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NLPA Sheep & Goat Fund Helps Jump Start
Research and Merchandising Programs at
the University of Tennessee

By Ross McSwain

Univeristy of Tennessee Colorado Springs, CO (August 6, 2008) – A relatively new livestock industry endeavor in the state of Tennessee is getting some help in marketing and research by specialists and researchers with the University of Tennessee at Martin utilitizing funds from the National Livestock Producers Association Sheep & Goat Fund.

Dr. Richard Joost, Professor of Crop Science with the university’s Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said meat goat production is a developing industry in Tennessee. Unlike large livestock production states like Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and others in the northwest, Tennessee has not had a lot of infrastructure available to support it and those raising meat goats are fairly unorganized.

“Many of the producers have very little experience in animal husbandry,” Joost said, thus pointing out the need for holding training sessions to prepare county Extension agents and others to work with producers in their particular area.

“Tennessee has the second largest number of goats in the United States, although our numbers are 10 times less than those in Texas,” Joost said. “Unfortunately for the development of the industry most operations are small with the average herd size around 15 animals.” According to a survey conducted among meat goat producers, most do not rely on their animals as a prime source of income. “Given the small herd sizes, they have either other farm interests or off-farm employment.”

Univeristy of Tennessee The NLPA Sheep & Goat Fund provided a loan for the completion of the Livestock Merchandising Center and helping to establish and develop the Tennessee Meat Goat and Sheep Educational and Research Center located at Martin, Tennessee.

Joost said the initial money received from the NLPA Sheep and Goat Fund loan was used to build a sheep and goat barn and to develop pasture research facilities.

“The fact that we had these facilities in place allowed us to successfully obtain a SARE research and education grant. The grant was aimed at developing pasture systems for the production of meat goats on pasture, reducing parasite loads and determining the best way to provide meat goats for sustaining a processing facility. Included in the grant was support for a survey of the Tennessee meat goat industry to determine the structure, needs and ability for further development,” he said. “Our intent was to provide support for the development of a dedicated goat harvest and processing facility in Tennessee.”

The meat goat and sheep research center typically runs 100 goats on its 12-acre research pasture unit. To facilitate record keeping and other factors associated with research work, the pasturage is divided into 24 individual half-acre paddocks, or lots, to allow researchers to evaluate different forage species and other treatments.

Univeristy of Tennessee “Most of the money from the first sheep and goat fund grant was used to buy fencing materials,” he said. “We used a five-strand electric fence for the subdivisions initially, but switched to electrified web fencing later. We also bought individual water tubs for each paddock and ran a waterline down the alleyway to provide water to each paddock.”

Joost said that the facility sticks with primarily crossbred meat goats so they have not done anything at this time with any specific breeds.

Joost said that through the university’s working relationship with Tennessee Livestock Producers (TLP), the department learned of the NLPA Sheep & Goat Fund. Darrell Ailshie, general manager of TLP, who also serves on NLPA’s board of directors and the NLPA Sheep & Goat Fund Committee, also made UT-M aware of the availability of the fund.

“This facility has had a very positive effect in our region,” Ailshie said. “It has been a catalyst to generate more research on meat goats, given 4-Hers a place to buy and sell higher quality animals, and become a central location for the sheep and goat industries in our area.”Univeristy of Tennessee

“The research project also includes cooperators at Tennessee State University and has resulted in our cooperation in the development of the Master Goat Producer Extension program,” Joost said. “So far, there have been five training sessions to prepare county Extension agents to work with meat goat producers in their own areas.”

“A manual and a three-day workshop are the key points of the program,” Joost said. Dr. An Peischel, Extension goat specialist at Tennessee State, is the leader in that particular project.
According to Dr. Jerry Gresham, on July 1st, the university opened a new West Tennessee Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory on the campus which also will serve the meat goat industry. “To date we have actually served more meat goat clients with necropsy services than any other species.”

Also, on Thursday July 24, it was formally announced by the university that the Livestock Merchandising Center, which hosts club lamb sales each year, will be expanded, Gresham said.

The center is dedicated to public merchandising of all species of livestock, but especially for sheep and goats. The facility is used for shows, field days, livestock exhibitions, demonstrations, sales and other outreach programs. The NLPA Sheep & Goat Fund loan is being used along with a Rural Business Enterprise Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, private funds and university monies.

For more information or an application please contact the National Livestock Producers Association at (800) 237-7193. More information and the application are also available at .


The National Livestock Producers Association, founded in 1921, is an organization of livestock marketing cooperatives and credit corporations representing more than 215,000 livestock producers nationwide.

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