The 2024 UF/IFAS Panhandle Small Ruminant Nutrition Workshop, held on March 12, 2024, was a huge success, attracting farmers, researchers, and industry professionals to discuss the latest advancements in small ruminant nutrition. This event was held at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) North Florida Research and Extension Center in Quincy, Florida, and showcased current research, practical insights, and collaborative discussions that promised to continue the development of small ruminant nutrition practices in Northwest Florida.

Throughout the workshop, participants had the opportunity to engage in educational sessions and interactive demonstrations. One notable highlight was the introduction of innovative grazing techniques that can increase the productivity of producers. Researchers from UF/IFAS presented their findings on forage varieties and supplementation strategies designed to enhance the nutritional content of small ruminant diets. Attendees were eager to learn about these advancements, recognizing their opportunities to optimize production efficiency and improve the quality of meat and fiber.

A significant portion of the workshop focused on sustainable and cost-effective nutrition solutions. With increasing awareness of environmental concerns and the need for responsible farming practices, presenters discussed ways to minimize the ecological footprint of small ruminant operations. Discussions included the incorporation of locally sourced feed ingredients, precision feeding technologies, and waste reduction strategies. Farmers left with practical insights on how to align their nutrition practices with both economic and environmental sustainability.

The workshop kicked off with a presentation by Dr. Marcelo Wallau, UF/IFAS Extension Forage Specialist. Dr. Wallau set the stage by highlighting the importance of tailored forage nutrition for small ruminants and the impact it can have on their overall health and productivity. His presentation highlighted some of the important components of a grazing system, considering factors such as breed, age, and environmental conditions.

Next, Dr. Alejandro Grau, DVM, discussed the importance of feedstuffs and forage combinations for sheep and goats. His presentation covered the many considerations of nutrition of small ruminants, including breed, environmental influences, reproduction demands, and end goals. He spent time encouraging producers to know what’s in their feed and to read the label. Considerations of protein, fat content, fiber, and feed medications should be evaluated by producers when selecting their supplementation.

Dr. Dan Quadros, University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, continued to elaborate with a focus on finishing sheep and goats for carcass quality. He emphasized the findings of multiple research projects to find if various feedstuff contributed to increased gains or higher production results in sheep & goats. He relayed the message that local feed ingredients have a place in adding value to your flock or herd.

Nick Simmons, Extension Agent from Escambia County, Florida, demonstrated the importance of proper fencing for small ruminant herds. He demonstrated some of the requirements of proper fencing design and construction and discussed cost-share opportunities for small ruminant producers through USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Nick emphasized the importance of building fences to meet the needs of individual operations and how to work in collaboration with NRCS.

The workshop was completed with an in-depth discussion of the nutritional impacts on small ruminant performance by Dr. Brittany Diehl, Clinical Assistant Professor and Small Ruminant Specialist for UF/IFAS Extension. Dr. Diehl explained many of the findings from the past few years’ evaluations of the UF Ram Test Sale and how the performance data can contribute to the success of breeding rams to sheep flocks across Florida. She also recapped the success of the Small Ruminant Short Course (SRSC) held each fall at the University of Florida for sheep & goat producers across the Southeastern United States. She encouraged producers and breeders to take part in the SRSC as well as consign their breeding rams or buck to the upcoming tests this summer.

Be sure to follow UF Small Ruminant Extension through their newsletter and social media accounts for upcoming educational events:
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The Meat Sheep Alliance of Florida
Save the Date: Small Ruminant Shortcourse – September 20-21, 2024
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