Small Ruminant (Goat) Field Day Assist and Inform Ranchers of Ruminant Animals
On Monday, August 5, 2013, Alcorn State University's Extension Service Program partnered with the Hinds County SWCD, NRCS and Royals International Farms to promote and demonstrate a new initiative in Mississippi that aims to encourage ranchers of ruminant animals like sheep and goats to make conservation improvements to their operations. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service(NRCS) is offering financial and technical assistance through the Small Ruminant Farmer Initiative to help ruminant ranchers (current and potential) enhance their lands while cleaning and conserving water and improving soil.
This initiative was created to help meet the needs of a growing commodity in Mississippi. Part of NRCS's Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) offers about $500,000 to Mississippi landowners. Assistance through this initiative helps ranchers instill a variety of conservation practices that aim to boost water quality and quantity and increase soil health. Practices include fencing, ponds and heavy use protection areas.
Ruminants are characterized by their "four" stomachs and "cud-chewing" behavior. There are about 150 different domestic and wild ruminant species, including sheep, goat and red deer.
Eligible lands include pastureland, cutover, abandoned agricultural areas and converted cropland. Incidental wooded areas are eligible when existing vegetation will support grazing and browsing animals. To be eligible, small ruminants must already be present.
The objective is to engage and encourage Mississippi's ruminant ranchers and use conservation to boost production and improve the quality of our waterways and soil. We are seeing more ranchers of ruminant animals in Mississippi thereby making it feasible to create this initiative that ensures conservation practices are available for these operations.
All participants must meet conservation program eligibility requirements to receive financial assistance. This initiative places special emphasis on historically underserved producers during the ranking of applications.
The field day, which attracted over one hundred plus interested persons were held on the farm of Royal International, LLC in Crystal Springs, MS, where Mr. Charles Pickett is Chief Executive Officer and President. Also in attendance with notable comments were: Congressman Bennie G. Thompson, 2nd Congressional District, Dr. Homer L. Wilkes, Director, Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem Restoration Team, Mr. Kevin Kennedy, NRCS Acting State conservationist, Dr. Christopher Brown II, President of Alcorn State University, Dr. Barry L Bequette, Dean, AREAS, Dr. Dalton McAfee, Extension Administrator, ASUEP, Mr. Frank Taylor, Director, Winston County Self Help Cooperative and other Community Based Organizations and Land Grant Institution personnel.