Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

It's a Living: Goat Herdsman

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

It's a Living: Goat Herdsman

Article excerpt

LANGSTON - Erick Loetz struggles to stay a few steps ahead of his herd.

"They're such an inquisitive and social animal that even if you provide enough feed and shelter from predators, you'll find goats are always very interesting to work with," he said. "They're very smart animals and they will learn very soon what they get away with."

Loetz's formal title is research farm operations manager at Langston University, but he's just as likely to refer to himself as the goat herdsman. He is responsible for making sure the college's herd is happy and healthy to help researchers and other producers in the region.

Goat breeding is attuned to the seasons, so the herd size varies from about 1,000 in the winter to 1,500 in the spring when kids are running around, getting into places they shouldn't. The herd has grown as large as 2,000 head, he said.

Langston's involvement with the American Institute for Goat Research makes it one of the top goat research facilities in the country. According to the National Agricultural Statistical Service's latest figures, Oklahoma is the third-largest producer of goats in the country, just behind Tennessee and far behind Texas. As of the beginning of January, Oklahoma ranchers held 5,900 goats for dairy and 95,000 goats for meat and other uses, according to the data from the state Agriculture Department and the National Agricultural Statistics Service. That's down from a total of 112,100 head a year earlier. Wil Hundl, NASS director, said the most likely cause of herd shrinkage has been drought and rising feed prices.

Most meat goat production is in the southeastern part of the country, with the exception of pockets of California. That's largely due to the immigrant cultural diversity on the West Coast and growth in the nation overall of Hispanic and Islamic communities. According to the census, about 16 percent of the U. …

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