Forage systems for the sustainable production of uniform goat carcasses

Final Report for LS05-172

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2005: $200,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: Southern
State: Tennessee
Principal Investigator:
Richard Joost
University of Tennessee at Martin
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Project Information

Abstract:

A survey of Tennessee area goat producers defined the average meat goat producer as 55-65 years old with less than ten years experience raising goats. Most lacked a marketing plan and typically relied on live auctions to market their animals. Evaluation of six legume pastures for summer goat production determined that rotationally grazed sericea lespedeza was the best choice for Tennessee, since annual lespedeza required annual seeding. One of the major outcomes of this project was the development of the Tennessee Master Goat Producer Program that provides producers with training in best management practices for meat goat production systems.

Project Objectives:

1. To determine the characteristics of the structure of the goat production industry in the Mid-South.
One of the issues that needs to be addressed in order for a sustainable goat production system to be developed in the Mid-South is to develop a uniform supply of slaughter animals to support processing facilities. The goal of this objective is to poll current goat producers and potential goat producers to determine the optimal quantity of slaughter goats they can or plan to produce, the season of production of slaughter goats and the size goats that they typically produce. This will allow us to determine the regional supply of slaughter goats so we can analyze whether it is possible to support a dedicated goat slaughter facility. One of the factors limiting the further development of the goat production industry in the Mid-South is a lack of market outlets, while the factor limiting the development of processing facilities is a sporadic supply. Determination of the current production of slaughter goats in the region coupled with a prediction of the potential production will allow us to evaluate the potential development of the industry.

2. To establish the requirements of slaughter goat quantity, seasonal distribution and carcass characteristics to support a dedicated slaughter processing facility.
Economic viability of meat slaughter/processing facilities depends on a continuous supply of uniform live animals and a viable market for the processed meat. The growth of ethnic segments of the population with a desire for goat meat in their diet has resulted in a large demand for domestically grown goat meat. A sporadic supply of non-uniform slaughter goats has made it difficult to sustain dedicated goat processing facilities, even though a market exists for the finished meat product. To establish a baseline level of slaughter goat supply necessary to sustain a processing plant, an economic analysis of the optimal processing efficiency is needed. The goal of this objective is to determine through survey and economic analysis the number and characteristics of slaughter goats that are required to sustain a dedicated slaughter facility at its optimum efficiency. This analysis will include logistical analysis of the maximum distance that slaughter goats can be shipped economically for slaughter.
3. To develop forage systems that provide for the rapid production of finished meat goats.
Our goal is to develop pasture systems that will sustain constant growth rates of 0.25 lbs/day to grow 45 lbs weaned kids to a 75 lbs slaughter weight every 120 days. A constant growth rate is known to produce uniform muscling and finish compared to production systems that provide nutritional peaks and valleys. Another goal of this objective is to evaluate new forage species for adaptation to the Mid-South and for use in goat pastures. Since goats typically browse we are focusing on leafy, taller growing species. In particular we are interested in evaluating forbs that can be incorporated into existing grass pastures since most producers already have established grass pastures. The major production constraint facing goat producers is the impact of intestinal parasites on goats. With this in mind we will monitor parasite loads on goats grown on each pasture system to determine the impact of forage type on parasite control.
4. To evaluate goat carcass development in response to forage system in order to produce
uniform goat carcasses to support dedicated slaughter/processing facilities.

Our goal is to monitor goat carcass development through ultrasound analysis throughout the grazing period. This will allow us to determine the impact of the pasture nutritional plane and animal health on animal performance. Since we will be monitoring carcass development throughout the grazing period we will be able to ascertain critical periods during kid development and the ability of specific grazing systems to meet the nutritional needs of these critical periods. The data collected during the grazing period with ultrasound will be correlated with data collected from processed carcasses to evaluate the accuracy of the ultrasound monitoring.

5. To provide goat producers with information regarding forage systems for efficient goat
production, optimal characteristics of desired goat carcasses, and marketing techniques to take advantage of available demand for goat meat.

Ultimately the success of this project will result in providing producers with methods to benefit from the development of a new agricultural enterprise. This will require the identification of goat requirements to support dedicated processing facilities and methods for attaining these requirements. Showing producers how to be more competitive and take better advantage of their available resources will be the primary focus of this educational objective.

