COLUMBIA, Mo. - Missouri goat producers can learn key issues in meat, dairy and fiber goat production at the state’s second annual Goat Conference and youth 4-H Goat Camp in Jefferson City, March 28-29, at the Lincoln University George Washington Carver Farm. Registration is $30 for the conference, $15 for the 4-H camp.
"The program is really new, and it’s important. Meat goat production has really skyrocketed," said Dr. Charlotte Clifford-Rathert, veterinarian and state small ruminant extension specialist at Lincoln University. "For the ethnic immigrants in the state, goat is a major part of their normal diet. The industry is starting to be able to serve these people."
Meat and dairy goats are the state’s fastest growing livestock sector. With almost 95,000 goats in Missouri as of Jan. 1, the state has the nation’s eighth-largest goat herd, according to USDA statistics. Meat goat production increased 183 percent between 2002 and 2007.
In addition to a growing market for their meat, goats have other qualities that make them appealing as livestock. Goats can be raised on less acreage than other livestock. They are more efficient at feed conversion, Clifford-Rathert said. Farmers also can use them for pasture management, as they eat browse and weeds other livestock won’t.
The conference will cover all aspects of goat production, from management to health and nutrition. Extension and industry specialists, veteran goat producers and small ruminant veterinarians will teach sessions on goat diseases, pasture renovation, forage grazing, rules for marketing goats, neonatal care and other subjects.
Maximizing profits through improved marketing will be a key topic.
Even as U.S. demand has grown, a lot of goat meat on the market is imported from Australia, Clifford-Rathert said. In Missouri, grocery stores often meet requests for goat with imports from other states.
"We have a market, we have producers. We should be using what’s raised right here," she said.
Another crucial issue on the agenda is parasite detection.
"Parasites are the biggest problem in goats," Clifford-Rathert said. "Understanding their life cycle and pasture management is critical."
Barber pole worms are the main culprits in summer, said Helen Swartz, a Lincoln University extension sheep and goat specialist. "There are only three commercial treatments, and in the Southern states they all don’t work. The worms are resistant."
Dr. Tessa Marshall, University of Missouri professor of veterinary medicine, will talk about a method developed in South Africa that uses eyelid color to detect parasites. The system, called FAMACHA, is low-cost and helps prevent dewormer resistance by letting farmers selectively treat their animals.
The 4-H youth goat camp is on Saturday. Proper nutrition, quality assurance, how to select show goats and biosecurity issues will be covered. The event is open to all 4-H members.
"Goats are an ideal 4-H project," Clifford-Rathert said. "Many kids today don’t understand where food comes from. Goats are very personable and easy to handle, so most small kids can handle them without getting hurt."
The conference concludes Saturday with a clinic on artificial insemination in sheep and goats.
To register, e-mail Helen Swartz at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 573-681-5540. Full schedule details are at http://www.luce.lincolnu.edu/lugoatconf2008.pdf. The George Washington Carver Farm is southeast of downtown Jefferson City at 3804 Bald Hill Rd. An interactive Google map is available at http://tinyurl.com/3cpbcg.