Risk Management Essay
“Just Kidding Around”
Reidland FFA, Kentucky
As a young man growing up in the suburbs of Paducah, KY, some would
have found my interest in agriculture strange, since not growing up on a farm. My
greatest influence came from my best friend, my grandfather. I watched him every
week climb atop his beloved 1952 Allis-Chalmer model “B” tractor, equipped with a
belly mower, to mow and groom the entire property. That is where my passion of
agriculture was sparked.
As I entered high school, I decided to take my passion to the next level. I
signed up for an agriculture class and joined an organization that would soon
change my future and allow me to chart a course for my life. I became a member of
the National FFA Organization. From there, I applied myself in the classroom
where I developed knowledge and an even deeper passion for agriculture and
animal science. My advisor observed my intense interest and one day asked if I
would be interested in gaining some animal experience on the Woodland Hills
Ranch working with South African Boer Goats. Not realizing what lay in store, I
eagerly accepted and soon found an area of agriculture that I passionately enjoyed.
Working on the ranch became not only a job but also a unique opportunity for
exploration in animal agriculture. Working in a Boer goat operation that excelled
in breeding management, laparoscopic artificial insemination, embryonic transfers
and the production of cutting-edge show stock, risk management became a daily
To minimize risk on the ranch, we imposed a weekly meeting with the family
and employees. During this weekly meeting production is evaluated and the
calendar of weekly events is explained. Each stakeholder has the opportunity to
share observations and make suggestions to increase success and reduce risk.
Evaluation is made of production and marketing costs of daily farm operations.
Discussion of the management, as well as finances, allows for everyone to
understand the importance of every job and responsibility on the ranch. The time
taken for this meeting pays off with continued success in ranch operations while
greatly reducing risk that could impose potential threats and losses in revenue.
Without the weekly meeting certain issues might never come to attention, and risk
Woodland Hills Ranch consists of over 200 head of registered South African
Boer Goats. It is nestled on a beautiful 150 acres of rolling, productive land. To
minimize many potential risks, maintenance of the infrastructure is a daily chore.
The perimeter of the ranch is maintained with four by four inch sheep and goat
woven high tensile wire. This fencing costs more to install but greatly reduces the
risks of predators causing damages to animals. The inside of the perimeter is
equipped with electric fencing to reduce the risk of animals damaging the
permanent fencing. All buildings are maintained with pine shavings to reduce
moisture and to increase the R-value of the floors in cold temperatures. This
practice reduces the risk of losses due to disease or young animals freezing.
I have also gained considerable knowledge in animal health and am
proficient in evaluating the health of goats. By using close daily observations I am
able to eliminate many health risks that could be devastating if gone unnoticed.
After working with a certain species of animal for a prolonged period of time, you
are in tune with their “normal” patterns of behavior. The slightest alteration in
this behavior becomes very noticeable to the trained eye. Having the ability to
eliminate risk to other animals in the herd is extremely valuable.
Use and handling of proper medications allows for the elimination of several
risks. I have learned the importance of using medications when needed and using
the least invasive amounts and drugs that will correct the problem. Great care is
taken to eliminate the risk of death caused by using the wrong medications or
medications in the wrong combinations. Veterinarian advice and approval is
obtained before medications are administered. Many off-label drugs are required in
goat production because there are so few goat labeled medications. To reduce the
high cost of medications, most purchases are obtained over the internet and
purchased in large quantities and then stored in climate controlled conditions to
preserve their shelf life.
Weather is another factor in risk management that we have no control over
but must constantly plan for. One of the most difficult parts of any farming
operation is creating success in a situation where you have no control. It becomes a
struggle at times to adapt the ranch to the changing weather. It imposes major
health risks with the goats. Drastic weather changes affect goats more adversely
than many of the other common livestock animals. According to the 2007 Kentucky
Agricultural Statistics and Annual Report, July and August had temperatures over
100 degrees, which were above normal. It was considered a deadly drought season
for Western Kentucky and much of the Southeast. We had major concerns for the
goats during these difficult times. Procedures were put into action to ensure plenty
of shade for the animals, and fresh cool water supply became an essential daily
activity. Immediately following the drought we had an extremely wet fall. The wet
weather poses an extreme risk for the goats since it is so different than their native
arid environment. Increased parasite loads from depleted pastures and escalated
hoof problems were health issues that had to be handled every day, all brought on
by the weather.
The weather still has an effect on the ranch, even outside of the hot summer.
