Mid-Atlantic Sheep - Goat Marketing Project

Final Report for LNE04-211

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2004: $31,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $11,932.00
Region: Northeast
State: Maryland
Project Leader:
Susan Schoenian
Maryland Cooperative Extension
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Project Information

Summary:

One thousand and sixty-five (1,065) sheep and goat producers from forty states (40) currently use the sheepgoatmarketing.info web site developed by the Mid-Atlantic Sheep & Goat Marketing Project to help them market their sheep and goats and related products. Many credit the web site with helping them make sales and establishing direct links to ethnic customers. At any given time, there are approximately 30 market inquiries live. Two hundred and eighty-nine (289) companies have listings on the web site. The web site remains a “work in progress,” as usernames and passwords still need to be incorporated, and the web site needs a permanent “home.” In addition to development of a national web site on ethnic marketing, 1,186 sheep and goat producers from ten states learned about the ethnic markets by attending various meetings, conferences, and workshops. Publications and other outreach tools further enhanced producers’ knowledge of the ethnic markets and their ability to target these growing markets. Sheep and goat producers are more effective in marketing sheep and goats to the ethnic markets as a result of the Mid-Atlantic Sheep & Goat Marketing Project.

Introduction:

The domestic demand for sheep and goat meat exceeds current production levels, particularly in the eastern half of the United States. At the same time, sheep and goat producers often lack the knowledge to take full advantage of the opportunities that the ethnic/religious markets present. The purpose of the Mid-Atlantic Sheep & Goat Marketing Project was to build on the accomplishments of the Northeast Sheep and Goat Marketing Program by continuing to improve the marketing infrastructure for sheep and goat producers in the Mid-Atlantic region. The major goal of the project was to develop the original web site [www.sheepgoatmarketing.org] into a national resource on sheep and goat marketing [www.sheepgoatmarketing.info]. The web site would provide a tool to help producers more effectively market their sheep and goats to ethnic markets. Various educational programs would be held to increase producer knowledge and application.

Performance Target:

Of the 400 sheep and goat producers participating in this project–

20% will change their breeding, feeding, and/or marketing programs to target ethnic/religious markets.

10% will pool their sheep and/or goats for transport to regional markets.

5% will in crease the net market price by marketing sheep and/or goats through local livestock auctions for special graded sales.

10% will direct market their sheep and/or goats to consumers, slaughterhouses, live markets, restaurants, or meat markets.

Of the producers who allow on-farm slaughter, 90% will implement humane slaughter practice on their farm and dispose of offal in an environmentally safe manner (e.g. composting).

Research

Materials and methods:

The sheepgoatmarketing.info web site was the primary focus of this project and means to achieve the project’s objectives. It is being developed into a national resource on sheep and goat marketing, with an emphasis on the ethnic/religious markets. Any producer may enter his farm into the online database. Any person may submit a market inquiry to buy or sell sheep and goats and their related products. Any person may submit an event to the Calendar of Events. Entries to the marketing directory, which includes feeders, haulers, order buyers, live markets, sale barns, processors, and retail markets, are made by the administrators of the web site. In fact, all entries to the database (web site) are overseen by two administrators (PI and tatiana Stanton). The administrators also make entries for third parties (e.g. farmers or marketers who lack internet access). The web site was/is promoted through newsletters, blogs, other web sites, and state, regional, and national presentations.

Educational programs and materials were another important aspect of the Mid-Atlantic Sheep & Goat Marketing Project. When producers are surveyed regarding topics for educational programs, marketing is always at the top of the list. More than 50 percent of sheep and goat educational programs include marketing topics.

During the duration of the project, the PI gave 14 presentations in 10 states on marketing sheep and goats to the ethnic markets. She served as an instructor in three workshops to teach producers how to grade sheep and goats for the ethnic markets. She gave two presentations at professional meetings to teach research, NRCS, and extension personnel about the ethnic markets. She was interviewed by many national publications about the ethnic markets for goat and lamb.

Numerous outreach tools were developed to educate producers on ethnic marketing: posters, calendars, articles, and PowerPoint presentations.

Research results and discussion:

The beneficiaries of the project were as described: mostly small, part-time producers who have been in the sheep or goat business for less than 5 years. The number of beneficiaries exceeded the number anticipated. Participation in meetings and conferences where ethnic marketing was discussed was almost always high.
Many producers shared their marketing experiences via personal contact, phone calls, and e-mails.

• Several producer groups (n=3) have pooled their animals to sell at New Holland Sales Stables, the best sheep and goat marketing in the U.S. They reported higher prices for their animals as compared to local markets. Efforts are still necessary to get New Holland Sales Stables to sell goats by weight. Prices are now reported according to grade and estimated weight, which is an improvement over the simple “per-head” quotes.
• Several producers (n=5) are selling goat meat at farmer’s markets.
• Several producers (n=2) are selling lamb to restaurants.
• The PI was able to get a goat producer (n=1) accepted as a vendor at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival.
• Many producers (n=20) reported robust on-farm sales to ethnic customers.
• Conversations with farmers who allow on-farm slaughter indicate that most are composting offal (<75%).
• Producers (>50%) are timing their sales to coincide with the ethnic holidays (too much so, because there is often an oversupply of sheep and goats before holidays, thus low prices).
• Some producers (n=6) are trying out-of-season breeding to target the Orthodox Christian demand for lamb and goat. Out-of-season breeding technologies have been included in several educational meetings for producers.
Unexpected events

A few months after the grant expired, the American Lamb Board, which overseas the national lamb check-off, convened a meeting in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to discuss the ethnic markets for lamb (the PI and another team member were asked to participate). This was noteworthy, as the U.S. lamb industry has been reluctant to recognize the ethnic markets as a major force in lamb marketing. The efforts of the Northeast Sheep & Goat Marketing Program and this project have helped to highlight the growing importance of the ethnic markets to the viability of the entire U.S. sheep and goat industry, not just to producers in the Northeast. The challenge is figuring out how the Lamb Board can best help support this important market. Providing funding for the web site is one possibility.

