L. Zartman, R.M. Sulc, and S.K. Harrison. 2003. Forage species and spatial effects on the dietary intake of goats. Proc. Amer. Forage and Grassland Council. 12:38, 182-186.

Burgess, Megan R., David J. Barker, S. Kent Harrison, R. Mark Sulc, and David L. Zartman. 2004. Forage preference of goats from four forage species at three spatial scales. Pending submission to Small Ruminant Research.

Burgess, Megan R., David J. Barker, S. Kent Harrison, R. Mark Sulc, and David L. Zartman. 2004. Forage species and spatial effects on the dietary intake of goats. Pending submission to Small Ruminant Research.

Outreach

American Forage and Grassland Council’s Annual Meeting. June 13-16, 2004. Third place in the Emerging Scientist Competition presenting the paper, “Financial analysis of three pasture types for meat goat production from grazing.”

BioHio. June 2003. Results from the project were presented at BioHio. “BioHio 2003; Agriculture: Feeding the Future of Ohio” was a three-day educational event open to the public, and was held at the Ohio Agricultural and Research Development Center (OARDC) and the Secrest Arboretum and Agricultural Technical Institute (ATI) campuses in Wooster, Ohio. There were an estimated 10,000 visitors that included people from Central and Northeastern Ohio’s rural and urban communities. I displayed two posters (2002 American Society of Agronomy poster and a poster made especially for BioHio), photographs from my project, tubs of the four forage species used in the indoor study, and a pen with two Boer kids. I had four handouts available for visitors to take home; 1) a copy of my poster presented at the American Society of Agronomy annual meeting in 2002, 2) a copy of my paper published in the American Forage and Grassland Council’s 2003 proceedings, 3) a copy of the first issue of the “Buckeye Meat Goat Newsletter,” and 4) a copy of the Extension Fact Sheet titled “Meat Goat Production and Budgeting.” Over 75 copies of each handout were taken over the three-day period.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Results from the project were presented at BioHio. “BioHio 2003; Agriculture: Feeding the Future of Ohio” was a three-day educational event open to the public, and was held at the Ohio Agricultural and Research Development Center (OARDC), the Secrest Arboretum and Agricultural Technical Institute (ATI) campuses in Wooster, Ohio. There were an estimated 10,000 visitors that included people from Central and Northeastern Ohio’s rural and urban communities. I displayed two posters (2002 American Society of Agronomy poster and a poster made especially for BioHio), photographs from my project, tubs of the four forage species used in the indoor study, and a pen with two Boer kids. I had four handouts available for visitors to take home: 1) a copy of my poster presented at the American Society of Agronomy annual meeting in 2002, 2) a copy of my paper published in the American Forage and Grassland Council’s 2003 proceedings, 3) a copy of the first issue of the “Buckeye Meat Goat Newsletter,” and 4) a copy of the Extension Fact Sheet titled “Meat Goat Production and Budgeting.” Over 75 copies of each handout were taken over the three-day period.

Results from the project, the BioHio poster, and handouts (same as above) were presented at the Ashland County Fall Farm Tour, sponsored by the Ashland County Farm Bureau (September 2003). There were an estimated 200 visitors that included people from local rural and urban communities. Thirty-five copies of each of handout were taken during the two-day tour.

My project has also impacted the producers that I worked with directly. Of the three producers, two are currently raising meat goats. The third sold his milking goats and converted to milking Jersey cows. Even with the multiple animal species, all three producers are looking to improve their pastures and would like to plant species that their animals would prefer.

