LANGSTON — O.C. Simpson’s contributions to Langston University’s goat research program during his lifetime have enabled the program to thrive even after his death in February.
More than 300 acres serve as home to about 1,500 goats on the university’s campus. The goats produce milk, meat, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, cashmere and mohair for research, demonstration and extension activities.
This is what Simpson had in mind when he established the program, now called the E (Kika) de la Garza American Institute for Goat Research, in 1984. When the institute was established, they only had two goats.
“The goat was a forgotten animal,” said Marvin Burns, dean and research director at Langston University. “He saw the future and importance of goat research on a worldwide basis before anybody thought about the goat as a research animal.”
Goat meat, in terms of the quantity that is consumed on a worldwide basis, surpasses any other meat; it’s about 70 percent of the red meat eaten globally, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
The program has had influence on goat research on every continent.
“When Israel needed to find an institution in the world to work on goat research with them in cyanide, they came to Langston University,” Burns said.
Simpson was one of the first to do research with the Northwest A&F University near Xi’an, China. He established the first “memorandum of understanding” between Langston University and a university in China.
Since that time, the institute has had a continuous relationship with universities in China.
Goat research helps solve problems such as disease, viruses, parasitism and helps farmers better utilize their resources.
Goats suffer from a lot of the same problems humans do. They suffer from viruses, bacteria and cancer. The organism that causes disease is virtually the same.
Each of the program’s five goat breeds has a specialization. The breeds are Alpine, Boer, Spanish, Angora and fainting goats.
“Every animal we have at the farm is actively participating in some kind of research,” said Erick Loetz, farm operations manager. “It could be nutritional, reproduction, parasitology; different things.”
Goats have less stress on the environment than many other species, having the ability to survive in environments like the Sahara Desert, unlike cattle.
“Certain breeds have been chosen because of the quality of their production,” Loetz said. “For example, we work with Alpine, which are the dairy animals. These have adapted very well to our Oklahoma environment.”
“When we started, not that many people thought it was important,” said Tilahun Sahlu, American Institute for Goat Research director.
Now, he said, the institute is the only center in the U.S. that has all three types of goats: meat, dairy and fiber-producing.
One of the institute’s biggest goals is to help farmers’ efficiency.
The institute’s annual Goat Field Day reaches over 300 farmers and their children each year. This year’s field day, held in April, focused on the raising of goats with workshops on parasite conrol, cheesemaking, and featured several expert guest speakers.
“We go to farmers’ ranches or wherever they are and if they’re having problems with their goats, we are the ones who go and take care of them,” Burns said.
Student involvement is another significant aspect of the institute.
Langston University students are provided internships and part-time work opportunities within the program. This is essential for students majoring in agricultural and animal sciences, agri-business, biology or biotechnology.
“We are a university so classes are taught and our animals are used for that purpose as well,” Loetz said.
Simpson’s contributions are the reason for the program’s success.
“He wanted to make a significant contribution to America and he did,” Burns said.
“We’re still reaping the benefits from the decisions that he made more than 30 years ago. He was a trailblazer, and I miss him. He made a difference.”