Journal of the NACAA
Volume 8, Issue 2 - December, 2015
Changing The Way of Thinking For Sheep And Goat Producers; From Hobby to Profitability in West Central Missouri
- Cahill, N., Agriculture Business Specialist, University Of Missouri Extension
Jaster, S., Farmers Outreach Worker, Lincoln University
Sheep and goat producers in west central Missouri have seen an increase in demand for their animals and the meat products they produce. The University of Missouri Extension along with Lincoln University Cooperative Extension has begun offering a 4-session course that discusses sheep and goat production as a profitable farming enterprise. The course includes classroom demonstrations, lectures, and hands-on exercises. At the end of the workshops, participants are given a survey and then a follow up survey 6 months later to determine impacts. Every participant reported gaining knowledge and skills in sheep and goat production and ways to identify profitability.
Sheep and goat production has long been viewed as a hobby portion of any farming enterprise. Sheep were mainly used for their ability to grow fibers for making clothes and goats were viewed as the animals to clean up brush in an old field. Today, they are a viable option for having profitability in the marketplace. Sales of sheep, goats and their products have increased by more than 80% from the 2007 Census to the 2012 Census in Missouri, nearly a $7.8 million increase (USDA, 2012). While the number of farms rearing sheep have seen an increase of 9.2%, goat rearing operations have seen an 11.6% decrease. However to note, both sheep and goat inventory in Missouri have seen an increase, 19.3% and 7.5% respectively. This increase in animal numbers and change in number of farms results in average number of animals per farm increasing for sheep and goats by 9% and 18%, respectively.
The 80% increase in value of marketable products and animals for sheep and goat producers implies that there is an opportunity to change a way of thinking from hobby to a viable profitable enterprise. According to the University of Missouri Extension Budgets (AgEBB), the average return per ewe and doe is $64.50 and $91.98, respectively. When compared to a typical cattle operation a producer earns $362.69 per animal, according to the University of Missouri Extension Budgets. When comparing sheep, goat, and cattle production on a per acre basis, profits per acre are $64.50, $275.94, and $97.93, respectively. In this instance, goat production and cattle production seem like the viable option for any really profitable enterprise. However if stocking rate were to increase to 2.5 sheep per acre and goats to 4 animals per acre, something this author thinks achievable in West Central Missouri, then profits for sheep and goats per acre can achieve $161.25 and $367.92, respectively.
However, in order to achieve profits stated earlier, new and existing producers are in need of a change in a way of thinking, the thinking that encourages profitability rather than being a hobby. Florida A&M along with Tennessee State University have delevloped successful programs that strengthens management skills and competitiveness in the market place to increase profit potential. Florida A&M's Master Goat and Sheep Certification Program focuses on both financial and production management of sheep and goats while Tennessee State University's program, Certified Meat Goat Producer, follows the same format but designed solely for goat production. It is these two program designs that are the foundation for the the Show-Me Sheep and Goat Project to assist sheep and goat producers in West Central Missouri to aid in a transitional way of thinking: hobby to profitability.
The Show-Me Sheep and Goat Project includes four classroom sessions comprised of classroom demonstrations, lectures, and hands-on exercises. Each session is three hours in length. At the time this manuscript is being written there is no manual or official curriculum developed for the class but the participants received handouts from various topics as well as all lecture materials.
A team of adult educators from the University of Missouri Extension and Lincoln University Cooperative Extension programs developed the design of the courses. The design was to encompass the agribusiness side of livestock production and to introduce the beginnings of small ruminant animal husbandry. Participant registration fees and Extension fund the course, and each participant receives all lecture materials, binder, and refreshments. The curriculum includes topics related to the five areas of risk management: production, marketing, financial, legal, and human resource. The following topics comprised the curriculum:
- Personality traits and skills
- Conducting and analyzing market research
- Writing a farm business plan
- State laws as they relate to production agriculture
- Reproductive management
- Pasture management
- Assessing farm business feasibility.
In addition to the four classroom educational sessions, discussion was facilitated by Extension personnel. This was an important part of the course to a) keep the conversations on track and b) to assist beginning and experienced producers to learn about other management practices by discussing specific situations. Each week lectures utilized PowerPoint presentations, handouts, and group discussion that focused on financial or livestock production of small ruminants. The team utilized multiple lecturers from the west central Missouri area, including Livestock Specialists, state small ruminant specialist, and other producers. Homework assignments were given at the end of each session to encourage each participant to build their operation’s business plan.
A post-course survey was administered on the various topics discussed during the program to determine if learning had occurred. A six-month follow-up survey was then sent electronically to determine if behavioral change had occurred.
