Thursday, May 7, 2015

Test Site Update

Preparations are being made for the 2015 Western Maryland Pasture-Based Meat Goat Performance Test, which will begin on June 26.

Sheep have been brought to the site to graze the cool season grass paddocks. The sheep grazing has two purposes:  to control spring forage growth and to "seed" the pastures with infective worm larvae. Unlike the past few years, the goats will not begin the test on the contaminated cool season grass paddocks. They will start the test on the "clean' warm season annual grasses and legumes. The goats will not graze the cool season grass paddocks until around August 20. 

After grazing by the sheep, the cool season grass paddocks will have almost a 60-day rest period. This should be sufficient time for plant regrowth and die-off of worms eggs and infective larvae. According to research conducted at Langston University (Oklahoma), it take about 60 days of rest for a highly-contaminated pasture to become a lowly-contaminated pasture.

Hopefully, enough worm larvae will remain to provide a significant parasite challenge to the test bucks. On the other hand, this year's pastures won't be as contaminated as those in the past, which should allow the goats a better opportunity to express their genetic potential for growth.

A feed bin has been added to the test site. Soy hull pellets will be purchased in bulk and be stored in the bin. While on the test, the bucks will be fed soy hull pellets daily, at a rate of approximately 1.5% of their body weight or 0.75 lbs. per head  per day. Fecal samples from last  year's goats showed the all-pasture diet to be deficient in energy; thus, the need for (energy) supplementation. From a nutritional standpoint, soy hulls complement a pasture (or forage) diet better than cereal grains (starch).

The hoop house's second cover was destroyed during winter storms and will need replaced (again!).