Perspectives Online

Nooo Kidding, A western North Carolina goat college packs ‘em in. By Art Latham

Carl Patterson (right) is beginning goat herd management as an alternative to tobacco, with help from Randy Collins (left), Graham County Cooperative Extension agriculture agent.
Photo by Art Latham

Sometimes thinking about education can get your goat. And sometimes you can get educated about your goat.

That’s the situation about 100 agriculturalists happily found themselves in at North Carolina Cooperative Extension’s first Tri-State Goat College in March.

Farmers from as far as Tennessee, Georgia and Florida trekked to Andrews and Robbinsville in southwestern North Carolina for the two-day goat farmers’ extravaganza, staged and hosted by N.C. Cooperative Extension, to hear about topics related to goat management and breeding.

Recognizing the growing market for goat meat both in the area and in North Carolina, Randy Collins, Silas Brown and Keith Wood planned, coordinated and implemented the training project, with assistance from Dr. Jean-Marie Luginbuhl, a College of Agriculture and Life Sciences associate professor who specializes in meat goats and forage systems, and Dr. Jim Turner, a College assistant professor and extension livestock specialist at the Mountain Research Station in Waynesville.

Danny Dixon of D&D Boer Goats in Blairsville, Ga., makes a presentation at the goat farmers’ extravaganza.
“We decided to set this program up due to the large and increasing interest in commercial goat production,” Collins said. “Also, given the fact that the tobacco buyout has left many folks looking for viable alternatives, this program seemed like a good fit.”

Among their many other duties Collins, Brown and Wood are Cooperative Extension’s agriculture agents for Graham, Clay and Cherokee counties, respectively.

Goat college participants received a full afternoon of hands-on learning as they witnessed a wide variety of goat management techniques, including time at Collins’ family farm near Robbinsville, where they saw vaccinations, hoof trimming, tattooing, body conditioning, housing and kidding facilities. The $10 registration fee included lunch both days and a goat management manual.

Collins talked about poisonous plants, Brown about integrated pest management and Wood about fencing.

Visiting experts included Luginbuhl, who addressed breed selection, reproduction, nutrition and feeding, and Turner, who has conducted management, grazing and pasture renovation studies since 1990. Turner spoke about rotational grazing.

Other presenters and their topics included Ricky Skillington of Tennessee Cooperative Extension, goat business start-up and marketing; Michael Stiles, state Resources Conservation Service, predator control; and Bill Yarborough, area agronomist for the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, pasture renovation and restoration. Danny Dixon, manager and co-owner of a Georgia Boer goat farm also spoke.

“I really value multicounty events and county team efforts when it comes to doing programs,” Luginbuhl said. “The Cherokee, Clay and Graham counties’ team effort should serve as an example for the other N.C. counties.”

Cherokee, Clay and Graham Cooperative Extension staff helped prepare the materials, serve food, run the needed errands and cover the phones while agents were away, Collins said, as well as covering registration and other chores. 

In March, the Associated Press picked up a story about the event from the Times-News of Hendersonville and ran it nationwide.

Event sponsors included the Coca-Cola Co., N.C. Farm Bureau Insurance, Carolina Farm Credit, Farmer’s Co-Op of Tennessee, Ace Hardware, Southwestern RC&D, three commercial goat farms and two local feed stores.

Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS! Summer 2005 Contents | Communication Services | CALS