Change isn’t Mandatory, but Necessary
Although spring was unseasonably wet and cool, summer has been very typical in Texas. HOT AND DRY. Pastures turned brown and forage quality has dropped sharply. Well-conditioned adult sheep and goats are still doing well. But young growing stock and lactating females are struggling to perform without supplementation. And for some, parasites are continuing to be problematic from the severe load accumulated during the rainy season.
If you have been reading my column for very long, you know that I am a big picture thinker. And I really like thought provoking quotes. At the Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers Annual Convention, Mr. Donnell Brown provided an inspirational keynote speech. It was primarily about how his family had adapted to the change and kept the ranch in the family. Towards the end of the speech he made a statement that I won’t soon forget.
“You don’t have to change, but your competitors will.”
As I look at the history and the heritage of the Texas Sheep and Goat Industry, it makes me proud. But at the same time, I think we can focus too much on tradition and overlook new opportunities. Remaining the same is not sustainable. In the short term it may work and it is the easiest path, but over time efficiency of production remains stail this put an operation at a disadvantage that will erodes away the profitability of the business model.
Just look at the current state of the dairy cattle industry. The small dairy farms are going out-of-business. The more advanced operations kept growing and becoming more and more efficient. Then as dairy prices take a turn for the worse, the inefficient operations can’t sustain themselves.
We in the sheep and goat industry are fortunate that we have such a committed domestic consumer to keep prices at decent levels. But other countries have adapted technology at a much higher rate and are producing lamb more efficiently than we are. They do have the advantage of improved pharmaceuticals to control parasites, plus don’t have the predator situation that we deal with, which puts at an even further disadvantage. We should be concerned about adapting to change so that our farms and ranches become more efficient can remain in business for generations to come.
In my view point, the biggest opportunity for increasing efficiency of sheep and goat production should come through improvements in lamb and kid crop. On average, each ewe or does in Texas produces 1 offspring per year, even though they have the ability to produce 2 or more.
Various factors such as nutrition, parasitism, and predation impact lamb and kid goat survival. I helped develop a list of factsheets that address a wide range of these factors that can be found at www.lambresourcecenter.com.
To me, genetic potential is the key to unlock the door to large and healthy lamb and kid crops. The best method to identify the right genetics for your flock/herd is through estimated breeding values via the National Sheep Improvement Program. I strongly encourage you to use this technology.
The Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension team in San Angelo have flocks of sheep that use this technology and we are supporting breeders to develop this technology on their ranches.
There is a bright future ahead of us. But we must shape this future or someone else will.
To provide feedback on this article or request topics for future articles, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 325-657-7324. For general questions about sheep and goats, contact your local Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service county office. If they can’t answer your question, they have access to someone who can.