County program assistants help small farmers improve goat health

Published By: Russell Boone May 24, 2018

Ricky Waters (left) FVSU Macon County program assistant assists his client Wilfred Johnson (right) in examining a goat for disease.

Small parasite, big problem

Wilfred Johnson, a 59-year-old, part-time farmer born and raised in Macon County, serves as wastewater supervisor for the city of Ellaville.  While not a full-time farmer, he is no novice to the profession. “I have been involved in agriculture all of my life. My grandfather bought this farm in the early 1950’s, then my dad and his brothers took it over after he couldn’t farm anymore. When my dad and uncles got up in age and couldn’t do any more (farming), I ended up with the farm.”  Of the farm’s 180 acres, five are dedicated to raising goats.  

In 2016, Johnson was having problems with worms taking a toll on the survivability of his herd.

For help, Johnson contacted Ricky Waters, FVSU’s Macon County agriculture and natural resources program assistant. Waters sought the expertise of Dr. Niki Whitley, FVSU’s small ruminant specialist.  Whitley assisted Johnson by implementing a de-worming program to cure the animals.

“I ask the agent or program assistant questions to clarify the issue the client might be having,” Whitley said.  Many times a farm visit is desired, so I coordinate so that we go to the farm together to teach, demonstrate and assist the farmer directly.  If I cannot attend a farm visit, I give the county staff person detailed information on how they might assist the farmer and try to forward educational materials to them as available to use with their clients,” Whitley said.

Since receiving help from FVSU Extension, Johnson rebounded and flourished with healthier herds.

“Knowing what to look for has really improved my herd. It is much easier to sell (goats). Now I have people coming to me wanting to buy goats all of the time. They know when you have a good animal. That’s what they’re looking for,” Johnson said. Through word of mouth and auctions, Johnson said he sells more than 20 to 30 goats annually.

“I would definitely recommend working with Fort Valley State. They have been a big source of help to me,” Johnson said.

Feeding Troubles

FVSU Houston County program assistant Leon Porter (left) administers a vaccine to a goat as client Reginald Stroud (right) lends a hand.

Reginald Stroud, a retired Air Force colonel, purchased land just outside of Warner Robins seven years ago. Two years after he made his purchase, the 61-year-old bought three goats to raise for meat production. His goal was to raise no more than 15 goats at a time. To his surprise in 2016, one of his goats stopped nursing her kid (the name of a baby goat).

“I didn’t know what was going on. I was fearing for the kid’s life because the mother did not want to feed it.  I knew if the mother didn’t feed the kid, I would have to give it nourishment and that is a time-consuming process,” Stroud said. 

Stroud contacted Leon Porter, FVSU’s Houston County agriculture and natural resources program assistant for help. Porter contacted small ruminant specialist Dr. Niki Whitley for assistance. They discovered the goat had an infection that made nursing painful. Porter then helped administer antibiotic treatments to cure the ailment. After the treatment, the goat produced two healthy offspring.

Porter said that with FVSU’s assistance, Stroud is producing goats that can survive the elements.

“He had an 80 percent kid crop this past year, and he’s actually had more goats this past spring than he had in four or five years,” Porter said.

Stroud said he is appreciative of the assistance he’s received from FVSU’s Cooperative Extension Program. In addition, he said the services provided such as training, attending conferences and the networking opportunities among other small farmers are outstanding.

For more information about small ruminants contact Dr. Niki Whitley at (478) 825-6577 (