Increasing Profits from Sheep and Goat Production

Dennis L. DeWitt, livestock field specialist

Many sheep and goat producers have off-farm employment, but still want to add value to their operation so they can have a profitable enterprise. Portable fencing, new energizers, proper grounding, improved grazing management, using non-traditional lambing system, and reduced lambing time death loss will increase profits from the sheep and goat operation. Boer goat production is increasing due to increased demand for lean meat and changing consumer preferences in the U.S. and the world. The addition of the Boer goat herd to the traditional operation is adding value to agriculture.

A formal program planning process with the Northwest Iowa Sheep Producers Association identified the program. Educational grant applications totaling $1750 was secured from the Iowa Lamb and Wool Promotion Board and $150 from the Northwest Iowa Sheep Producers to hold three lambing time management workshops, four Iowa Communications Network (ICN) programs at four locations and one sheep & goat for profit field day. The Internet has proven successful for providing education also.

One hundred ninety one men and women from Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa attended at least one of these educational opportunities. Twenty-two operations have responded back from e-mail educational information sent to them about USDA mandatory identification, USDA ewe-lamb retention program payments and impact from short tail docking of lambs.

Seventeen of 24 producers completed the lambing time workshop evaluation. There were 14 different responses to the most important idea learned or reinforced. That is almost one per producer! The 17 producers indicated 12 new or different ideas that will be put into immediate practice. Six producers rated the workshop as excellent. The producers represented 1571 lambing ewes this year and 1793 lambs marketed last year. Twelve out of 17 operations plan to increase in numbers over the next three years. The actual cost of these workshops per producer was $48 and according to the producers, if they apply the knowledge gained they would expect to increase income by $165 or as a group $2625.

The Northwest Iowa Sheep and Goat field day had 66 out of 77 persons registered and only 19 evaluations were returned for the July 1 meeting. In response to knowledge before and after the field day, 17 indicated an increase in numerical score. Sixteen different ideas were reported as being learned from this field day. Surprisingly 15 out of 19 reported using temporary fences or electrifiable netting in their operation. They also indicated that the grounding and fencing was the most valuable to them. The 17 operations indicated that the knowledge gained from this field day would be $4400.

The program planning questions were very well answered with lots of producers wanting more educational opportunities and a broad set of topics.

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