When a group of sheep and goat producers comes to West Virginia University on Saturday, Dec. 10, they’ll take part in all of the traditional activities you’d expect from an industry short course.

They’ll hear about ongoing research being conducted by faculty, staff and students in WVU’s Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design and Extension Service. They’ll get updates on industry innovations, issues, and regulations. They’ll tour a large-scale commercial sheep operation.

But they’ll also be living out WVU’s land-grant mission of teaching, research and service, with instruction and scholarly inquiry combining to improve the lives and fortunes of a growing sector of the Mountain State’s agricultural economy.

“Producers want to keep up to date,” said Keith Inskeep, professor of reproductive physiology in the Davis College and a participant in the West Virginia Small Ruminant Project.

Since its founding in 1998, the project has sought to help farmers see a greater return to sheep and goat production and to help revitalize these industries in West Virginia. Project participants do this through research into improved production practices and the introduction of new technologies designed to increase the economic efficiency and profitability of their small ruminant enterprises.

The project promotes out-of-season breeding, allowing producers to take advantage of off-season market prices and improve their profitability. Two WVU graduate students in the reproductive physiology program, Kellie D’Souza and Stephanie Simpson, graduate students in the laboratory of Marlon Knights, assistant professor of animal and nutritional sciences, received Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education grants to further that effort.

Extension specialist Tom Basden and Mark Sperow, associate professor of agricultural and resource economics, are conducting a project involving adding sheep or goats to cow herds to improve pasture utilization and weed control, and Dee Singh-Knights is studying the marketing of sheep and goat species. Even undergraduates are getting in on the act, studying parasitism in goats in independent projects this fall.

WVU has also partnered with Aimee Wurst, alumna of WVU’s reproductive physiology program, now at Lincoln University in Missouri to study timing of miscarriage in goats, something University researchers have already examined in dairy cows and sheep.

All of these topics will be on the agenda at the Dec. 10 event, which will take place in 1001 Agricultural Sciences Building on WVU’s Evansdale Campus. Attendees will also learn more about the USDA’s National Animal Identification Program and National Scrapie Eradication Program.

The outcomes Inskeep describes are pure land-grant: “Increased knowledge for both producers and the faculty and students who attend, and experience with producer groups for students who participate, letting all of us keep up with the real world.”

In 1862, the U.S. Congress passed and President Abraham Lincoln signed the first Land-Grant Act (also known as the Morrill Act for its sponsor, Rep. Justin Morrill of Vermont).

The purpose of the Land-Grant Act was “the endowment, support and maintenance of at least one college where the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.”

WVU is celebrating the upcoming 150th anniversary of the Land-Grant system and the University’s unique mission and identity within West Virginia.

And, as the short course demonstrates, WVU is constantly adding new value to a 150-year-old tradition.

For more information on the short course, contact Brad Smith, director of the West Virginia Small Ruminant Project and Grant County Extension Agent, at 304-257-4688 or Brad.Smith@mail.wvu.edu.

-WVU-

dw/12/08/11

CONTACT: David Welsh; Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design
304.293.2394; dwelsh@wvu.edu

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