|Working Together, Producer Group and Outreach Agency Provide Valuable Information to Goat, Sheep Producers|
By Robert Spencer
The reality and success of this conference is a shining example of an educational agency and producer group working together. It may have taken months of planning, but the Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s Urban Affairs and New Nontraditional Programs partnered with the Goat and Sheep Producers of Alabama (GSPA) to insure those attending would receive some very relevant information.
The focus of this conference was forages and grazing management for goats and sheep, but it was so well designed it would have served anyone owning grazing animals. Grazing goats and sheep on pasture and browse is the most economical and healthy form of nutrient provision. The drought we have experienced over the past two years necessitates efficient use of available vegetation as well as practical forage management. During those two days in August, speakers and their topics did an excellent job of teaching people to: better understand the digestive system and nutritional requirements for sheep and goats, how to choose forages and browse that are best suited for small ruminants and each individual farm situation, and manage available vegetation utilizing fencing options and rotational grazing.
The first day (Thursday) consisted of scientist and speakers representing various universities and agencies from Alabama, North Carolina and Tennessee. The array of presenters came from Alabama A & M University, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Auburn University, USDA/NRCS (AL & TN), Tennessee State University and University of North Carolina. The experts included: Drs. Julio Correa, Maria-Leite-Browning, Don Ball, Richard Browning and Jean-Marie Luginbuhl along with specialists, Eddie Jolley and Greg Brann.
Thursday night offered a tasty lamb and goat cook out with roasted lamb, goat meat spaghetti and appropriate side dishes. The delectable dinner took place down by the scenic lake and was shaded by an array of stoic trees. The evening activity allowed everyone the opportunity to taste some gourmet dishes and to interact with the former day’s panel of scientists and speakers as well as other scientists and specialists who were there to address other areas of interest to attending producers.
The morning session on Friday consisted of hands-on demonstrations from GSPA members George Powers, Mark Lanham, Lee and Ernie Hay. Each member took turns demonstrating animal tattooing and tagging, hoof trimming and animal health evaluation.
The two-day session concluded with presentations on drought management by Dr. Maria Leite-Browning and government assistance by Ernie Hay. Those attending came from Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi and Florida.
You may be wondering why this article is appearing two months after the event. There are two reasons: (1) I want interested readers to be aware of the impressive educational program made possible by an outreach agency and producer group working together. (2) There are tentative plans for next year’s Second Annual Conference on Small Ruminants.
Watch this publication and www.aces.edu (early next summer) for detailed information.
For anyone who has not visited the Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center, they need to plan a visit to this wonderful facility. The multitude of buildings and facilities include: chapel, lodgings, conference centers, camp grounds, cafeteria (with excellent food and staff), lake and numerous play areas. The entire campus is surrounded by beautiful woodlands and located on a scenic hillside and valley. The remote location offers a quiet and relaxing atmosphere that facilitates the ability to reflect and meditate on each day’s activities. For those who wish to learn more, the phone number for the Center is 800-280-1105, their website is http://www.shocco.org/ and their address is 1314 Shocco Springs Road, Talladega, AL 35160. If nothing else, take a trip this fall through the beautiful Talladega National Forest and then detour for a visit to the Center.
Author’s Note: The mission statement for the Goat & Sheep Producers of Alabama is "Farmers working together."
Robert Spencer is the Urban Regional Extension Specialist for Extension’s Urban Affairs and New Nontraditional Programs and can be contacted at 256-766-6223.