Sheep and goat producers heard the latest in research-based information for raising their livestock at a field day held at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine on May 19.

The presentations featured scientists from the LSU AgCenter and Southern University Ag Center, said LSU AgCenter extension veterinarian Christine Navarre.“We are basically trying to get information to both the meat and dairy goat producers in the state so they can learn some of the things that might help them have better health for their animals and then also produce a better quality food product.”

Goats in Louisiana are one of the smallest livestock industries, Navarre said. “But it’s still big enough and very important, so we need to make sure we get information to people who need it.”

Mastitis is probably the most important disease since it affects milk production, according to Gary Hay, director of the LSU AgCenter School of Animal Sciences.

Hay explained the importance of udder health with milk goats and its effect on overall milk quality.

Because mastitis normally doesn’t make the animals sick, it’s sometimes hard to detect and requires tests to diagnose.

The average goat herd in the state normally ranges from 10 to 20 animals, so marketing the products can be challenging, said LSU AgCenter meats expert Ken McMillin.“Marketing options here are restricted to preparing purebred animals for sale as show animals or to sell to other breeders or to have market animals available for the auction barns or to sell to local processors.”

Although goats and sheep have been in the state for many years, the numbers are dropping for lambs and sheep because of the hot, humid climate. And goat numbers are slightly down in the Gulf South because of last year’s drought.

“It’s hard to raise sheep in the Deep South because of parasites and foot rot problems,” McMillin said.

Despite the decrease in population, there’s increased demand, mainly from ethnic groups and the health-conscious, who are looking for higher nutritional value.

Each year the field day rotates among the Southern University Ag Center, the LSU AgCenter and the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine.

“This field day brings producers up to date on research and extension activities,” said LSU AgCenter veterinary parasitologist Jim Miller. “When held here, it’s more health oriented, looking at mastitis, parasites and reproduction. At Southern, it’s more about production, forages and pasture management.”

Participants had an opportunity to be certified through FAMACHA training, which is a system developed in South Africa to manage parasites.

This is an opportunity for scientists from both Louisiana land grant universities to help a group of specialty producers to improve their industry, said LSU AgCenter assistant vice chancellor for research Phil Elzer. “Working in collaboration with Southern University’s Ag Center to benefit small farmers is a great way to increase economic development for this segment of the agriculture industry.”