Today's Quote

“If people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” Thomas Jefferson

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sheep and Goat Expo Afterthoughts

Well, it was a good day despite the rain....yes I said rain. There were quite a few producers there and quite a few products for display and sale. It was a good day for talking dairy goats and sheep. There were of course meat goats and meat goat people as well. Looks like I might be trading some spring doelings (provided we get some this year) with some katahdin spring lambs. It will be nice to have lamb in the freezer. My daughters wanted to bring home all the babies. Didn't matter whether goats or sheep, they were all adorable and would have easily fit in the station wagon! However, they all went home with their owners. I am not interested in sheep at the moment. My oldest daughter and I were taught how to spin wool. Come to find out the lady selling and demonstrating the spinning is our neighbor. Well, next county over but out here that is considered neighbor. She raises Icelandic and one of the rovings that she had was the most beautiful steel blue color. She doesn't dye her wool so it was all natural. I want a sweater made from that wool! Ok, nothing to it just buy the roving, practice spinning, learn how to knit......I can do that no problem! LOL! I don't know when I would ever find the time. However, she had both a large spinning wheel and a small spindle type thing (see how much I learned). The little spindle type thing looked so relaxing. Just like something that would be nice to do while sitting by the fire on a cold winter day. Or a blustery spring day like we had today! The cheese guy had the most wonderful cheese and that is definitely on my list of things to learn. His wife is teaching a class next weekend and I had made up my mind that I was going. That is until I found out that they are in the extreme north end of our state....about 5 hours away. So that is a little far for a one day cheese class. Now the food! Well apparently no one entered the cook off. You would think that the meat goat people would want to promote their product. Anyway, they did have chevron burgers cooked by someone who obviously had never cooked goat and they were dry and tough. Kinda like chewing on shoe leather. Oh well so much for new and exciting recipes. The photo contest was fun to look at and there were some really cute goat pics. I told my kids that they have to learn to do cute things so that I can take cute photos and enter them in contests! They said they might consider it only after supper. Ok, on to the highlight of the day the speakers! The first speaker was awesome. He was from the sheep and goat department of one of our state universities and up on all the latest data from purchasing your dairy goat, management issues, commercial marketing and home production. He really covered a lot of material in a short amount of time. One of the most interesting things that he brought up was the parasite resistance problem that we are having to pretty much all commercial de-wormers. Currently, there is no research being done anywhere to develop another de-wormer. So it comes down to natural management practices....right up my alley. Apparently, there has been research done on forage use for parasite control and one of the things that has been found is that forage high in tannins seems to have anti-parasitic properties. In other words it acts as a natural parasite control. So my goats will definitely get more oak tree branches and leaves this year and I am looking for lespedeza to incorporate into my pastures. Both are high in tannins. The most awesome thing about that speaker is that at the end of the talk he asked if anyone would like a copy of his dairy goat notebook that he had compiled. I of course volunteered to get a copy thinking that this would be a pamphlet type thing. Well, this was a huge 3 ring binder full of all the latest from agricultural colleges around the country. Everything from kidding, management, forage, feed, commercial production and marketing to home production practices. There are even cheese recipes in this notebook! The best part of this notebook is that there is so much about sustainable production like rotational grazing, forage nutrition, natural parasite control etc. It truly is a dairy goat owners dream to have this notebook and if I had to put a value on what he gave away for free....well I don't know if you could. So then we move onto the next speaker who I was not so impressed with. I am not sure what his credentials were as my toddler was acting up when they introduced him. I know he was from the extension agency. Anyway, his topic was feeds. Basically to make it short and sweet he believed that forage was a supplement to feed, instead of the other way round. He also recommended highly the use of corn in the feed ration. Which as you all know I highly disagree with that. When I asked why he would recommend corn when there have been so many studies showing that high corn diets promote acidosis in the rumen and throw off the natural bacterial flora....he was speechless. Yes, literally there was a very awkward silence as the whole room is looking at him and he didn't know what to say. He bumbled about finally saying that corn is a good high energy feed and fed in moderation is a good addition to any feed program. I also asked him about his rotational grazing recommendations as far as forage types and how long to leave stock before moving them. Apparently, his idea is that the stock should be kept off pasture except for 2 hours a day! Maybe 3, but their primary source of nutrition should come from their grain diet (of course full of corn)! So he was useless and as far as I am concerned gave a lot of folks some very bad information. The next speaker was a meat goat producer who turned to dairy goats and was speaking on the difference in production styles and requirements of the two. She basically was there for folks thinking about getting into goats but not sure whether they wanted to go with dairy or meat. She was a very good speaker and very informative even though she was short. I would have liked to have heard more from her. She has written one textbook (on goats) and one book on meat goat production. So onto speaker number 4. This guy was all about marketing dairy goat products. He talked about the different products, cost analysis breakdown of producing the different products like soap, cheese and milk, how to market, where to market, average prices paid for products that are being marketed and USDA requirements should you want to get into commercial production of milk or cheese. This was definitely a talk that dairy goat producers in this state needed. While meat goats have grown by leaps and bounds, most with dairy goats simply don't know what to do. A few have ventured into the marketing and commercial arena but most of us stick with selling goats which is safe in the legal arena. All in all it was a good day. I learned quite a few things that I didn't know, which is always a good thing, and spoke to a lot of people about what I like best.....livestock. I love going to these kind of things simply because I can talk about what I love. Most of the time folks who don't do what I do don't care to hear me talk about it. So it is one place that I can talk nothing but livestock and that is simply......delightful! God bless and have a great evening.

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