Facebook: A friend or foe? (Shepherd’s Notebook)
(Editor’s note: Susan Schoenian is a sheep and goat specialist with the University of Maryland.)
Facebook was launched 16 years ago and has become an integral part of our daily lives.
It is the most popular social media network in the world, with more than 2.5 billion active users.
According to Pew Research, seven in 10 U.S. adults use Facebook: Eighty-three percent are women and 75 percent are men.
The University of Maryland Extension Small Ruminant Program has had a Facebook presence since 2011.
The page is https://www.facebook.com/MDSmallRuminant.
It has more than 15,000 likes and followers. Pages are utilized by businesses, organizations, and public figures.
They are visible to anyone on the internet. If you follow a page, you will see their posts in your newsfeed.
However, only administrators can post to a page. Followers can comment.
The obvious purpose of the Maryland Small Ruminant Facebook page is to share information relevant to the sheep/goat industry,
A Facebook group is a place for group communication and for people to share their common interests and express their opinions.
Anyone can set up and manage their own Facebook group. Facebook groups can be public or private.
Anyone can join, or administrator approval can be required for acceptance.
When you join a group, you can see the group’s posts in your newsfeed. All group members can post to group pages.
However, there are rules for posting and commenting.
Some administrators will remove your posts and comments or ban you if they don’t like what you have to say.
There are numerous Facebook groups pertaining to small ruminants.
Many are for buying/selling, though technically Facebook forbids using it for the private sale of animals and anything from them (producers have found “work-arounds”).
Some groups are more informational in nature.
For example, there is a group called “Beat the barber pole worm.”
Just recently a group was started for people interested in raising and breeding sheep in confinement.
Execute a search in Facebook and you will find many Facebook groups pertaining to sheep/goats.
Facebook groups are a great way to network with other producers and share information, but they have the same problem as the Internet in general.
Most of the information you find on Facebook is not regulated for quality or accuracy. Anyone can start a group. Anyone can post or comment. Anyone can claim to be an expert. Veterinarians and Extension educators are sometimes banned from sheep/goat groups because their expert opinions conflict with the information being posted or opinions being expressed.
Be wary of these groups. Some of them dispense some pretty inaccurate information, especially pertaining to animal health and nutrition.
It is better to join groups that are moderated by qualified experts.
One of the best small ruminant groups is“ Goat Vet Corner.”
It does not allow commenting by producers. Only veterinarians can answer questions. Another good group is Premier-Sheep-Goats. Producers can comment, but questions are initially answered by a veterinarian from Premier’s partner, Pipestone Veterinary Services.
The “Beat the barber pole worm” group is moderated by a livestock specialist who is a member of the American Consortium for Small Ruminant Parasite Control (wormx.info).
But even with these groups, Facebook does not replace your own veterinarian’s advice or that of a local extension educator or other qualified expert.
In actuality, Facebook is not the best place to get information about raising sheep/goats.
It is better for socializing and sharing pictures of cute lambs/kids or finding out about upcoming events.
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