Saturday a day set aside for goats

September 29, 2009|By JEFF SEMLER

Probably one of the most maligned or at least the least appreciated of the barn animals is the goat.

Or at least that is true in the western world. Now you might think sheep are bad because of the bad press they got in the old westerns or because they are reputedly dumb, but at least they get mentioned.

Small ruminants, which goats and sheep are considered, have long stood in the shadows of the more glamorous barn species -- the horse and the cow. This lack of appreciation, I think, has to do with the American need to always have something big.

Outside of our borders, however, these smaller animals play a huge role in feeding and clothing their human caretakers.

Since my focus today is on the goat, we will only talk about their contributions, but in many cultures goats and sheep are raised together.


You might remember a young shepherd boy named David who tended his father's flocks and herds. Or you might recall Abraham, Lot and Jacob, whose wealth was measured by the size of their flocks and herds of sheep and goats.

The goat is the No. 1 dairy animal in the world. Cows outproduce the goat, but more people in less- developed countries use goats as their source for milk. Goats also provide meat in many cultures. Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, African and Caribbean folks consume a great deal of goat meat.

Goats also contribute fiber for clothing such as mohair from angora goats and cashmere from goats bearing the same name. Goat skins are used for clothing and making containers to hold such things as water or for covering drum heads. In some areas of the world, goats even serve as pack animals.

All this information is the backdrop for the second annual Meat Goat Field Day and Sale Saturday from 9 to 2 p.m. at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center.

The day will consist of a presentation about goat selection and genetics by Richard Browning from Tennessee State University, as well as time to view the sale goats and visit with Extension personnel and breeders. There also will be a goat skillathon for the youngsters.

While the field day is the marquee event, it is actually the culmination of the fourth annual Western Maryland Meat Goat Pasture Performance Test. This was the first test of its kind in the U.S. and now has a sister test in Oklahoma. Sixty bucks (male goats) have been raised entirely on pasture since June 3.

The bucks have been weighed, fecal egg counts taken, evaluated for body condition score and wormed only if needed, based on FAMACHA score.

In addition to rate of gain, the more important information gathered during the test is parasite resistance and resilience. Many deworming products have become ineffective in many species because breeders treat on a regular schedule instead of based on infestation. This overtreatment has helped build resistant parasites. Products that once were effective now do not kill the targeted parasite.

Selecting herd sires that can aid in breeding for parasite resistance is a win-win situation. It reduces the need for using deworming products, which reduces the cost of production and increases farm profits.

For more information about this program or other Extension programs, contact the Extension office, go to or follow this program at I hope to see many of you Saturday.

Jeff Semler is an Extension educator, specializing in agriculture and natural resources, for the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension. He is based in Washington County. He can be reached weekdays by telephone at 301-791-1404, ext. 25, or by e-mail at

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