Southeastern sheep and goat producers recently participated in an educational tour which led them through the marketing and farming practices of producers in the Northeast and equipped them to make strides in their own markets. The Marketing Small Ruminants Educational Tour, made possible in part by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System-Urban Affairs and New Nontraditional Programs, consisted of 80 sheep and goat producers from Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee. “The tour allowed our Southern producers to better understand the needs of Northeastern livestock buyers,” said Dr. Maria Leite-Browning, Extension Veterinarian. “Participants were given the opportunity to expand their knowledge of their own farm practices by learning from producers in the Northeast.”
The tour provided educational opportunities, time to meet and learn from extension specialists, as well as the opportunity for networking with other producers. “There is always something to learn, and this tour provided us with the opportunity to learn from other producers about how to branch out and try different things,” said participant Rudy Caudill, who produces Kiko and Kiko/Boer cross goats on Sand Mountain in northeast Alabama. “The tour was inspiring and informative about how to improve your products and production methods.”
The tour led participants through Tennessee, Virginia and Pennsylvania and learn about the specific marketing strategies that producers in the northeast have for reaching ethnic based consumer groups. Participants traveled to farms of producers who raised purebred Katahdin sheep producers, cross hair sheep, Kiko and Myotonic goats.
“The opportunity itself to be a part of this tour gave us the opportunity to learn about foraging and marketing in this industry,” said participant Rodney Fugate, who produces cross hair sheep in Tennessee. “The networking opportunities were great. The tour provided farmers with a way to expand their operations and come together as a group to create a cooperative marketing effort,” he added.
“Participants in the tour left with renewed enthusiasm, a plethora of ideas, and shared interest in pooling resources to increase small ruminant production goals,” added Browning.
Producers also attended one of the largest goat and sheep auctions in the northeast United States, located at New Holland Sales Stables in New Holland, Pennsylvania. After touring the auction, producers were given the opportunity to see a goat buying and holding facility and learn more about the strategies and goat grading practices of the producers in that region. “Attending the auction and talking with buyers was very informative,” said Caudill. “We were able to learn why buyers select certain goats and sheep, and also why other producers use certain marketing strategies.”
In addition to learning more about marketing strategies to reach target consumers, participants heard from northeastern producers who learned how to find their niche within the consumer base and how to further develop live grading skills in order to meet the desires of the consumers.
“My husband and I have been producing goats for 20 years and, yet, on the tour we were constantly learning new things- whether on the bus traveling, or visiting different farms,” said Caudill. “We learned new tricks of the trade and many things that left us saying ‘we can do that!’ I look forward to using what I learned on the tour at our farm.”
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