Introduction:

The purpose of this project is to evaluate the current status of the goat industry in the Mid-South and develop production systems that will support a continuous supply of uniform goat meat. Currently there are limited slaughter/processing facilities available that will process goat meat. This is partially due to the sporadic supply of non-uniform goat carcasses that are available. Meat goat production is primarily concentrated among limited resource producers who practice a variety of management practices, resulting in uneven supply with large peaks of slaughter goat availability followed by periods of scarce supply. It is impossible for a slaughter facility to maintain operational viability when both its supply of mature animals fluctuates and the animals that are available are not uniform in carcass characteristics.
On the other side of the equation, goat producers hesitate to expand their production capacity because of the lack of slaughter facilities. There needs to be more coordination between the animal production and processing components of the industry. At the current time there are limited data and resources available to support the small-scale producers that make up the majority of the goat industry in the Mid-South.
Due to ethnic changes in the U.S. population, particularly increases in the population of Middle Eastern and Hispanic immigrants, a significant increase in the demand for goat meat has developed. Some of this demand is related to cultural festivals and requires special slaughter practices for animals according to prescribed customs. Small-scale producers are particularly suited to this market. The remainder of the increased demand from this segment of the population is due to an ethnic preference for goat meat products.
Tennessee and the surrounding Mid-South region is ideally suited to meet a large proportion of this increased demand due to its location, topography and changes in the structure of the livestock industry in the state. Most of the Mid-South region is within a one-day shipping range of over 40% of the U.S. population, primarily along the eastern seaboard, where a large portion of the ethnic goat-consuming population is located. Excellent road and rail networks readily connect all portions of this region to the major population centers.
Much of the land in the Mid-South region allocated to agricultural production is of steep topography and composed of highly erodible soils. This has resulted in the adoption of no-till production on a high percentage of crop acreage, but much of the land would be better suited to permanent vegetative cover to reduce soil erosion even further. Pastures dedicated to the production of goats would serve this purpose particularly well on steep landforms.
Finally, many livestock producers who were involved in the swine industry have discontinued hog production due to extensive vertical integration in the industry. As recently as 1988 there were over a million head of swine on Tennessee farms. That number has declined to less than 220,000 according to the most recent agricultural statistics (USDA-NASS, 1997). The development of large corporate production facilities have made it nearly impossible for limited resource producers to compete. These livestock producers are exploring other opportunities to utilize their skills, land and facilities to take part in the livestock industry. Given the increasing demand for goat meat, along with the fact that small-scale goat production units can be economically feasible, the enterprise appears to be a logical fit for displaced swine producers.
According to the 1997 Census of Agriculture (USDA-NASS, 1997) there has been a 50% increase in meat goat numbers in Tennessee in the last five years. Most of the increase has been on small-scale farms with the average herd size being 22 head. The major problems facing many of the small-scale producers who are emerging as the foundation of the meat goat industry in Tennessee are not unique. Lack of organization and a support infrastructure have resulted in a hodgepodge of production and marketing models throughout the goat industry. Producers have developed their own handling facilities, pasture systems and marketing plans with varying degrees of success. The result is an industry that has not captured the market potential to the fullest extent possible. A goat extension specialist was hired by Tennessee State University in fall 2003, but there is no concerted research program in place to develop pasture systems for meat goat production in support of the extension effort. This project will provide needed management information for dissemination through Dr. Peischel’s extension program.
Given the variety of handling systems in use, many new producers are in a quandry regarding the best handling equipment to use. This leaves them to develop their own system or explore available options with limited opportunities to observe equipment in use. In this setting, trial and error becomes the most common method for designing small-ruminant handling systems. The University of Tennessee at Martin has developed a new small ruminant research/education facility that features state-of-the-art handling equipment that will be utilized to conduct this study. The outreach activities planned for this project will allow limited resource producers the opportunity to see these facilities in use and evaluate their applicability to their situation.
Many new producers of goats have the misconception that goats will perform well on any low quality forage that is presented to them. Due to their mouth structure and mobile upper lips, goats are better able to select a high quality diet from low quality pastures than other grazing livestock (Devendra and Coop, 1982), but will respond to high quality pasture with improved performance. Joost et al. (1990) determined that using rotational grazing with goats on American jointvetch (Aeschynomene americana) resulted in a longer grazing season and a better quality diet than continuous grazing. It is possible that this is true of other leguminous forages as well. Although SARE-funded research in Alabama has focused on taking advantage of the browsing behavior of goats by incorporating mimosa into grazing systems, this approach requries the use of a management approach unfamiliar to most producers (Solaiman et al., 2003). The use of more common pasture species as proposed in this study instead of trees is easier for limited resource producers to implement on most small farms. The study proposed here will evaluate six different forage systems using common pasture species to support sustained growth of goats.
The general population of the United States has reduced its consumption of red meat due to health concerns. Goats are typically considered a healthier meat choice than beef or lamb due to less deposition of intramuscular and subcutaneous fat (Smith, et al., 1978). Goats produce 10-20% more lean carcass than beef or lamb which should eventually result in overall increased consumer demand for goat meat. Growth rate of goats is related to mature size with larger framed goats growing at a faster rate than smaller mature frame breeds (Warmington and Kirton, 1991). A consistent growth rate supported by high quality pasture forage results in improved carcass characteristics and less fat deposition than supplementing animals with higher quality diets after removal from low quality pasture (Allen et al., 1996; Greenwood et al., 1998).
A major problem associated with the production of small ruminants is internal parasites. Stomach worms, or the gastrointestinal trichostrongyles, are the primary health problem encountered in small ruminant production (Schoenian, 2003). The most common approach to overcoming this problem is the use of a systemic anthelminthic or worming program, but this approach is costly and often ineffective due to the development of resistance to anthelminthics by nematode parasites (Waller, 1984). SARE-supported research at Fort Valley State University in Georgia has evaluated a wide range of alternative parasite controls for goats including the use of high-tannin forages (Terrill et al., 2003). Their use of high-tannin forage has focused exclusively on sericea lespedeza hay whereas the work proposed in this trial will evaluate five different high- tannin forage species under pasture conditions.
The economic viability of goat production systems in the Mid-South centers on the ability of goat producers and operators of slaughter/processing facilities to come together so that a consistent supply of slaughter goats are available to support processing facilities, which, in turn, insures a market for goat producers. The goal of this project is to develop goat production systems that insure a consistent supply of slaughter goats while reducing reliance on anthelminthics and nitrogen fertilizer. The production of goats on permanent pasture is an environmentally sound practice for much of the Mid-South where steep topography represents an erosion risk unless permanent vegetative cover is maintained. Further, the use of legumes in pasture systems reduces the use of N fertilizers which can represent an environmental hazard. The control of internal parasites through natural means instead of through the use of pesticides further reduces the environmental impact caused by pesticide residues.
Finally, the successful development of goat production systems as described by this project will result in new opportunities for limited resource farmers, making their operations more viable through developing new market opportunities and reducing their cost of operation. This will have further social impact by meeting a market need of a segment of society that currently is not able to attain an adequate supply of goat meat to meet their demand.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Janet Bailey
  • Walter Battle
  • Richard Freudenberg
  • James Gresham
  • Dolores Gresham
  • Jerry Gresham
  • Babe Howard
  • Joey Mehlhorn
  • An Peischel

