ALABAMA A&M UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Fifty-three meat goats recently arrived at Alabama A&M University’s Winfred Thomas Agricultural Research Station (WTARS) in Hazel Green, Alabama. The goats were transported from Tennessee State University’s research farm in Nashville, Tennessee. Their highly anticipated arrival marks the next phase of the Advantages of Using Forestland for Meat Goat Production project.
The project is funded by a three-year, $347,000 capacity grant by the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. A goal of this initiative is to explore how goats control understory vegetation in urban areas.
Valens Niyigena, the new Alabama Extension animal sciences and forages specialist at Alabama A&M University (AAMU), was part of the intake team to get the project underway. He is also the grant’s co-principal investigator. Darren Beacham, the lead goat technician, was present and will oversee the daily goat management activities at WTARS.
Also in attendance was Kozma Naka, the grant’s principal investigator and forestry researcher, and AAMU students. Other Alabama Extension attendees included 1890 Administrator Allen Malone, Assistant Director Kimberly Sinclair-Holmes, Alabama Extension Agent Marcus Garner and the Agribition Center team.
Prepping for Research
Prior to the goats’ arrival, Naka and his team of students took soil samples at WTARS and AAMU’s Agribition Center. Additionally, the project will explore how goats improve soil fertility, carbon, and nitrogen recycling.
“The project will not only determine how browsing affects the immediate vegetation, but what microbial impacts the goats will have on the surrounding soil,” Naka said.
Gastrointestinal parasites are a common ailment of goats, particularly in the Southeast. Once unloaded, the goats were weighed, tagged and checked for a FAMACHA score. This score is a method used to control parasites in small ruminants like goats. The goats were then dewormed with anti-parasitic medication. Fecal samples were collected as well from the animals to determine the presence of parasitic eggs.
Researchers will use project results to increase awareness of agroforestry’s economic, social and environmental benefits to farmers and forest landowners. Specifically, goat producers will be educated on how to determine costs associated with producing goat meat using local forestland. For more information about this project, contact Naka and Niyigena.
Additional photos of this project are available on the Urban Affairs and New Nontraditional Programs Facebook page.