Every spring semester since 2015, undergraduate students from across the SUNY and CUNY systems have gathered to showcase individual research projects, completed across a broad spectrum of subjects, via oral and visual representations, at the SUNY Undergraduate Research Conference (SURC). This year, SUNY Cobleskill students will be presenting at two SURC locations, with students attending either SUNY Adirondack’s event on Friday, April 26, or SUNY Niagara County Community College’s event on Saturday, April 27. In the week leading up to SURC, we’ve caught up with some of this year’s presenters, who have been kind enough to give us an inside look at their research, and shed light on the work that has gone into finalizing it.
Student: Sean Clevenstine
Project: “Weaning Performance of ‘Traditional’ Vs. ‘Dapple’ Colored South African Boer Meat Goats”
Topic: Goat weaning analysis for the purpose of gathering meat production intelligence
Q: Briefly describe your research, and its desired outcomes?
SC: I am comparing weaning performance of SA Boer Goat kids sired by “Traditional” colored bucks to those sired by “Dapple” colored bucks to see if coloration has an effect on meat production. I reviewed birthing and weaning records over a four-year period to determine “Average Daily Gain” of goat kids sired by traditional and dapple colored Boer Goat bucks. The two categories were then compared to see which group performed best overall, and which buck(s) if any showed a noticeable advantage in offspring “ADG”.
Q: What has been the most rewarding part of the research?
SC: Working with campus faculty and staff members and talking with producers across the country gave me some great perspective on the future of meat goat production, as well as valuable information on potential future research endeavors. The research has already led to some changes in my home farming operation; we have purchased several bucks from different producers, and will implement some of the findings within our own herd.
Q: What inspired your research to move in this direction?
SC: As someone who primarily raises beef my interactions at SUNY Cobleskill have helped me recognize a growing demand for small ruminant production. In recognizing this, we are currently developing our own production herd of Boer/Nubian cross, implementing genetics from producers with whom we interacted over the course of this research. Production needs to be diverse to realize success, especially in tour region where large tracts of land are not readily available, and where weather can be severe. Rate of return on a meat goat or sheep can be realized in a few months — versus 24-to-30 months on cattle.
Q: What are some of the specific things you are most excited about when it comes time to present your research?
SC: Mainly spreading the word to meat producers that small ruminant production is an emerging market that provides farmers, especially in our region, great opportunity. That is what this industry is all about.
Q: How has SUNY Cobleskill helped you grow as a student/researcher?
SC: The nature of the research is based on what I was exposed to in my “Livestock Techniques” class. My advisor and classmates were integral in assisting with the concept as well as the research. The staff overseeing the barn facilities are invaluable; they assisted with providing records and answering any questions – day or night. Without the assistance and guidance of Dr. Ben Weikert, both in and out of class, I may not have opted for this project at all. As a “non-traditional” student with a full-time job and children, at times I believe the research is what kept me sane. The class size was perfect as it related to barn assignments, class participation activities, and one-on-one time with the instructor.
Q: What would you tell next year’s students researching and presenting for SURC 2020?
SC: The work you put in is worth it. We owe it to our industry, and those following us in agriculture, to do the work. A very small percentage of our population feeds a large percentage of the world. Agriculture is a technologically advanced, sophisticated industry. We need to stay competitive and grow US agriculture.
Overall, this project has inspired me to continue this research in my own private business. It is tough to go from one extreme (cattle) to another (goats.) I will never give up on cattle, but diversifying is a smart business move. With children hoping to take over our farm in the future, I believe I owe them that.