Research

Materials and methods:

Objective 1.

A survey instrument was developed to determine the structure of the goat industry in the Mid-South region of West Tennessee, Northeast Arkansas, Southeast Missouri, North Mississippi and Western Kentucky (see Survey instrument on diskette and hard copy). Goat producers were identified through a database maintained by Dr. An Peischel, Extension Goat Specialist. Mr. Babe Howard, Mr. Walter Battle and Mr. Richard Freudenberg also assisted in identifying survey participants. Questions for the survey were developed using the guidelines set forth in Patten’s “Questionnaire Research” (1998). The survey instrument was mailed to 1,974 randomly selected identified goat producers along with an addressed return postage paid envelope in spring 2006.

A major component of the survey determined the potential of small goat production systems. The first consideration is to evaluate the ultimate market demand for goat meat (Schermerhorn, 1991). We evaluated this aspect of the market through exploration of published literature and via the results of research conducted under Objective 2. The evaluation of financial feasibility included an analysis of the costs associated with goat slaughter and processing and potential income from goat sales (Reilly and Millican, 1996).

Objective 2.

Economic analyses were conducted to determine the goat numbers required to support a dedicated goat slaughter/processing facility. Information obtained through the market analysis and survey portions of Objective 1 were used to evaluate the potential for goat meat sales in the region. The evaluation included the determination of initial capital outlay to outfit a processing facility to process goats, numbers of animals required to efficiently operate a facility, numbers and skill level of employees required to operate a processing facility. Transport costs were determined to calculate the maximum distance goats can be economically transported within the region to a processing facility and feasible distance that carcasses can be transported from a processing facility for marketing.

Budgets were developed for the construction and operation of a goat processing facility in West Tennessee using data collected on construction, equipment and labor costs. These data were utilized to develop standard cash flow models.

Objective 3.