Winter imposes a major risk to us. With the emphasis of production being show
stock and not the production of meat animals, the calendar for kidding poses huge
risk. The show season is scheduled for warm weather months, which requires
kidding to take place in the winter months. Just as this winter has proven to be,
cold weather is harsh, especially on newborn kids. To reduce the risk of kids dying,
several precautions are taken to minimize the risk. Each year before winter we have
groups of pregnant recipient does in sorted paddocks. I line the bottoms of each
outdoor housing unit with wood chips covered with pine shavings, which has high
moisture filtering ability and dramatically increases the insulation R-value. In
barns, every stall houses new kids for about two weeks. The stalls are cleaned, limed
and bedded with pine shavings after every kidding to reduce disease and bacteria
build-up. In each stall we place a blue plastic 55-gallon barrel that has a lid wired
with a light bulb, and an opening at the bottom. These are used like brooders for
newborn kids and maintain a warm environment. I have built many of these
brooders, and they have tremendously reduced the risk involved with newborn
Preparing for shows presents risk, on and off the ranch. This past summer I
managed and maintained the ranch with minimal help, while the remainder of the
crew headed out on the show circuit traveling state to state. According to the
Introduction to Risk Management, “Benefits of formal planning and management is
it allows the business to function during illness or absence of a key person.” Not
boasting, but our operation has been able to successfully adapt to absences of key
workers. The main risk that presents itself in show season is stress. I must keep the
show animals comfortable while at home and prepare then to travel, sometimes
many hours. Many times the same animals do not travel to two shows in a row
because those goats are very susceptible to stress. When at the ranch and not
traveling, I prepare checklists to ensure supplies are in place on trailers. I also
restock supplies, especially medications. Maintaining such tasks helps to reduce risk
that may affect the show animals in the process of traveling and at the shows.
For the goat operation to continue successfully, untiring preparation is
needed to continue breeding up the superior, cutting edge genetic traits. Our
marketing in the show ring makes it essential to reproduce the genetics that
producers want to purchase to achieve premium show quality in their herds. This
consideration has made embryo transfer and artificial insemination a necessary tool
to reduce the risk in this enterprise. The successful show record on the ranch has
been gained through genetic improvement. We have adapted to take breeding to the
next level. We examine our best show animals, analyze their genetic traits, select for
the great potentials and set out to reproduce only from the best does. Embryo
transfer and artificial insemination have allowed us to breed to some of the greatest
Boer goats in the United States. This process requires careful attention and presents
the greatest financial risk on the ranch.
When programming does for embryo transfers, we place CIDR to control the
heat periods of the donor does. We monitor each animal several times a day to
reduce the risk of a CIDR falling out, which destroys the programming. In the
procedure, we pull all CIDR inserts for breeding with either artificial insemination
with fresh or frozen semen, laparoscopic A.I. or natural breeding with a buck. After
breeding, the doe’s are monitored very carefully and an effort is made to remove all
stress. After seven days the selected group of doe’s undergo a surgical flush,
meaning we harvest all the fertilized embryos that were produced. Then the
embryos are inserted into programmed recipient doe. These recipient doe’s carry
the embryos, even though they are not the biological mothers. This process allows
for the reproduction of many kids from the same matings. The spread of superior
genetic traits is greatly multiplied. The embryos implanted each year become the
show string and sale animals for the upcoming season. There is great risk in this
procedure. We have no control over the outcome of the embryos as they become
kids. Some may have great show potential, while others won’t develop to their
genetic potential. Tremendous money is invested in this procedure; it becomes the
greatest managed risk on the ranch.
The risks are managed but will never be eliminated. If we produce for sale
or show a bad quality offspring, we have a loss of revenue and eventually a loss of
customer base. On the ranch, risks are difficult to manage and require immense
preparation and time. Planning and decision-making is the key in a successful
operation. I am proud to have the opportunity to understand the risks and develop
ways to manage them. Through hard work and dedication, I am proficient in
planning and charting measurable goals, arriving at intelligent decisions, and
managing risk through my Specialty Animal Production Supervised Agriculture
• Kentucky Department of Agriculture. "Kentucky Weather Summary and
Climatological Data 2007." 2007 Kentucky Agricultural Statistics and
Annual Report. 2006th ed., 2008. 29-30.
• Spahr, Linda I. "Market Goat Project Reference Guide." Dairy and Animal
Science Publications Catalog. 18 Jan. 2008.
• United States Department of Agriculture Risk Management Agency.
"Benefits of Formal Planning and Management Systems." Introduction to
Risk Management. 1997. 19.
My Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) is in specialty animal
production that involves employment on a ranch producing South African Boer
Goats specializing in embryo transfers, artificial insemination, and producing
cutting edge quality show and sale stock. I am responsible for many areas of
production from bedding to kidding. I help evaluate breeding management
involving genetic characteristics. I oversee all health issues, and I am able to
administer medications for any health problems that may occur within the herd.
I am in charge of feeding rotations and maintenance of the entire ranch
including fencing. I am also engaged in fitting and preparing animals for show
and occasionally am called upon to show animals at exhibitions around the
country. I am also engaged in helping promote the use of goat meat through
exhibits at many local, regional, state, and national exhibitions. I have learned
much more than I thought possible at this point in my SAE. I have many plans
for the future and the betterment of the ranch where I am employed. My SAE
has not just been a job, but a life experience that I will draw from no matter
what career I end up working in for the remainder of my life. Through my SAE
activities I have experienced many opportunities that I would not have enjoyed if
it were not for the FFA. I would encourage all FFA members to actively
participate in SAE's, as they are truly the doors to many opportunities.