Written by Dr. Tilahun Sahlu
IGA Board member and Director of E (Kika) de la Garza American Institute for Goat Research
As usual, this time of year is very busy as we prepare for our annual Goat Field Day and conduct research projects.
This year, the theme for our Goat and Hair Sheep Field Day is Preventing Production Losses and you can read more about it on page 3 of this newsletter. This year our featured speakers will be Mr. Matthew Branan, Dr. David Pugh, and Dr. Jim Keen. Mr. Branan is from the USDA/APHIS National Animal Health Monitoring System in Fort Collins, CO; Dr. Pugh is from the Alabama Veterinary Diagnostic Lab System in Auburn, AL; and Dr. Keen is from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
We tend to think in the above reports as day-to-day losses from hundreds of thousands sheep and goat operations. However, sometime production losses can be quick and overwhelming. Hurricane Harvey caused more than $200 million in crop and livestock losses in south Texas in a matter of days. Of that loss, $93 million was in livestock, which included not only cattle and calves but also industry infrastructure. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina caused losses of $15 million for poultry producers and $8 million for cattle producers. Unlike Harvey, Hurricane Katrina losses did not account for infrastructure damages. So the actual losses were probably much greater.
As we can see from the aforementioned studies, sheep and goats have similar concerns in combatting production losses but also have unique concerns. Therefore, it is important for goat and hair sheep producers to prepare against production losses at the micro and macro levels.
I mentioned hair sheep because we recently added a small research flock of Dorper, Katahdin, and St. Croix hair sheep and we want to address research and educational concerns of hair sheep producers in all of our activities. In the Summer 2017 newsletter, I mentioned the hair sheep flock. This fall, we mated a large number of ewes and are awaiting lambing season. This is new territory for us. The farm crew is well versed in kidding and the management of kids but not lambing.
In the winter of 2017, we unveiled our online certification goat producer courses (http://certification.goats.langston.edu). Actually, the meat goat online course was a completely revised version of our popular course and the dairy goat online course was a brand new course. With the assistance of the American Dairy Goat Association in promoting the online dairy goat course, we have grown in enrollment exponentially. In just over a month, we have gone from 40 participants to more than 400. Our hope is that the online courses will equip dairy and meat goat producers with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to become better managers of their goats and thereby, preventing future production losses. Currently, we do not have any plans for a hair sheep online course but it is always a possibility for the future.
On the research side, we said goodbye to Dr. Dereje Tadesse Gulich, who returned to Debre Birhan University in Ethiopia. For two years, Dr. Tadesse worked on the research project entitled "Genomics of Resilience in Sheep to Climatic Stressors" led by Dr. Art Goetsch. Dr. Tadesse’s studies involved the three hair sheep breeds that we mentioned earlier. We also said goodbye to Ms. Hiywot Eshetu, who was an animal technician at the research farm and who is Dr. Tadesse's wife. We will miss them both and we wish them well.
I hope to see you at the Goat and Hair Sheep Field Day.