Goat Friendly Pastures

Project Overview

Project Type: On-Farm Research
Funds awarded in 2003: $14,975.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2006
Matching Federal Funds: $21,958.00
Region: Southern
State: Kentucky
Principal Investigator:
Terry Hutchens
Univ of Kentucky & Kentucky State Univ

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: sorghum (milo)
  • Animals: goats


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, parasite control, animal protection and health, grazing - continuous, mineral supplements, grazing - multispecies, preventive practices, grazing - rotational, stockpiled forages, winter forage
  • Crop Production: double cropping
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, technical assistance
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns
  • Pest Management: biological control, cultural control, field monitoring/scouting, physical control
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, integrated crop and livestock systems
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, sustainability measures


    Summary 1 describes the exploration of methods of gastro-intestinal parasites infection avoidance for grazing goats. Adult female goats were grazed on a sorghum sudangrass, BMR, annual hybrid during peak parasite infection periods. Goats were not dewormed or supplemented by grain during the grazing period. All goats recovered from lactation and gained significant weight during the grazing period. Goats in the study maintained acceptable body condition and were only mildly anemic. Fecal egg counts were held at tolerable levels without medication. Removing goats from parasite infected spring pastures to rapid growing summer annuals is an effective method of parasite avoidance. Seeding small blocks of high producing warm season annuals is cost effective and a nutritionally viable method of providing adequate nutrition while reducing parasite infections.

    Summary 2 describes the possibility of using co-grazing, or mixed species grazing (goats and cows) as a means of reducing gastro-intestinal parasite in grazing goats. However, in this case, there were no treatment effects. Abnormally wet and mild weather conditions created excessive summer growth. Goat stocking rates were too low to accommodate the growth of tall fescue. End of rotation, residual dry matter mass was 1400 lbs DM/acre or 9 inches of pasture height. As a result, of the pasture height, few parasite infections occurred in 120 days of grazing. Modest pasture heights 4-5 inches may provide enough barrier protection for parasite infection avoidance.


    Kentucky farmers have lost 75% of the burley tobacco crop due to production reduction (formerly valued at $6 Billion/year). Many small and limited resource tobacco farmers are hoping that meat goat production will replace a part of the primary farm income generated by four to five acres of tobacco. Presently five acres of burley tobacco would provide a farm family approximately $12,000 annually. This is a modest income but few agricultural alternatives can replace such an income. Reductions have caused small to moderate size family farm operators to looking for alternatives to tobacco in an effort to avoid total extinction. Presently meat goat production provides economic hope for small farmers in Kentucky and other southeastern states. However, most Kentucky producers (2600 producers and 70,000 goats in the state, USDA, Farm Service Agency, 2002 LCP status report) have been involved in the industry less than 2 years. Therefore producer education is a high priority for the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service and is a priority for many southern eastern states.

    Kentucky has many strong attributes that supports the production of meat goats. The state location is within one days drive to major goat meat markets and goat consuming populations. Secondly, forage and browse plant diversity is unsurpassed by any other state in the southeast. Furthermore, Kentucky’s Department of Agriculture (KDA) has distributed over 3 million dollars to Kentucky farmers for the purchase of meat goat seed stock, handling equipment and barn renovation. State Agricultural Diversity Programs are funded by tobacco company payments to tobacco producing states. In addition, KDA has designated two agricultural economists to assist Kentucky farmers in market meat goats.

    Recent estimates indicate that 75% of the goat farms are not using forage resources effectively. Kentucky goat farmers are pen feeding expensive commercial feeds. Pen feeding is not a sustainable alternative due to the cost of feed and narrow margins for goat meat. Secondly, the animal is poorly suited for continuous concentrate feeding. Many metabolic problems are associated with high concentrate feeds. The majority of the research relating to this topic was done in the western U.S. and furthermore the work was dairy goat related. There is a need for research and simultaneous Extension education.

    Kentucky’s number one goat health problem is internal parasites. Rampant herd infections together with drug resistance will hinder and possibly eliminate goat production in Kentucky if integrated methods of management are not incorporated into the present drug based protocol. Southwestern states environmental conditions mimic the natural habitat of the goat. These climates are characterized by low annul rain fall, sparse vegetation, and scrub-tree browse conditions. By comparison, Kentucky’s climate is classified as temperate having mild temperatures, abundant rainfall, and high humidity. Kentucky pastures experience long periods of wet foliage conditions which often linger throughout the year. Rain and humid conditions insure the productivity of Kentucky grasses, forbs and browse plants but at the same time increase the threat of internal parasite devastation of goat herds. By contrast, arid climates seen in the southwestern United States stop infections early in the year while Kentucky conditions foster larvae development through out most of the year. Nationally, the incidence of gastro-intestinal parasites and resulting development of parasite resistance to almost all anthelmintics is an obstacle to overall sustainability of small ruminant development.

    Farmers, Extension Agents, Veterinarians and industry professionals must be made aware of integrated approaches to managing both nutrition and parasites. These are immediate industry concerns requiring localized information and Extension education. The above statement is supported by the voice of 400 Kentucky goat producers (20% of Kentucky producers) attending two SARE PDP funded Kentucky State University, Third Thursday, Sustainable Goat Production education events. These producers participated in the Lessoning Forms held March and October 2002. Likewise the SARE PDP Kentucky Funds sponsored the 2001 – 2002 Kentucky Agricultural Advancement Counsel meeting 2002, made up of one farmer representative and a County Extension Agent form each (120 counties) county in Kentucky. This prestigious group of agricultural leaders stated that the lack of education and research on goat production is a primary barrier to diversification for the post-tobacco agricultural community.

    Project objectives:

    The primary objective of this work, Experiment 1, was to evaluate methods of gastro-intestinal parasite avoidance and to demonstrate these methods to producers, educators and veterinarians. Secondly to demonstrate to farmers the use of forages as a primary feed source for adult female goats. Third, validate through research, antidotal information that clams certain pasture management techniques are effective tools for reducing gastrointestinal parasites infection in goats.

    All of the objectives were achieved through applied research, demonstration and related educational programs. Goat producers participated in the project and goat producers were informed by personal observation thus facilitated technology exchange via farmer to farmer contact.

    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.