Economic Analysis

The results of variation in forage intake from the 2003 field study were used to compare the predicted financial performance from three levels of daily DM intake (3, 4, and 5% of body weight) for each of three pasture types. The pasture types were:

1) traditional unimproved grass pasture with no inputs from year to year

2) improved monoculture pasture, that was seeded with perennial ryegrass

3) species-rich pasture with five forage species arranged similar to the medium scale

Yield measurements from the field study were used to determine annual yield for each of the forage species. The species-rich pasture mixture was selected to give high yield, while costing the least per ton of forage (Table 1). Meat goat enterprise budgets and alfalfa and grass hay enterprise budgets from the Ohio State University Fact Sheets were adapted to grazing meat goats. Variable pasture costs included: herbicide and seed, fertilizer and lime, machinery, and interest on capital. Fixed pasture costs included labor, land, machinery, and equipment. Variable goat production costs included 90 days of supplemental feed, mineral, health program, marketing, utilities, supplies, and interest on operating expenses. Fixed animal production costs included goat replacement, interest on breeding stock, labor, equipment, and management charges.

An Excel model was developed to determine the amount of pasture production throughout each month of the year. This information was used in correlation with intake (as a percent of body weight) and the animal’s anticipated rate of gain (lb/day) on each pasture. The number of animals (does and kids) per acre was then determined so that the amount of hay surplus/deficit at the end of the year was as close to zero as possible (Table 2).

The five most preferred forage species were ryegrass, chicory, orchardgrass, alfalfa, and red clover. Goats preferred a variety of forages to choose from (the medium, or “buffet” style scale). The most economical combination of the five species arranged similar to the medium scale are shown in Table 1. Two groups of three forages were planted side-by-side in alternating strips. The total cost of pasture was $111.43, $269.10, and $331.66 per acre for the unimproved, improved monoculture, and species-rich pasture, respectively. The number of kids per acre for the unimproved pasture was 4, 3, and 2 for the 3%, 4%, and 5% of body weight intake, respectively. The improved monoculture pasture carried 9, 8, and 7 kids, while the species-rich pasture had the capacity for 9, 7, and 7 kids at the 3%, 4%, and 5% of body weight intakes, respectively. The total cost per goat was $76.45 across all pastures at all intake rates. The total receipts included the number of kids produced to 70 pounds, minus the 15% held back for herd replacements, at $1.00 per pound, as well as cull does (15%) and one cull buck per year. Also, hay sold or purchased was calculated accordingly. Total cost, receipts, and return over costs are shown in Table 3.

Observed variation in forage intake of meat goats on different pasture types was used to predict financial performance from three levels of daily DM intake (3, 4 & 5% of body weight) of goats for each of three pasture types. Of the various pasture and intake treatments, the highest predicted financial return was for the species-rich pasture at a goat intake rate of 5% of body weight. It was concluded that increased pasture quality and diversity, while keeping the animals’ preferred forage species in mind, generated greater returns than the unimproved or improved monoculture pastures.

Farmer Adoption

Number of farmers adopting production practices from the project: at least six.

Farmers have added forage chicory to their pastures as a result of this study. A couple of the producers who have added chicory do not raise goats, but sheep or cattle. Also, other forage species have been implemented into goat pastures as a result of the study. Some of the species include ryegrass and orchardgrass. Also, the study has provided all livestock producers (whom I’ve talked with) the opportunity to think more about what kind of pastures they’re grazing their animals on. For instance, are the forage species in the fields the most palatable for their animals; are the species in the pastures what the animals are used to getting as hay in the barn; which species, or combinations thereof, optimize animal intake?

I recommend that producers think about the above questions and how they apply to their operations. Then, if they’re grazing goats, see if orchardgrass, ryegrass, red clover, or alfalfa fit into their grazing operation. If so, then they should provide these species to their animals in simple mixtures or monocultures. Last, but not least, they should also incorporate chicory into the pastures.

Recommendations:

Areas needing additional study

Diversify the family farm enterprise using traditional and non-traditional forage species and meat goats

Frost seeding legumes to improve nutrient efficiency through nitrogen fixation and crop longevity

Manage weeds and browse in a ecologically sound, economically viable and socially responsible way for long-term pasture improvement

Identify and evaluate browse species for quality through animal performance and laboratory analysis

Grow for and access greater marketing opportunities including direct marketing and adding value of meat goats, especially to meet the demands from ethnic markets

Utilize an integrated resource management approach to small farm livestock enterprises

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.