An existing orchardgrass/tall fescue base pasture at the University of Tennessee at Martin was interseeded with six different forb/legume forage species to develop pasture systems for growing meat goats. Forage chicory (Cichorium intybus), rhizomatous and non-rhizomatous birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) sericea lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata ), Illinois bundleflower (Desmanthum illinoiensis), striate annual lespedeza (Lespedeza striata) and white clover (Trifolium repens) as a control treatment were established in killed strips 4 inches wide by 4 inches apart using a no-till drill in March 2006. Each of the test forage species were seeded in four 0.5-acre paddocks. Each 0.5-acre paddock was stocked with 5 weanling goats during the grazing season. Goats were obtained as 45 lbs weanlings from the Tennessee Livestock Producers Association. Two paddocks of each forage mixture were subdivided into four 0.125 acre sub-paddocks and rotationally grazed, while the other two 0.5-acre paddocks of each forage mixture were continuously stocked.

Stand counts, forage on offer and plant density of each forage mixture were evaluated before grazing initiation, in the middle of the grazing season and at the end of the grazing season.

All goats were dewormed upon arrival and grouped according to weight. Each pasture system was randomly stocked with a comparable group of goats. Animal performance was monitored by weighing all animals every 14 days. Fecal samples were collected to monitor intestinal parasite loads at each weigh date. Color of eye membranes were scored as another measure of parasite load at each weighing period.

In addition to determining optimum forage systems for the production of acceptable uniform goat carcasses, this trial will allow us to determine the adaptability of new forage forbs to Tennessee conditions. We will also learn how well these forage species are adapted to grazing pressure from goats and the ability of these forages to support sustained liveweight gain in goats.

These trials were conducted initially at the University of Tennessee at Martin Teaching Farm Small Ruminant Learning Center (UTM-SRLC).

Objective 4.

In fall 2008 25 goats were evaluated for carcass development characteristics using Pie QUIP ultrasound technology each time they were weighed during during a 90 day pasture trial. This chute-side scanning served as a means of monitoring carcass development in live animals (Chambaz et al., 2002). The use of ultrasound technology to monitor carcass development in live animals has been applied extensively to swine, sheep and beef cattle (Houghton and Turlington, 1992).
Parameters to be evaluated to monitor carcass development will include longissimus muscle area (LMA) at the 12th rib, subcutaneous fat thickness at the 12th rib, and percentage of kidney, pelvic, and heart fat. The percentage of kidney, pelvic and heart fat derived from ultrasound measurements has been highly correlated with carcass yield and cutability (Houghton and Turlington, 1992).
This group of the animals was followed through slaughter. After slaughter, hot carcasses were fabricated into closely trimmed portions and retail cuts to determine goat cutability and yield of lean meat. Samples of meat will be obtained from each carcass and ground for analysis of fat composition in order to determine yield of lean meat mass.
Objective 5
The educational goal of this project is to show producers the benefits of producing uniform groups of goats with carcass characteristics that meet processor needs and consumer preferences throughout the year in order to support processing facilities. In order to meet this goal an extension program called the Tennessee Master Goat Producer Program was developed. Initially this program consisted of the development of a manual (included in hard copy) and a slide set. In-service education sessions were held for county extension educators in 2006-2008. The program was then adapted at the county level to train meat goat producers and certify them as Master Goat Producers.
In addition a workshop on goat herd health and parasites was developed and conducted at the University of Tennessee at Martin on August 6, 2005. Participants were instructed on proper use of vaccines and anthelmintics.

Research results and discussion:

