The United States imported 109,769 tons of sheep meat and 15,105 tons of goat meat in 2018. Therefore, there is a regional potential for production. In the last ten years in Missouri, the goat and sheep population has grown by 26% and 12%, respectively. The rise in demand for this type of meat is due to surging immigrant populations on the east coast that preserve their religious and culinary traditions. The increase in animal heads produced per year leads to more animals per farm and a rise in farmers' production. However, new farmers or other livestock breeders transitioning to sheep and goat production can overexploit pastures due to a lack of prior knowledge of adequate pasture and animal management. Small-scale farmers, Latinos, seniors, or veteran farmers need help accessing fair markets (auctions, barn sales) or processors for slaughtering animals. Achieving sustainable growth of small ruminant production in Missouri and the NCS is challenging. The objectives are: 1) to close the knowledge gap in the areas of conserving soils, native grasses/forbs, animal/nutrition, genetics, reproduction, parasite/control, and marketing strategies toward sustainability 2) to provide educational training and tools to farmers and other stakeholders to improve the capability of using low-cost technologies for sustainability and effective marketing.
Midwest-SREPI will offer educational webinars and face-to-face field days for farmers in Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, and Michigan. With the collaboration of sub-awards with Goat Expo/Midwest Buck Sale LLC and Practical Farmers of Iowa and contractor farmers in Missouri, Michigan, Kansas, and South Dakota. The Midwest-SREPI strategy will have two main phases. The first phase consists of distance training through webinars, Facebook posts, YouTube videos, and the Initiative's new website (LU and Partners). The first phase is education through webinars, which seeks to reach the most stakeholders and partner with organizations, local companies, and county agents so that the scope is massive. This online service will include 30 remote Vet Clinic consults in Missouri and 30 others in Michigan. Twenty-five webinars will be on soil and plant sciences, native plants, cover crops, sustainability, risk management, and organic production of small ruminants. Animal health topics will cover breeding, pasturing, nutrition, parasite prevention, milk and meat contaminants, and value-added processing products for regional markets. Thirty-nine speakers will speak (some in Spanish) for the 2024, 2025, and 2026 webinars. The participation sub-awards and farmers, with a talk from the farmer and an invited specialist, will hold for 29 Field days.
Project objectives from proposal:
The objectives are 1) to create the Midwest Small Ruminant Educational Program Initiative (Midwest-SREPI), 2) to engage and strengthen collaborations with organizations such as Southwest Missouri Dairy Goat Association members, Midwest Buck Sale LLC, Missouri Sheep Producers Inc., and to educate independent farmers, vendors, milk/meat/fiber processors, and county agents.
The primary outcomes are that farmers gain knowledge on more sustainable and profitable production, which will increase awareness of Fecal Egg count & FAMACHA and sustainable pasture management and knowledge of those techniques. Actions outcomes will be farmers will apply their knowledge and increase profits and sustainability.