Sustainable Sheep & Goat Production

Over the past year, the number of sheep and goats raised for meat and dairy in the U.S. has declined. However, the U.S. continues to import more goat and lamb meat than it produces for domestic consumption, indicating there is still demand for these products, especially from ethnic populations and niche markets. The top challenge for sheep and goat production in the southeastern U.S. is the prevalence of gastrointestinal nematodes. These parasitic worms are often difficult to detect and can kill animals rapidly. Furthermore, some parasite populations have developed resistance to available dewormer treatments. Feed costs also limit sheep and goat production. Allowing sheep and goats to feed primarily by foraging reduces the amount of money farmers spend on grain feed and allows them to market meat and milk as grass-fed. Though forage is abundant and hardy in the southeastern U.S., low-quality forage species that grow during summer months often do not meet the nutritional needs of sheep and goats, limiting their growth and reproduction. Research is needed to identify specific animal breeds that perform well in forage-based systems. Complimentary methods of parasite control for animals feeding primarily on forage are vital for the sustainability and profitability of sheep and goat farms in the southeastern U.S.

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