- Animals: goats, sheep
- Animal Production: grazing - continuous, pasture renovation, grazing - rotational
- Education and Training: decision support system, extension, farmer to farmer, networking
- Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, marketing management, value added, whole farm planning
- Production Systems: holistic management
- Soil Management: composting
- Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, partnerships, employment opportunities, social capital, social networks
The number of small ruminant animals (sheep and goats) on Kentucky farms has grown rapidly over the past several years as farmers look for a means to replace lost tobacco income. The response of Extension and other agriculture professionals has been primarily focused on production practices and techniques. This project is directed towards adding value to the production of these animals.
Until very recently, there were few Extension agents or other ag professionals in Kentucky who were familiar with the production of meat goats. Dairy goat production was limited to a backyard enterprise, with most milk consumed privately or sold unpastuerized under an obscure 1988 Kentucky law. The number of sheep in the state has dropped from well over a million to an estimated 20,000, mostly in small flocks.
We set out to identify the barriers to the entry of farmers into small ruminant based production and to the profitability of existing enterprise. There are several examples of barriers we wanted to identify and research. In the case of meat goats, there were until about three years ago (2001) only a few small goat markets in the state, and no coordinated efforts to market goats. There are still no goat milk processing facilities in the state, although there is a group of producers working to establish one. There are now (2004) several custom and at least three USDA-inspected facilities which will process goat meat, but at the time of our proposal there were very few. The disposal of offal from sheep and goats is still problematic due to scrapie and its suspected links to BSE (mad-cow disease). In this project we looked at composting as a disposal solution.
We wanted to identify new means of adding value to the production of small ruminants and various by-products of their production. We also wanted to explore some of the market segments many farmers were hearing about (ethnic groups,etc.) but were unfamiliar with. Finally, we hoped to publicize the results of our project to as many farmers, agents, and other interested parties as possible.