With new gift, UF scientists work to grow sheep and goat industries in Florida
- UF will hold its first Ram Test and Sale event on Oct. 2, starting at 8 a.m.
- A gift from a Florida sheep farmer will support upgrades to the UF/IFAS Sheep Unit and allow researchers to expand the UF sheep and goat herds
- These enhancements will allow scientists to do the research, teaching and outreach needed to help grow the sheep and goat industries in Florida
The University of Florida will hold its first Ram Test and Sale event this Saturday as part of new program to grow the sheep and goat industries in the Sunshine State.
The event will be held at the UF/IFAS Beef Teaching Unit located at 3721 SW 23rd St., Gainesville, FL 32608. The event starts at 8 a.m.
The Ram Test and Sale program gives Florida sheep farmers insights into how well their rams grow and resist parasites under Florida’s hot and humid conditions. The 16 best performing sheep will be on sale at the event.
This initiative is made possible by a gift from one of the state’s sheep farmers, Carol Postley, owner of Fairmeadow Farm, a sheep farm in Marion County. In addition to the Ram Test and Sale program, Postley’s gift supports upgrades to the UF/IFAS Sheep Unit on SW 16th Avenue in Gainesville and will allow researchers to expand the UF sheep and goat herds.
Infrastructure enhancements will help scientists like Diwakar Vyas and his colleagues from veterinary medicine and agronomy to do the teaching, researcher and Extension work needed to give small ruminant farmers the best chance at success. Efforts around sheep and small ruminants are a collaboration of the UF College of Veterinary Medicine and the UF/IFAS animal sciences department.
“Improving our infrastructure and adding more animals to our herds will kickstart several research projects and other programs that will help farmers raising small ruminants or who want to get into the industry,” said Vyas, an assistant professor of animal sciences.
“This gift will also provide more opportunities for our students in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences to gain hands-on experience with these animals and produce professionals ready to support the industry,” Vyas added.
Upgrades to the small ruminant facility include better gates, pens and waterlines, as well as better quality grass for grazing. This will allow scientists to conduct research on one of the biggest challenges to raising these animals in Florida’s climate: intestinal parasites.
“Intestinal parasites that affect small ruminants do very well in our hot, humid climate. They make it harder for the animal to grow because they are depleting its nutrients,” Vyas said.
Diwakar and others will study how the animals’ diets and genetics may help animals resist these parasites. They will also launch a program where researchers will evaluate farmers’ sheep and goats for parasite resistance, providing clues to the animals’ breeding potential.
But parasites aren’t the only challenge to raising sheep and goats commercially in Florida, Vyas said.
“Consumer interest in sheep and goat meat is growing in our state, but there are few facilities in Florida where farmers can take their animals for processing. We will be working with researchers in the food and resource economics department to better understand these supply chain issues,” Vyas said.
Challenges aside, small ruminants have potential to become a source of income for small landowners and farmers.
“One advantage of sheep and goats is that, unlike cattle, for instance, you don’t need a lot of land to raise them. For people who have a few acres and want to get into the livestock business, sheep and goats may be an option for them,” Vyas said.
Interested in supporting the UF/IFAS’ small ruminant teaching, research and Extension efforts? Please contact Katherine Davies at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 294-7869.