The Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in San Angelo held their annual Texas Sheep and Goat Expo and Field Day Aug. 14-15. This was the first year the events were virtual.
“We had to work within local and organizational guidelines to produce an event that could still be held during these challenging times,” said event organizer Robert Pritz, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service regional program director, San Angelo. “We typically welcome people to our center in San Angelo for the field day and then move over to the Spur Arena for two days of information, food, friends and fun.”
Cutting-edge AgriLife Extension technology
After the success of the first virtual Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course earlier this month, Pritz was confident the expo and field day would be able to use the Zoom platform to deliver an event to sheep and goat producers. However, it would be the largest and first multiday AgriLife Extension event a center had ever presented virtually for the public.
Dan Hale, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension associate director, and Blair Fannin, AgriLife Extension communications associate director, both of College Station, along with several camera operators, came to San Angelo to be a part of the webinar command center.
“This is the first time we’ve ever done a program like this at AgriLife Extension where we had a virtual program at six or seven different locations at once and had to go from one location to another,” said Hale.
“We had a team of AgriLife Extension agents and specialists, Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientists and center staff who did a tremendous job. What participants saw was very similar to what they would’ve seen in a face-to-face meeting except no one, aside from the outdoor presenters, had to stand in the 106-degree heat.”
Hale said the webinar format also offered participants otherwise near-impossible opportunities such as hearing from presenters from as far away as North Carolina, Maryland and Kangaroo Island, Australia.
The 47th annual San Angelo Field Day featured 10 speakers at stations spread throughout the center grounds, discussing everything from the Livestock Guardian Dog program to wool testing, nutrition and genetics.
“The 2020 virtual edition of the Texas A&M Sheep and Goat Field Day was a great success,” said Reid Redden, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension sheep and goat specialist and AgriLife Research interim center director, San Angelo. “Distance education technology allowed us to showcase more of the research, outreach and services that our center conducts. We hope to be able to host a combination of live and virtual events in the future.”
Texas Sheep and Goat Expo
The first day of the AgriLife Extension Texas Sheep and Goat Expo featured experts addressing parasite management, business and marketing, farming and sheep, and how lamb and goat meat fit into the overall meat industry. It also included international speakers sharing a global industry viewpoint and featured a live mock auction.
The second day of the Expo featured hour-long presentations on topics of interest to producers in almost every facet of the sheep or goat industry. AgriLife experts discussed wool sheep, hair sheep, club lambs, meat goats and angora goats.
“I tip my hat to everyone in AgriLife Extension who came together and, during these challenging times, found a way to present a tremendous event to the industry,” Hale said.
“When the committee decided on a technology theme for the 2020 Texas Sheep and Goat Expo, it was months before we were faced with COVID-19,” said Pritz. “Little did any of us know the role technology would have to play to even make this event possible.”
Fannin said it was an incredible thing to see how a mobile phone could be used to conduct broadcasts out in the field that were watched live by attendees in the comfort of their homes, saving some participants a trip that would normally entail hundreds of miles of driving.
“It’s an incredible way to demonstrate the expertise and research that takes place here in San Angelo,” Fannin said. “The ability to maintain the quality of this program and to utilize the available technology to deliver this to not only the producers in the West Texas region but statewide and abroad was absolutely impressive. It’s a testament to the type of programming Texas A&M delivers.”