Mississippi Meat Goats and the Mississippi Club Goat Association
In 1994, Mississippi State University Animal and Dairy Sciences (ADS) Department Head, Dr. Bill Able, asked his associate director of the International Livestock Program to represent ADS and head an effort to assist the emerging meat goat industry in the state. Over the next two years, teaming up with the Mississippi Agribusiness Council (MABC), Kipp Brown organized goat field days, clinics and sales to help educate and provide goat producers with the best of information and genetics. At that time, the Mississippi Goat Association (MGA), an organization of dairy goat owners with an interest in all types of goats, was becoming active in the meat goat industry. Many were using the new Boer genetics to increase meat production and take advantage of a growing market. The MGA participated in the goat activities and supported formation of a marketing station that was built in Bay Springs, MS. With funding and support from the MGA and the MABC, Brown and two ADS graduate students (one ran a computer program to print out the show program and the other judged the show) put together the first statewide market meat goat show at the Mississippi State Fair, in 1996. This first show was a quick indicator that there was a real interest in adding meat goats to the junior livestock program in the state.
Under the leadership of Extension Director Dr. Ron Brown and ADS Department Head Dr. Bill Able, junior livestock programs were studied in Texas, Louisiana, and Georgia for ideas on establishing a good 4-H meat goat program for the state. It was determined that the Mississippi State University Extension Service (MSUES) should look at the growing goat industry from a 4-H livestock project perspective. Kipp was moved to MSUES as meat goat specialist as the industry in the state continued to grow. It became clear that the junior meat goat program in Texas was very successful and headed in the right direction and the decision was made to start a market goat program in Mississippi much like the program in Texas. Brown wrote rules for showing, as well as publications on showmanship and management of club goats. He then worked with Extension agents to answer producer questions, hold clinics, and develop educational programs on the club goat project.
In 1999, after lobbying the Mississippi Livestock Council for inclusion in the junior livestock program, market goat shows were added at the district show level. The show rules were adopted and a successful club goat program was born. After proving numbers were substantial enough to merit a statewide show, market goats were brought to the Dixie National Junior Round Up in 2001. Although clinics were held on fitting and showmanship in to prepare exhibitors for the first major show, of the 67 head shown, only a few were sheared. It was apparent the program would have to improve before the market goat champions could request to go into the Dixie National Sale of Junior Champions. Efforts to teach proper grooming and showmanship skills for market goats were increased. Meat goats were even included in the summer livestock camp at Hinds Community College along with the lambs and cattle. The following year more goats showed up at Round Up properly groomed, including the Grand and Reserve Champion goats. Though numbers had dropped to 52 in that second year, the total number shown at the district shows had increased from 144 to 150 head. Market goats were included in the Sale of Junior Champions for the first time in 2002 with the Grand Champion selling for $2,862 and the Reserve Grand Champion selling at $2,400. In the wake of this success, the Mississippi Club Goat Association (MCGA) was formed with Kipp Brown as advisor and Jessie Cornelius as the president. Both have remained active in the same capacity over the years. The MCGA bylaws stated the purpose of the association "to promote the Club Goat Program, the Junior Livestock Program, and the raising of Club Goats in the State of Mississippi; and to encourage men, women, and children to participate in any activities or events sponsored by the association.”
By 2002 the meat goat program was off and running as numbers continued to increase and the quality of goats in the program continued to improve. With a total of 68 head shown at Dixie National in 2003, the market goats started a 25 percent yearly increase to a total of 214 head shown in 2008. The MCGA grew right along with the meat goat project. This charter group wanted to promote the club goat project by providing young people with a source for good quality goats to show. In the years that followed, MCGA has continually worked to increase show opportunities for young people, provided clinics and educational events, and sponsored sales. The association sponsored their first Dixie Opportunity Sale in 2004 when four breeders came together and offered 57 head of club goat prospects at Hinds Community College in Raymond, MS. Brown served as the sale manager and continued as such until the last Dixie Opportunity sale was held in 2009.
The MCGA continues to promote the meat goat program in the state in many ways today. The MS Bred program was introduced and implemented by MCGA in 2006. This program awards exhibitors from a pool of money generated by the sale of ear tags to breeders. Cash and awards are earned by exhibitors on MS Bred goats. Every dollar paid into the tag program is awarded back to junior exhibitors of MS Bred goats at State Fair and Round Up. The idea of selecting four division champions was also proposed by MCGA and passed by the Livestock Council in 2006. By naming four division winners, the show came into line with the other market goat shows around the country. With support from MCGA, the eight division champions were then added to the Sale of Junior Champions, in 2008. MCGA supported dividing each division into four classes in 2009, thus giving exhibitors a better opportunity as the goats within each class became closer in weight. Also in 2009, a commercial meat goat doe show was added to the junior livestock program. This show allowed increased participation by exhibitors already showing goats or those that didn’t want to show a terminal project animal. The MS Bred program and class schedules are the same for commercial does as the market goat show. In 2010, MCGA started the Mississippi Club Goat Junior Show Circuit (MCGJSC) which allows junior members of the association to earn points toward year end awards by showing in sanctioned shows throughout the year. The top five point earners in the market goat, commercial doe and three showmanship divisions are recognized at year end. The first year of implementation of the MCGJSC, junior exhibitors received over $6,000 in awards and premiums from MCGA.
Continued support from MCGA to the junior livestock program has lead to increased participation in the meat goat project and increased opportunities for exhibitors. Today there are many more producers raising goats throughout the state than that first handful who founded MCGA. The Mississippi State University Extension Service, Mississippi Future Farmers of America, and Mississippi Club Goat Association have all worked hard to bring this worthwhile project to the forefront of the junior livestock program and the Mississippi Livestock Council and the Dixie National Sale of Junior Champions Committee has stepped up to support these young people. The Mississippi Club Goat Junior Show Circuit continues to grow and bring more young people into the project. Through the efforts of these forward thinking individuals, more young people are given the opportunity to learn life skills through a livestock project animal. The Mississippi Club Goat Association appreciates the confidence shown in their efforts and thanks each individual involved for having the foresight to provide this additional teaching opportunity to the young people of our state.