- Animals: goats
- Animal Production: grazing management, manure management, pasture fertility, pasture renovation, grazing - rotational
- Crop Production: agroforestry, forestry
- Education and Training: display, extension, focus group, participatory research, workshop
- Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns, feasibility study, market study, value added
- Production Systems: agroecosystems
- Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, social networks, sustainability measures
The project seeks to understand the landowners' perspective of goat herding in agroforestry system as an alternative land management and income generation option in Alabama. Meat goat production has become a popular activity in Alabama in recent years. However, goat farming has not yet become an integral part of agricultural system given its effective role in controlling unwanted vegetation and improving soil fertility. Studies in southern United States and European countries have suggested an agroforestry farming system with goats can increase economic return and environmental value of the land in long-run (Perevolotsky and Haimov, 1992; Zinkhan and Mercer, 2005). Given the good market potential due to rising ethnic population and higher number of privately owned forest lands, goat farming can be one of the vital economic opportunities in Alabama. Such system will be especially beneficial for many limited resource landowners who own smaller acreage of lands. Integrating goats in such land will be an effective strategy for generating multiple values of land and supporting sustainable agricultural system. The purpose of this preliminary research and education proposal is to identify potentials of using goats in an agroforestry system to make small farms more profitable and environmentally sustainable. The project activities will seek landowners' perspective through household surveys and focus group discussions. The proposal will seek landowners' perspectives in the three objectives:(1) To what extent does the integration of goats in the agroforestry system help to control unwanted vegetation and increase soil fertility?(2)Is the modified agroforestry system is cost-effective and provide a viable economic opportunity for small farmers?(3) What are the critical information needs associated to goat rearing and marketing and what are the assistance available to them from local and government agencies? About 100 goat herders across the State of Alabama will be interviewed by telephone survey to obtain preliminary information about goat heard establishment, management and marketing, problems encountered and feasibility to make goats an integral part of the agricultural system. Three focus group discussions will be organized in the western Black Belt Region of Alabama. The focus group will be attended by academics, local farmers/landowners, county and extension agency representatives in cooperation with Federation of Southern Cooperatives (FSC), Limited Resources Landowners Education and Assistant Network (LRLEAN), and Community Based Land Development (CBLD) Consortium personnel. The findings from the survey and focus group discussions will be utilized to develop a comprehensive and interdisciplinary proposal to submit to SARE. The information will help to narrow down hypotheses and objectives of the full proposal and provide pertinent background information to conduct research for making goat-agroforestry system a viable economic and environmental alternative for the best land management practices for small landowners. The full proposal will address researchable issues of production, marketing and sustainability of the goat-agroforestry system for the enhanced farm productivity, land stewardship and economic development of the region.
Project objectives from proposal:
The major objective of the research is to evaluate economic and environmental potentials of goats-agroforestry system on privately
owned lands. The specific objectives of the research are:
1. Explore farmers perception on to what extend modified agricultural system (inclusion of goats in agricultural and forestry lands)is cost-effective and feasible for small landowners to enhance land productivity and environmental sustainability.
2. To assess and quantify benefits of the goat rearing and tree growing in the same land, and maintenance of under-bush by goats, shelter for goats, and manure deposition under trees.
3. To identify types of information and support associated to goat rearing and marketing and identify the assistance available to
them from government or other agencies.
Approach and Methods
A brief description of the methods to be used for each objective, numbered according to their corresponding objective, and noting
which cooperating partners are involved for each objective.
Objective 1: About 100 goat herders across the state of Alabama will be contacted and telephone interviewed. The questions will relate to their experience in preparing farms, acquiring herd of goats, and time required for routine maintenance of goat herds, etc. The questions will also include farmers' perception of the time and cost involved in controlling under tree vegetation. The cost involved for food supplies, parasite control, and hauling and returns from goat sales will be collected. This information will be used to compute net profit per acre from goat-agroforestry system. This information will be discussed in the focus group discussions and researchable issues will be identified for the full proposal.
Objective 2: This objective will be addressed through the survey responses and the focus group discussions. Three focus group discussions (15 land small landowners in each session) in the eight Black Belt counties of west-central Alabama (Dallas, Hale, Greene, Lowndes, Marengo, Perry, Sumter, and Wilcox) will be conducted.Landowners who have concurrently raised goats and trees in the same land will be interviewed and their feedback will be collected. The information will include specific type of goat breed suitable for specific land coverage, browsing pattern, rotation frequency, and the consequence of browsing on tree growth. This information will be used to compare economic and environmental consequences of goats under forestry and goats in the pasture land.
Objective 3: Focus group discussions will be held to obtain information regarding types of information and assistance available or needed in the study region. In the focus group discussions, conversations will be held among landowners, academics, local
government and community based organization to discuss the effectiveness of the current forms of assistance, subsidies provided
and problems regarding goats herd management, disease control, marketing and impacts on vegetation control. The landowners will be asked about the preferred media (such as radio, TV, DVDs, fact sheets, online) for obtaining information. Landowners' concerns will be addressed in a best possible way by the agency personnel and professionals during the focus group discussion.