Lamb and Goat Production, Enhancement; Producer
Identification and Education Project

Central Arkansas Resource Conservation and Development Council

Summary

There are a substantial number of farmers and ranchers in Arkansas and northwest
Louisiana who are growing sheep and goats. Agricultural Statistics Service reported 53,000
head of goats in Arkansas on January 1, 2012. That total is up 10 percent from 2011. Sheep data
is not published to avoid disclosure of individual operations. The Arkansas Department of
Agriculture reports 15,000 head of sheep in the state, which is up from last year. Jesse Duckett,
Goat and Sheep Producers of Arkansas, estimates 2,500 – 3,000 ewes in southwest Arkansas
alone. Unfortunately, the producers are loosely organized and difficult to contact. The Arkansas
State Sheep Council is primarily focused on breeding and show animals. To our knowledge,
there is no comprehensive organization of meat animal producers in the area, nor any overall
organization serving all segments of the industry.

Central Arkansas RC&D and its partners propose to identify existing industry partners
and create a sustainable system electronic communication to provide networking and continual
updates from industry leaders.

In 2009, Pilgrim’s Pride, Inc. closed two processing facilities in Arkansas and one in
Louisiana. Coupled with the nation-wide economic downturn, farmers, ranchers and rural
communities continue to struggle in the aftermath of the closures. Without an integrator, chicken
growers are left with vacant chicken houses, often accompanied by hefty debt.

Central Arkansas RC&D and its partners will conduct three workshop/seminars to
discuss growing sheep in retrofitted chicken houses. Among the model programs for using
retrofitted buildings for lamb and goat production is Pipestone Lamb and Wool Program at
Minnesota West Community and Technical College in Pipestone, MN.

The project hopes to achieve two goals: 1) to establish a reliable list of sheep and goat
growers in the region and create a sustainable communications network and organizational
structure to enhance information transfer; 2) to increase the number of sheep and goats raised in
the region and assess the level of interest and/or the feasibility of growing sheep or goats in
converted chicken houses while bringing modern management technology to existing and
potential producers.

Project Report

Sheep and Goat Production, Enhancement; Producer Identification and Education Project

The project has been slowed by funding obstacles including, but not limited to, the

sequester. Winrock International working with its contractor, Central Arkansas RC&D Council

has agreed to use the USDA TIME program to reach out to socially and economically

disadvantaged farmers to provide matching funds for the workshop/seminar.

In addition, we discovered that we had under-estimated the workshop/seminar costs when

we revised the budget after the grant announcement. The food costs, local travel for our

speakers, lodging, and site rental and preparation far exceeded our expectations. Therefore, we

have compromised with one larger formatted program to be held on November 8, 2013 at the

Donald W. Reynolds Building on the campus of Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia,

Arkansas. Mike Caskey with the Pipestone Lamb and Wool Program at Minnesota West

Community and Technical College in Pipestone, Minnesota and Dr. Ann Wells, DMV and

Holistic Veterinary Consultant, an expert in pastured livestock and niche market identification

will be our speakers. The Arkansas State USDA Office will provide experts from FSA, Rural

Development and NRCS to advise the farmers. We have reached out to area bankers with

invitations to the workshop/seminar. Our speakers have committed their time and travel

reservations have been made.

We have identified sheep and goat producers in our project area along with current and former

poultry producers. We have made contacts in the Hispanic and Hmong communities. We have

worked diligently to build a network of growers and potential growers and have been surprised

by the level of interest in the workshop/seminar throughout the project area and beyond. We

have also been impressed with the diversity of growers who have expressed interest and the

innovative approaches that they are discussing to further build the industry.

We continue to work with Southern Arkansas University’s Agriculture Department as well as the

Communications Department to establish communications links so that farmers will have a longterm

line of communication with each other and with experts at SAU.

While it is undeniable that we have fallen short of our timeline and expectations, we are

encouraged by the interest in the program and strongly believe that attendance at the seminar will

be increased by having it follow the Arkansas State Fair. The workshop/seminar is a desperately

needed first step to grower organization and communication. It will provide expert educational

and best practices information for growers and potential growers and open lines of

communication and identification within the goat and sheep grower’s community and will be a

valuable service to growers for years to come. In addition, displaced poultry growers will have

an opportunity to learn about potential new uses for their vacant poultry houses.

We have been committed to overcome our budgeting challenges and sincerely believe that we

will be able to meet the expectations and requirements of our grant application and that this

workshop/seminar will be a valuable way to

 

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