Research Farms and Laboratories
The Research Farm of the E (Kika) de la Garza Institute for Goat Research provides the livestock, facilities, and support personnel that are used in Institute research and extension activities. The Farm currently has approximately 320 fenced acres of land, most of which is used for grazing or harvested forage production. Physically, the Farm can be divided into four components. The 120-acre Main Farm is located on the west side of the Langston University campus and is home to the Alpine dairy herd. The 160-acre South Farm, located 3/4 of a mile south of campus, houses most of the Spanish, Boer, Boer crossbred, and Angora goats. The North Farm area consists of about 30 acres and is situated just north of the Main Farm. The West Pasture area encompasses roughly 30 acres used primarily for grazing studies.
While the Institute's goats are largely raised on pasture, there are occasional research trials that employ the excellent pen facilities of the Research Farm. There are individual 'Calan Gate' feeders at both the Main and South Farms that allow housing in groups while still gathering needed individual intake data. The pen facilities at the Main Farm are employed mostly for lactation studies, and those at the South Farm for the annual Meat Goat Buck Performance test and for meat goat research at other times. There are also additional individual and group pens and metabolism crate facilities for nutrition/physiology research at both the South Farm and North Farm areas. In recent years there has been much crossfencing of farm pastures allowing for greater conduct of grazing research, such as for the Alpine herd at the Main Farm, at the South Farm for cool season grass evaluation, and at the West Pasture area for grazing management studies.
A creamery, for dairy goat milk research and technology transfer, is housed at the Main Farm. Another important unit at the Main Farm is the Dairy Herd Improvement Laboratory, where milk samples from goat dairies all over the country are received and analyzed. The Main Farm also includes feed mixing facilities, and the North Barn area a yard for large equipment storage.
The number of livestock fluctuates from year to year and within years depending on needs for research and extension activities. Generally, numbers vary from 800 to 1,400, being lowest before kidding and greater thereafter. The different types of goats at the Research Farm has increased in the last 10 years. Presently, there are sizable herds of Alpine, Spanish, and Angora goats. In 1995, Boer bucks were purchased for crossbreeding, primarily with Spanish does. In the past few years there have been additional Boer bucks procured each year, and a number of fullblood doelings have been introduced. Moreover, there has been upgrading, so that in the near future an adequate number of high percentage Boer goats will be available for research, in addition to work with crossbreds. There is a small herd of Tennessee Stiff Leg goats as well. Lastly, Great Pyrenees guard dogs are kept. Breeding of goats has in most cases been natural, although use of artificial insemination has been used in some years to improve genetic merit of the dairy herd. While most of the Farm's does follow their natural breeding cycle, recent research on out of season breeding of meat goats has proven successful.
Research Farm personnel both care for livestock and serve as support personnel for research conducted by Institute scientists. In addition to permanent employees, students are an important part of the Farm personnel, working part-time to both support their schooling and to gain valuable experience in small ruminant production.
Take a tour of the Research Farm here.
There have been many improvements to our laboratory facilities and instruments in the last few years. Examples of this are a high pressure liquid chromatograph for primary use in amino acid analysis; syringe infusion pumps allowing conduct of new types of infusion experiments; a hemoximeter unit for determination of hemoglobin concentration as well as oxygen saturation of hemoglobin; and a supercritical fluid extraction system determination of total lipids. An Optical Fiber Density Analyzer was installed to replace the Fiber Diameter Analyzer. An ANKOM in vitro rumen incubation system and a filter bag system for neutral and acid detergent fiber assays were introduced to replace the previous individual refluxing and filtering system, and an inductively coupled plasma emission spectrometer for mineral analyses replaced a directly coupled plasma emission spectrophotometer.
A gas chromatograph with an automated sampler was introduced to facilitate rapid analyses of long-chain fatty acids and blood volatile fatty acids, while at the same time determining concentrations of volatile fatty acids in ruminal fluid. The incorporation of a video monitor with the microscope in the fiber/histology unit used for follicle assays increased speed of measuring fiber follicle activity as well as decreasing user fatigue. An automated sampler for a Technicon autoanalyzer system and a microplate reader system were added to decrease chemical and labor costs. Other equipment in the laboratory include the stable isotope analyzer (15N and 13C), automated absorption spectrophotomer, and electronic balances linked to personal computers.
There are many different types of samples analyzed in the laboratory, including feedstuffs, forage, digesta, tissues (typically meat), blood, animal fiber, fecal material, urine, skin biopsy samples, and milk. Many assays are fairly common, such as dry matter, ash, nitrogen, energy, and fiber fractions. However, there are many other more specialized analyses, including condensed tannins, purines, individual amino acids and minerals, and indigestible feed components. Tissue samples are often analyzed for specific fatty acids in addition to total lipids. Ruminal fluid is usually analyzed for concentrations of ammonia, volatile fatty acids, and purines. Common blood analyses are urea, glucose, packed cell volume, and various hormones. Mohair and cashmere fiber assays include yield, diameter, and length, and follicle activity is characterized also.
Skilled, trained personnel are required to perform the range of assays conducted in the laboratory and to run and maintain the instruments. In addition to permanent personnel in the lab, undergraduate students, Visiting Scholars, graduate students, and research faculty participate in laboratory analyses. With the appreciable amount of research and laboratory assays conducted, as well as the large number of people working in the lab, protocols developed for specific experiments and a 'Laboratory Request Form' are important tools for maintaining organization and achieving accurate and fast results.
Take a tour of the Central Laboratory here.
Dairy Herd Improvement Laboratory
In late 1994, two representatives of the American Dairy Goat Association requested the GIGR to establish a Dairy Herd Improvement Association (DHI) laboratory specifically for goats. In August of 1995, the DHI Laboratory for Goats was certified by the National DHI. The laboratory analyzes goat milk samples from herds in 19 states, with 74 herds currently enrolled in the monthly DHI program. Producers use these data for herd management and genetic evaluation. In addition, the equipment has been used for analysis of research milk samples for the GIGR and for a research project conducted jointly with two commercial goat cheese plants.
Take a tour of the Dairy Herd Improvement Laboratory here.