UACES Facebook NWA Small Ruminants Field Day attracts diverse mix of sheep, goat farmers
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NWA Small Ruminants Field Day attracts diverse mix of sheep, goat farmers

Nov. 10, 2023

By John Lovett
University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture
Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station

Fast facts

  • First Northwest Arkansas Small Ruminants Field Day offered tips on sheep, goats
  • Homesteaders, hobby farmers, 4-H/FFA and commercial growers attend

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Homesteaders and hobby farmers made up the majority of people seeking education on raising sheep and goats at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s first Northwest Arkansas Small Ruminants Field Day.

Sheep eating hay
FIELD DAY — Sheep field on a sunny day at the Milo J. Shult Agricultural Research & Extension Center. (U of A System Division of Agriculture photo by Sarah Shelby)

Professors and extension agents with the Division of Agriculture and the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences shared guidance and information about nutrition, grazing strategies and parasite control at the Oct. 28 field day.

Despite the rain that day, 51 of the 71 people who registered for the event turned out at the Milo J. Shult Agricultural Research & Extension Center. The field day was sponsored by Soil for Water, a forage sustainability project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program. Dirk Philipp, associate professor-forages, is the Arkansas lead for this multi-institutional project and brought a diverse group of speakers together for this field day.

It appears there is a growing number of people interested in sheep and goats, either for fun or business. In 2016, the Arkansas Goat Festival drew some 1,200 people in its first year. The crowd at the 2023 festival is estimated to between 8,000 and 10,000 people.

Diverse crowd

More than half of the Northwest Arkansas Small Ruminants Field Day attendees were women, said Sarah Shelby, animal science program technician. “Homesteaders” made up 22 percent of all who registered, followed by 21 percent “hobby farmers,” 17 percent “commercial producers,” 15 percent “4-H or Future Farmers of America” members, and 6 percent “seedstock/breeders.”

The attendees ranged in age from emerging farmers as young as 8 years old to seasoned professionals over 70, with most in the middle. The event allowed these different groups to share their experiences, expertise, and network to further their support systems, according to Shelby.

The type of animals most grown by the registered field day participants were dairy goats, at 30 percent. This was followed by 29 percent hair sheep, 24 percent meat goats, and 8 percent wool sheep, many breeds of which are dual purpose and also grown for milk and meat, Shelby said. Most of the wool sheep were being grown by 4-H or FFA members.

Walking weed eaters

Ken Coffey, professor of animal science for the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, the research arm of the Division of Agriculture, opened the field day with a general Q&A session for producers and provided answers on underfeeding, overfeeding and different types of feed. His session was followed by a talk by Dan Quadros, assistant professor and small ruminant extension specialist, on general considerations for building and maintaining a flock of sheep or herd of goats.

“A lot of us with sheep and goats either overfeed or underfeed, and we hear about body condition score, BCS, a lot,” said Ronnie Horn, Washington County extension agent and one of the field day organizers. “It's really not hard to look at an animal and see if it is very skinny or very fat. Being able to see and feel some animals in that middle range of BCS with a 2, 3, or 4 makes a big difference.”

Horn said the session addressing body condition score helped establish nutrition goals.

“You can’t just say, ‘Oh, goats are browsers, they’ll eat anything,’ and feed them the roughest stuff all the time,” Horn said. “You really have to make sure they have an adequate diet even as browsers."

Small ruminants are well-known for their meat, fiber and dairy, as well as their ability to consume forages less desirable to cattle. This makes them good candidates to integrate into cattle operations, said Linda Coffey, livestock specialist for the National Center for Appropriate Technology.

“That’s a big plus in their favor,” Linda Coffey said. “Sheep and goats are also very good for areas with streams running through them because they are more likely to eat the weeds and brush, so there is less need for chemical controls.”

Quadros said sheep and goats are “excellent weed and brush controllers” that can improve pastures and often work well with cattle and other livestock and cropping operations.

Nov. 11 Field Day in Perryville

The Division of Agriculture will hold the Central Arkansas Small Ruminants Field Day from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Nov. 11, at the Heifer Ranch for Regenerative Agriculture, 55 Heifer Road, in Perryville.

To stay informed on the field day and other aspects of raising small ruminants, Quadros points producers to the Arkansas Extension Small Ruminants Facebook page.

To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: Follow on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk. To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit

About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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Media Contact: John Lovett
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station
(479) 763-5929