There were a total of two classes offered in 2014, one in the spring (Harrisonvile, Cass County, Missouri) and one in the fall (Warrensburg, Johnson County, Missouri), for a combined total of twenty-eight (28) participants. By the end of the course, twenty-one (21) participants had completed the evaluation and their responses are summarized below. The evaluation asked participants to evaluate their education level before the course and then at the end (pre- and post-evaluation) to determine the level of knowledge they gained and if they completed certain tasks as a result of the course.
A Likert Scale (1932) was used to determine knowledge gained as a result of the course. Participants were asked to rate their knowledge level before the course on a scale of one (1) to five (5) with one being “Low” and five being “High.” As a result of the course, all participants (n=21) recorded an increase in knowledge gained. Participants' average response score to the following questions can be seen in Table 1: (a) I know how to identify farm business goals, (b) I understand the fundamentals of business plans, (c) I understand how sheep and goats graze, (d) I understand Missouri Fence and Agriculture Laws, and (e) I understand sheep and goat diseases.
|I know how to identify farm business goals.||2.4||3.7|
|I understand the fundamentals of business plans.||2.6||4.0|
|I understand how sheep and goats graze.||2.2||4.3|
|I understand Missouri Fence and Agriculture Laws.||2.4||3.9|
|I understand sheep and goat diseases.||2.0||3.9|
Table 1. Participants' Average Score For Knowledge on Pre- and Post-Course Evaluation
Participants (n=21) were asked to state “Yes” or “No” if they completed various tasks during or after the course. As a result of the course, 100% or the respondents were able to identify the goals for their sheep and/or goat agribusiness and were able to identify common sheep and goat diseases. Eighty-eight percent knew what to do during pregnancy and were able to develop a marketing strategy. One hundred percent said that the course allowed them to build a budget for their operation to determine feasibility. The change in percent of participants completing various tasks before and after the course can be seen in Table 2.
|Identify goals for their agribusiness.||38%||62%||100%||0%|
|Developed a marketing strategy.||24%||76%||88%||12%|
|Gained ability to identify common sheep and goat disease.||19%||81%||100%||0%|
|Knew what to do during pregnancy of small ruminants||44%||56%||88%||12%|
Table 2. Change in Percent of Participants Completing Various Tasks Before and After Course
Six (6) months following each course, a follow-up survey was emailed to each of the twenty-eight (28) participants. The responses of 5 individuals are summarized as follows. As a result of the course, 60% of the respondents have begun to watch the sheep and goat markets and have recorded how prices fluctuate. One hundred percent of the respondents recorded that they have increased their knowledge of other marketing schemes in the area and have begun using multiple marketing schemes for their livestock or products. Forty percent have (a) altered their pasture management schemes to include rotational grazing resulting in an increase of stocking rate and (b) altered their deworming scheme to fewer times per year resulting in a decrease in yearly costs per animal. Some course participants stated that they have discussed agriculture law with family and neighbors revealing that the reach and impact of this course goes beyond those that attend.
The increase in value of sheep, goats, and their products across Missouri shows the need for these types of programs for beginning and experienced producers throughout the state rather than just the west central portion. The purpose of The Show-Me Sheep and Goat Project is to begin the transitional thinking process from hobby to profitability and educate about ways to measure and attain it. The Show-Me Sheep and Goat Project provides approximately 12 hours of instruction, but most importantly it provides an ability for producers to learn from each other.
While this first round of courses were beneficial to beginning sheep and goat producers, there is a need to educate these producers further. During the writing of this manuscript, a joint effort is being put together between educators to develop a series two that further discusses animal and forage production, state and federal regulations, and various other in-depth topics.
The ability to provide this type of beginning and in-depth instruction is hindered by a finite amount of resources committed to this target audience. Only so much of the cost can be transferred to the participants, especially if this program is to be offered throughout the state and to more culturally and ethnically diverse audiences. The financial challenges seen by beginning farmers and direct-market farming operations requires the educators to source funding for this program through local businesses or organizations. It is the need for a source of long-term funding to continue to educate beginning farmers or farmers who desire to enter into alternative enterprises such as sheep and goat production.
AgEbb (2015). Farm budgets—AgEbb. University of Missouri, Columbia. Available at: http://agebb.missouri.edu/mgt/budget/. Accessed 18 June 2015
Certified Meat Goat Producer. Tennessee State University, Cooperative Extension. Available at: http://www.tnstate.edu/extension/the_master_meat_goat_producer_program.aspx. Accessed 30 Oct. 2015.
Likert, R. (1932). A Technique for the Measurement of Attitudes. Archives of Psychology, 140, 1–55.
Master Goat and Sheep Certifcaton Program. Florida Agriculture and Mehanical University, College of Agricultre and Food Sciences. Available at: http://www.famu.edu/cesta/main/index.cfm/cooperative-extension-program/agriculture/small-ruminant/master-goat-and-sheep-program/#my-menu. Accessed 30 Oct. 2015.
USDA, 2012. Census of Agriculture, State Level Data. Available at: