WERA039: Coordination of Sheep and Goat Research and Education Programs for the Western States
Statement of Issues and JustificationThe American sheep and goat industries are undergoing a new awareness of their role in food and fiber production within an ecologically and economically sustainable production setting. Sheep and goats in modern management systems provide more than meat, milk, pelts, and fiber. They may also lend themselves as tools to improve ecological systems. Where small ruminant numbers have declined, many ecological problems have increased. For example, encroachment of noxious and exotic plants, although present for over 100 years, have dramatically increased with the decline of small ruminant grazing. Sheep and goats are the most economically and environmentally sound means of controlling many of these invaders and, additionally, can be used to control small grain insect pests and add value to crop residue. Although the role of small ruminants in stabilizing native ecosystems is an evolving frontier for scientists and producers, improving the ability of the American sheep and goat industries to compete favorably in a rapidly developing world market requires new and refined information and communication for enhancing the biological efficiency of meat and fiber production and marketing of these products.
Currently, sheep infrastructure is undergoing major changes and hair sheep and meat goats are becoming increasingly important contributors to the income of small ruminant producers. These industry changes provide opportunities to implement innovations to complement other agricultural production systems as well as increase the production efficiency of sheep and goats in the presence of aggressive international competition. To best serve the sheep and goat industries, our ultimate goal is to facilitate the successful development and integration of sustainable, ecologically sound, and economically viable, and energetically efficient systems that use available resources to produce unique, high quality, and safe meat and fiber products from sheep and goats.
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