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Goat specialist to speak at Thursday’s farm tour

Dahlia O’Brien, PhD, extension small ruminant specialist at Virginia State University (VSU), will be the guest speaker Thursday evening at the Southern Virginia Meat Goat Association’s (SVMGA) Farm Tour to be held 6 to 8 p.m. at Hudson Heritage Farms, 14242 River Road, in the Elmo community. 

Her topic will be “Non-chemical Alternate Approaches to Parasite Control in Small Ruminants.” 

The tour, which is free and open to interested goat and sheep producers, is sponsored by SVMGA and Virginia Cooperative Extension. 

Halifax County Extension Agent Chris Brown will demonstrate hay testing, and Eddie Chaney from nearby Misty Meadows Farm will showcase high-quality hay bales.

O’Brien received her PhD from the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, in December 2005 and before joining VSU served as the acting director of Coastal Ecology Teaching and Research Center in Berlin, Maryland. 

She is also on the board of the American Consortium for Small Ruminant Parasite Control whose mission is to advance modern parasite control for sheep, goats and camelid (llama, etc.) producers.

While at the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, O’Brien researched the effectiveness of natural or alternative dewormers and genetics to control parasites in goats, sheep and other small ruminants. 

Her work was sponsored by the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, which is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture—National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA). SARE’s mission is to invest in groundbreaking research and education that advances American agriculture through innovations that improve profitability, stewardship and quality of life.

O’Brien also has completed research evaluating the use of goats as a biological control for invasive weeds and studied methods to increase sheep and goat production to satisfy increasing market demands (synchronization and timed-artificial insemination). 

Prior to O’Brien’s talk at 7 p.m., guests may tour the Hudson Heritage Farms’ guest house, barns and animal shelters, milking parlor and the new educational center complete with professional kitchen used for seminars.  

Attendees are encouraged to bring a lawn chair. Because the farm’s animals are peacefully roaming the premises, guests are asked not to bring small children or dogs.   

For more information, refer to SVMGA’s website, www.svmga.org.