- Additional Plants: native plants
- Animals: goats
- Animal Production: parasite control, grazing - continuous, grazing management, pasture fertility, winter forage
- Education and Training: demonstration, display, mentoring, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, workshop
- Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
- Production Systems: holistic management, integrated crop and livestock systems
- Soil Management: soil quality/health
Southern U.S. is well suited for forage production and also supports many plant species considered browse and favored by goats. The most widely used perennial forages in this region (bahiagrass, bermudagrass and infected tall fescue) are too low in nutritive quality for optimal health and growth of goats. In addition to marginal feed, hot and humid climate of this region promotes survival of gastro-intestinal (GI) parasites of goats and imposes additional burden on their health. Nutritionally deficient animals will be more susceptible to GI infection that can cause severe losses in goat operations. Surveying goat production practices on different soil types throughout the state of Alabama and recording production practices adopted by small limited resource farms, we have found that there is a strong correlation between utilization of browse as a part of feeding system and reduction in parasite load at these farms (AALGA Project). Also, use of multi-crop pastures tend to balance soil nutrients and are favored by goats over mono-crop pastures (more selection opportunity). However, no documented data set is available in the literature on performance of goat grazing on these pastures or proper management for use of browse in a feeding system. Therefore, the problem to be addressed in this project is the need for a combination of forages/browse system that will provide high quality feed for goats throughout the year, will produce healthier animals, and restore nutrients to the soil for a sustainable goat production in southeastern U.S.
Project objectives from proposal:
The general goal of this project is to develop and demonstrate a profitable and sustainable
year-round forage system including browse. The focus will be on the sustainability of the system in terms of minimum input to the system while optimizing the pasture quality, soil health, animal performance, and economic return for goat production, especially suited to limited resource producers. Accordingly, our specific objectives are to: 1) Determine animal health, performance and carcass quality when browse is incorporated in the feeding system; 2) Determine pasture quality changes using multi-culture grasses, and grasses in combination with legumes when grazed by goats as a part of the system; 3) Determine soil quality changes using multi-culture grasses, and grasses in combination with legumes when grazed by goats; 4) Determine optimum economic return and 5) Evaluate adaptability (on an experiment station with goats) and demonstrate applicability (on three small farms) of an integrated year-round forage system using commercial goats, and pure bred goats.
Replicated pasture paddocks with selected forage combinations year-round will be grazed by goats with/without browse. Animal health, animal performance, forage quality, and soil nutrient balance will be monitored for two consecutive years and the best production system will be applied to the farm conditions for the third year of this project. We expect to improve sustainability of the production system in southern U.S. for limited resource farmers. We aim for better animal performance with higher average daily gain and carcass quality, better quality of feeds, and healthier soil with minimum input utilizing browse as a part of the feeding system and introducing new unconventional legume/grass pastures to the system.
In summary, our producers need information on all aspects of goat production and management, and this proposed project may fulfill some of this information gap.