Objective 1
A single-sided, two-page survey designed to characterize the structure of the goat industry in Tennessee and surrounding states was developed and mailed to a database of 1,974 goat producers. The study determined that most goat producers in the survey area of Tennessee and surrounding states had less than ten years experience raising goats. One of the major problems discovered is that 84 % of the producers surveyed did not have a marketing plan and typically were selling their animals haphazardly through an auction barn. A primary potential market is the holiday market for specific ethnic holidays that include goat as a part of ceremonial meals. Currently Tennessee goat producers are not meeting this demand. Most of the producers surveyed indicated that they were interested in exploring new or alternative markets that would improve their economic return and 89.6% indicated that they planned to either increase or maintain their herd size in the future. Over 80% of those surveyed did not have a USDA-inspected slaughter facility near their farm, and of those, 84% were interested in the development of a nearby inspected slaughter facility.
Objective 2
Data were collected and analyzed to determine the distribution of demand for goat meat in Tennessee and potential supply in the surrounding area in order to determine the potential for supporting a dedicated meat goat slaughter and processing facility in the state. It was concluded that the development of a dedicated goat processing facility in Tennessee would be a difficult, high risk enterprise requiring a processing price of $0.75-$0.80/lb with an owner investment of at least $300,000 to establish the facility. The expansion of the operation to include processing of other species may lower the economic risk. As ethnic groups accustomed to diets with a large proportion of goat meat increase, demand may increase sufficiently to support a processing facility; however, as income levels of immigrants increase, diets often shift away from more traditional dietary components such as goat.
Objective 3
Since the pastures were not established until late in the season and we only had four species to evaluate we conducted the initial grazing trial in the fall of 2005 to evaluate our grazing and data collection techniques. We completed two grazing cycles with two different sets of weaned goats during 2006. Initially birdsfoot trefoil was included in the pasture evaluation, but we were unable to get stands established and replaced the birdsfoot trefoil with Illinois bundleflower due to its adaptation to the region and its tall growth habit.
Goats were stocked at four animals per ½ acre pasture with animals assigned to one of five pasture species. Forage species that were evaluated included birdsfoot trefoil, annual lespedeza, sericea lespedeza, Illinois bundleflower, chicory, or a white clover control. During 2007 we completed two grazing cycles with two different sets of weaned goats. The goats were stocked at four animals per ½ acre pasture with animals assigned to one of five pasture species. Forage species that were successfully evaluated included annual lespedeza, sericea lespedeza, and chicory. Drought conditions eliminated effective stands of Illinois bundleflower and white clover. The short duration of availability of chicory raises questions about its utility as a pasture base for goats, but it may be useful as an ingredient of pasture mixtures given the preference of the forage by goats while it is producing flower bolts.
Availability of useable forage was greatest with sericea lespedeza pastures and goats readily utilized this forage. Generally over the three years of the trial lespedeza forage was not sufficiently available until June 1. The taller growth of the sericea lespedeza maintained the grazing height above the ground level, thus reducing ingestion of parasite eggs and larvae. Rotational grazing was more effective at maintaining high forage yields of sericea lespedeza while continuous grazing reduced yield and resulted in stand loss over time.
Goat gains were not significantly different among the pasture treatments and we were also unable to detect any statistical differences in parasite loads of goats grazing any of the pasture treatments during any of the grazing periods. We attribute this factor to the manner in which the trial was conducted. During each grazing period we obtained weaned goats from a livestock auction, so animals were obtained from a diversity of sources and differed widely in health and initial parasite loads. Regardless of anthelminthic treatment, some of the animals maintained high parasite loads throughout the trial in each grazing period.
Our conclusion would be that sericea lespedeza provides excellent forage for goats if rotationally grazed. It is best for research, and for meat goat producers, to obtain goats from a single reputable source that maintains a good anthelminthic and health program to insure consistent animal health.
Objective 4
A study was conducted at the University of Tennessee-Martin Sheep and Goat Research and Teaching Farm (UTM) to examine correlations between live linear and real-time ultrasound measurements and carcass characteristics in Spanish x Boer goats. Goats were housed at UTM and grazed on sericea lespedeza, annual lespedeza, white clover or chicory combination grass pasture for 90 days then goats were weighed (55.8 +/- 7.7 lbs) and ultrasound measurements were taken for body wall thickness (BWT), hide thickness (HT), backfat (BF) and LM Depth (LMD) and linear measurements were taken for length of cannon (LC), heart girth (HG), and circumference of neck (NECK). Goats were then transported to Meacham Packing Company (Batesville, AR) and were kosher slaughtered by exsanguination under the inspection of the United States Department of Agriculture. Immediately following slaughter hot carcass weight (HCW) was recorded and following a 48 h chill cold carcass weight (CCW), hindsaddle weight (HSW) and foresaddle weight (FSW) were recorded and hind and foresaddle percentages (HS% and FS%)were calculated as HSW/CCW = HS% and FSW/CCW=FS%, respectively. HS% and FS% were 0.60 +/- 0.01 and 0.40 +/- 0.01 per cent, respectively. Pearson Correlations performed by the Proc Corr procedure of SAS revealed that HCW was correlated with BW (0.71; P < 0.01), LMD (0.46; P = 0.03), BWT (0.42; P = 0.05), LC (0.36; P = 0.10), HG (0.65; P < 0.01), and NECK (0.45; P = 0.04). However, with the exception of a correlation between CCW and BWT (0.36; P = 0.10), no other linear or ultrasound measurements were directly correlated with any carcass data collected (P > 0.10). However, the linear measurements for HG and NECK were correlated with ultrasound measurements for LMD (HG=0.67; P < 0.01; NECK= 0.42; P = 0.05) and the linear measurements of LC and HG were correlated with the ultrasound measurements for BWT (LC=0.39; P = 0.07; HG=0.39; P = 0.07). Additionally, linear (LC, HG, and NECK) and ultrasound (LMD) measurements were correlated with BW (LC = 0.46, P = 0.03; HG=0.83, P > 0.01; NECK =0.62, P < 0.01; LMD=0.57; P < 0.01). Results indicate the possibility of utilizing both linear measurements and ultrasonography to predict HCW in goats, additionally there is a possibility of utilizing only linear measurements to predict BW and HCW in goats, thereby reducing the input costs of ultrasounding and/or the use of scales for small producers. Objective 5
We conducted a workshop focusing on goat herd health and parasite control on Saturday, August 6, 2005. Twelve goat producers took part in the workshop that included lectures on goat parasites, their control, FAMACHA evaluations, and proper methods for performing fecal egg counts. Each participant received a booklet that outlined the material covered along with a copy of FAMACHA charts.
A major accomplishment during 2006 was the completion of the educational materials for the Extension Master Goat program. The materials consist of a 14 chapter manual supplemented by PowerPoint slides covering all aspects of meat goat production. This manual was edited by Dr. An Peischel, a cooperator on this SARE project, with chapters on goat health, forages, reproduction, nutrition and behavior written by participants in this project.
During this project a total of 102 county extension educators received training in the Master Goat Producer Program. These agents then developed producer Master Goat Producer training programs in their counties. Since Spring 2007 a total of 493 farmers have been certified as Master Goat Producers through completion of the training program including a knowledge test.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary

Education/outreach description:

2005 Meat Goat Production Workshop and Trade Show. 22 February 2005. Proceedings.

G. S. Jackson. 2007. A survey of meat goat producers in Tennessee and surrounding areas. M.S. Thesis. University of Tennessee at Martin.

M.P. Nicks. 2006. Evaluation of commercial goat abattoir in Tennessee. M.S. Research Paper. University of Tennessee at Martin

J.E. Mehlhorn. 2007. Developing a meat goat processing facility in Northwest Tennessee. UT Martin Research Report.

An Peischel. 2006. Master Meat Goat Producer In-service Training Manual . University of Tennessee/Tennessee State University Cooperative Extension Manual.

A workshop on goat herd health and parasites was developed and conducted at the University of Tennessee at Martin on August 6, 2005. Participants were instructed on proper use of vaccines and anthelmintics.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

The primary impact of this research has been to characterize the meat goat industry in Tennessee and surrounding areas. A critical evaluation of the data along with an economic analysis of factors that would be required to support a dedicated goat slaughter facility will serve as excellent background material for entrepreneurs potentially interested in developing a goat slaughter facility. Our limited ultrasound and linear body measurements have indicated that it may be possible for producers to predict hot carcass weight by using linear measurements. Future research needs to be conducted with goats from a single source with a unified health/anthelminthic program to reduce the inconsistency in data produced by animals of varied background.

The major impact of this project has been the development of the Tennessee Master Goat producer program. This project has resulted in over 100 Tennessee County Extension Educators being trained in all aspects of meat goat production. The resources that were developed serve as an excellent tool for anyone interested in goat production. To date nearly 500 farmers have been certified as Master Goat Producers through completing the Master Goat Producer training program.

Farmer Adoption

Producers who have taken part in the Master Goat Producer certification program have adopted better health and herd management practices. The forage program practices promoted in the program have resulted in producers paying more attention to forage quality and grazing management. The program has also made producers aware of the importance of developing marketing plans and designing their goat breeding program to provide desired carcass traits at the times that there are market demands for specific products.

Recommendations:

Areas needing additional study

Due to constraints in our production system we did not evaluate pasture systems for the fall and winter. Our primary interest was to evaluate forage systems that would reduce parasite problems during the summer and maximize goat performance during the major pasture growing season. It is essential that pasture systems for year-round forage production to support goats throughout the year be developed for the Southeast. Fall/winter components should also be evaluated for their impact on parasite management. Development of systems coupled with optimum health management systems should result in excellent production systems for meat goats. Additional study is required to verify and optimize both ultrasound and linear carcass management techniques to develop these tools for use by goat producers.

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.