Small Ruminants for Small Properties

People who own ‘small acreage’ usually look to have some ‘small agriculture’ that perhaps enhances their income or enhances their rural lifestyle. Poultry are a popular choice because they are relatively easy to manage. Goats and sheep are another consideration; they are grouped together and are referred to as “small ruminants.” Small ruminants are an excellent choice because they can utilize forage (pasture) and keep mowing to a minimum. As always, check to be sure you are zoned correctly for livestock ownership.

Ruminants (cattle, sheep, and goats) have a 4-compartment stomach, the largest of which is the rumen. The rumen provides a home for millions of microorganisms that live in a symbiotic relationship with the animal. The animal provides a warm, moist environment and provides food for the organisms. In turn, these organisms ferment the forage and provide nourishment for the animal by helping to digest feedstuffs. Ruminants can use many foods that are unusable to humans, most of which are left over from food production (bakery, fruit, and vegetable waste) and fiber production (cottonseed). Pasture grass is the base of their diet.

Both sheep and goats can be grown for meat and dairy purposes. Their small size and ease of handling compared to cattle makes them appealing. However, that size advantage is not an advantage when it comes to predators. Extra precautions must be made to keep them protected from coyotes and dogs.

There are breeds of both sheep and goats that are more adapted to our Florida environment. It is best to seek advice from fellow Florida sheep and goat producers. Many have established protocols for managing parasites in a way that reduces parasite resistance to treatments. This has been a difficult problem for small ruminant producers over the years.

Educating yourself on what is involved with raising small ruminants is very important. The University of Florida will be hosting a Small Ruminant Short Course, September 16-17 in Gainesville On the agenda are topics such as parasite control, forage management, and health concerns. Go to the link to see the agenda and to register for the event.


Posted: August 16, 2022

Category: Agriculture, Livestock

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