As the Christmas season wraps up it’s interesting to note that the first people to hear the good news announced by the angels were shepherds watching over their flocks. Their flocks consisted of both sheep and goats. The wool sheared from the sheep provided warm robes for the shepherds as they kept guard over their flocks.
We are currently seeing a renewed interest in raising sheep and goats in Georgia. Sheep production is as old as our nation. Goats and sheep have provided meat, fiber and milk for many generations.
Sheep production peaked in 1942 when there were 56 million head in the US. There are approximately 8.1 million goats and sheep in the United States at this time. According to the Georgia County Guide, there are a little over 142,000 goats in Georgia.
The meat goat industry is the fastest growing animal industry in the United States. Most of this demand emanates from the ethnic markets, and the health and gourmet food sectors.
Goat and sheep production lends itself to small farms. Five or six sheep or goats can be raised on an acre of pasture. With adequate rainfall, the climate in the Southeastern states lends itself to a long growing season and abundant forages. Most of the sheep and goat production is focused on meat production. Some farmers use their flocks for brush control not only on their farms but rent them out to other farmers.
For those folks interested in sustainability, sheep and goats can be thought of as walking compost bins. They can convert relatively low quality feed stuffs into high quality products for humans. We need to reintroduce lamb and goat meat, also called chevon, again to the American consumer.
Sheep and goats are also popular 4-H and FFA livestock projects. Keep them in mind for an excellent education project for young people.
If you are interested, the Troup County Cattleman’s Association is hosting an educational meeting on alternative herd animals, goats and sheep on Jan. 21. Dr. Will Getz has been invited to speak on raising sheep and goats.
Dr. Getz, from Fort Valley State University, has been recognized as one of the leading experts on small ruminants. The meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Agriculture Center on Vulcan Materials Road. If you wish to attend the dinner at 7 p.m., the cost is $5 per person and please call Ann at 706-883-2595 for reservations.
If you have any questions, please call Brian Maddy at 706-616-0546.