Friday, February 22, 2013

2013 Pen vs. Pasture Study

The Maryland Grain Producers Utilization Board (MGPUB) recently approved a 2013 funding request for a proposal entitled, "Using Grain to Improve Goat Carcass Quality and Value."  The Maryland Grain Producers funded a similar study in 2012.

This funding will allow us to repeat our pen vs. pasture study.  For the 2013 study, 15 goats will be fed a hay and grain diet in a pen, and 15 goats will graze alongside the bucks in the 2013 Western Maryland Pasture-Based Meat Goat Performance Test.  All of the bucks will be handled every 14 days, utilizing our new work platform and digital floor scale. The same data that is collected on the bucks in the test will be collected on the bucks in the study.

The purpose of the pen vs. pasture study is to evaluate the effect of pen-feeding on the performance, health, carcass, and value of meat goat bucklings. The economics of both production systems will be evaluated. All of the goats in the study will be harvested to collect carcass data and meat samples will be analyzed for nutritive value (e.g. fatty acid composition).

In 2011, a preliminary study was conducted with 10 goats in each treatment group. In addition to ad libitum hay, the pen-fed goats were hand-fed once daily a commercial pellet (ADM Goat Power). Over the duration of the study, grain consumption averaged 1 lb. per head per day. The pen-fed goats grew faster and produced superior carcasses (a 5% higher lean meat yield).  Meat quality was similar, though the longissimus dorsi from the pen-fed goats contained more oleic acid (a desirable PUFA).

In 2012, the study was repeated with 15 goats in each treatment group.  The pen-fed goats were fed hay, along with a grain ration composed of 4 parts whole barley to 1 part protein pellet (16%). In contrast with 2011, the pasture-fed goats had a higher rate-of-gain than those in the pen, though there were no differences in the carcasses between the two groups. On the other hand, the pasture-fed goats had higher fecal egg counts and more than two-thirds required deworming. None of the pen-fed goats required deworming, and their egg counts were significantly lower.

In 2013, the pen-fed goats will be fed free choice hay. The hay will be a good quality grass-legume mix.  This differs from previous years, when the hay was a relatively poor quality first cutting grass hay. The pen-fed goats will be hand-fed a ration of whole barley once per day. Free choice minerals will be available to the goats in the pen, as well as those on pasture.

For this year's study, we need 30 bucklings, of similar size and genetics.  We need the bucklings to weigh approximately 40 lbs. on June 1. They should receive two vaccinations for CD-T.  We are able to pay $100 each for 40-lb. bucklings. Contact Susan Schoenian at (301) 432-2767 x343 if you are interested in providing bucks for the study.

Read about 2012 study
Read about 2011 study

Editor's  note:  The economics of pen-feeding will vary by location and from farm to farm.  As with any aspect of goat production, there are pros and cons to different methods of feeding and management. The motivation for this study was (is) the  lack of market readiness of the bucks in the performance test (despite ample forage availability). Pen-feeding also (mostly) eliminates worm problems, one of the major obstacles to profitable goat production.