In 2008, an ethnic slaughterhouse and live market was established in central Maryland, the first of its kind in the state. The facility is state-of-the-art and a “model” for ethnic slaughter. The facility is currently custom and Halal-certified and is seeking USDA certification. One hundred lambs were harvested at the first major Muslim holiday and the business has established a steady customer flow since. Development of the business has followed the recommendations of this project. The long-term impact of this facility is an improved local market for lambs and goats, more humane marketing of sheep and goats, and more satisfied ethnic customers.

Participation Summary

Education

Educational approach:

Of course, the primary outreach piece of the Mid-Atlantic Sheep and Goat Marketing Project is the web site whose URL is www.sheepgoatmarketing.info. The purpose of the web site is to connect buyers and sellers of sheep and goats, lamb, mutton, and goat meat. The web site contains producer and marketing directories, a calendar of events, market inquiry section, and educational resources.
In addition to the web site, several other publications and outreach pieces were developed as part of the project.
• An ethnic holiday calendar is updated each year. It is available for download from the web site or http://www.sheepandgoat.com/articles/ethniccalendar.html. The calendar is used extensively in the industry. Many web pages are linked to it. It is handed out in many presentations. It has been reprinted in various publications, including the Missouri Meat Goat Pocket Record, which was distributed to 2,000 producers.
• “Producing and Selling Sheep and Goats to the Ethnic/Religious Meat Markets” is the title of an article that can be downloaded from http://www.sheepandgoat.com/articles/ethnicmarkets.html. It can also be downloaded as a PDF file.
• “Tips for Selling Sheep and Goats Through Public Auctions” is an article that can be downloaded from the web at http://www.sheepandgoat.com/articles/sellingatauctions.html. It can also be downloaded as a PDF file.
• The project distributes a Humane Slaughter poster for religious or ritual slaughter. The poster may be purchased or downloaded from the web site. Twenty posters were requested during the period of the project.
• Posters depicting proposed grading standards for lambs and goats (for ethnic markets) have been developed and are available from the PI.
• Two PowerPoint presentations on ethnic marketing have been posted to the web: 1) How Do Hair Sheep Fit the Ethnic Markets?; and 2) Marketing Sheep & Goats to the Ethnic Markets. Both can be downloaded from http://www.sheepandgoat.com/PowerPoints.html. These presentations have been used by educators in several states.

Additional Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Impacts of Results/Outcomes

The purpose of the web site is to connect buyers and sellers. It has done this. Many producers have sold and purchased breeding stock and marekt animals as a result of their listings or browsing of the web site. Here are some examples.

One producer attributed 15 sales to his listing in the producer directory on the web site.

One producer sold all her goats before they were born.

One producer sold goats 1 day after his listing appeared on the web site.

One producer has developed a thriving on-farm market for his goats as a result of his listing on the web site.

A large producer used the web site to establish sales with a processor several states away.

Economic Analysis

Because progress of the web site was hindered by constant server and security issues (at the University of Maryland), the evaluation phase of the project could not be completed by the end of the project. However, producers have shared many testimonials. The web site has helped users sell breeding stock, find breeding stock, and sell sheep and goats for on-farm slaughter by ethnic customers. By using the ethnic/religious calendars, producers have been better able to target their sales of sheep and goats for the religious trade. While it is not possible to place an economic value on the impact of the web site, there is no doubt that the web site and other aspects of this project have help to improve producers’ bottom lines.

USDA statistics continue to show a steady growth in the goat industry. As almost all goat meat sales are to ethnic customers, this is somewhat indicative of profitability in the sector. Sheep numbers, especially those of hair sheep, which are sold primarily to ethnic customers, have increased slightly in many Mid-Atlantic states.

Farmer Adoption

The web site is well-used by farmers and allied industry, especially those in the Mid-Atlantic region. It continues to be adopted as a tool in other states. As the web site continues to develop and expand nationally, its usefulness will expand, as producers in all parts of the U.S. will be able to find potential buyers and compare marketing alternatives.

The ethnic/religious calendars contained on the web site are widely used by farmers and others in the industry. They have appeared in other publications and been handed out by speakers at various sheep and goat programs. Farmers use the calendars to time their sales of lambs and goats. Farmers are increasingly aware of the importance of the Muslim holidays to lamb and goat sales.

The Humane Slaughter Poster for religious slaughter hangs in many establishments that are engaged in the religious/ethnic markets.

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Areas needing additional study

At the beginning of the grant period, the web site was moved from a server at Cornell University to the University of Maryland. A new domain name was purchased (www.sheepgoatmarketing.info). The goal was to redesign the web site and expand its reach and impact. Essentially, it was to be developed into a national resource on sheep and goat marketing, with particular emphasis on the ethnic/religious markets. The web site was to be automated with databases. User names and passwords would enable users to add, delete, and edit their own entries to the web site.

Since the start, progress towards these goals has been hindered by security issues, server difficulties, software changes, and personnel issues. Security issues were resovled towards the end of the grant, but many of the proposed changes and additions have not been incorporated into the web site. For example, usernames and passwords still need to be added to the web site. Once this has occurred, the databases can be updated and expanded.

Despite the web site being fully functional, it requires more time and funding to reach its potential. Efforts are currently underway to find a host for the web site that will exploit the web site’s national potential. An initial meeting has been held with the American Lamb Board with this purpose in mind.

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.