Story in Brief
As small farms gain popularity in the area, sheep and goat ownership is on the rise. The number of small ruminants in Oglethorpe County increased by 28 percent from 2018 to 2019. Over the past year, the UGA Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent in Oglethorpe County has observed producers dealing with poor small ruminant animal health as a result of drug resistant parasites and a lack of education on best management practices for sheep and goats. So the agent developed curriculum and coordinated quarterly meetings of local sheep and goat producers. Topics include kidding/lambing, ear tagging, internal parasite management, hoof care, soil fertility, forage selection and general nutrition. The FAMACHA© method is a way for producers to identify specific animals that require treatment for internal parasites. Using this system can significantly decrease drug resistance in a small ruminant herd. A free online FAMACHA© certification opportunity was provided in cooperation with Fort Valley State University and Virginia State University Specialists. This essential certification process for parasite management is rarely offered at no charge to participants. The Extension agent has developed fact sheets and guides for use in the county office on common production issues. The agent also makes frequent farm visits with small ruminant producers and demonstrates hoof trimming techniques, animal visual inspections, and fecal sample collection. Participating producers indicated they intended to implement a variety of new practices, including nutritional flushing of females, implementing a controlled breeding season, making an emergency lambing kit, using soil testing services, over seeding pastures, and rotational grazing according to pasture height. Each of these changes in producer behavior has the potential to result in future increased profits and sustainability.