All about goat shows
The first goat show we ever attended we found very confusing. The only person with a microphone didn’t use it much, and when he did, what we heard didn’t make much sense. I imagine this is what shows are like for most folks who come to agricultural fairs. It is the fair that’s the draw, not the goat show. Breeder shows, as we discovered, are where those in the know go to show.
Goat shows are either specialty shows – meat goat, fiber goat, dairy goat – or are open to all types and breeds. The rules for the show determine the events and how animals are to be judged. Since we breed and show dairy goats, I am most familiar with the rules governing dairy goat shows and will stick to what I know here.
Most of the shows we do include both showmanship and breed events, but not all. In showmanship class, the exhibitor is judged on her own appearance and how well she has cleaned and clipped her goat, a process called fitting. Fitting and appearance count for half the total score. The exhibitor is also judged on her knowledge level. It has been my experience that the judge asks questions as an aid in close classes rather than as the main reason for placings. You are scored more heavily on showing your animal to best advantage. This means compensating for any known faults and making sure she carries herself well. There are also rules of the road you’re expected to know such as keeping your goat between you and the judge and not unduly fussing during set-ups. Fitting a showmanship goat requires a lot of time and patience. Patience isn’t a virtue all of us have, so it’s best to pick a goat with some. She’s going to need to stand for long periods while you scrub hooves with a toothbrush, clip the insides of her ears, the top of her head and shave her udder with a straight razor. If you think about how most goats relish having their heads messed with or anything to do with water, you’ve got a good grasp of the challenge.
In breed events, goats are judged in comparison to others of the same age and breed. Junior or dry does are judged separately from does in milk. A best and second best (Champion and Reserve Champion) are chosen for each breed for both junior and milking does. A Best in Show Senior or milking doe and a Best in Show Junior doe are then chosen from the breed Champions.
Usually, dairy goat shows follow the show rules and regulations of the American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) as defined in the registry’s guidebook. In breed classes, goats are judged against a 100 point scorecard. The scorecard is broken down into four major categories: general appearance, dairy character, body capacity and mammary system. Point values are assigned to each of the major categories, which are broken down further into individual features, each having an assigned point value. Since junior does do not have mammary systems, more points are assigned to the other three categories. Judges know the scorecard values cold. You are expected to know them as well if you are competing in a Showmanship class. You can count on being asked about one of the two features you always get mixed up on.
It is the judge’s job to determine how each goat in a class measures up against this scorecard. He or she then compares the goats to one another. The process involves a lot of number crunching in real time. While the crunching is going on, the judge will direct the clockwise circle of entrants to stop and set up (all four legs squared, hind legs slightly apart and head held high). This may happen several times. The judge will also move around to watch the goats walk from behind or from another angle. Occasionally, you may be asked to walk your goat beside another for a close comparison.
As a showman, you are expected to know where the judge is at all times and to present your animal to best advantage. You can’t always be sure when the judge has made his mind up, so you must pay attention and never stop showing even when you think the class is over. When the circling and crunching has gone on for a while, the judge will signal an exhibitor to form a line. This animal is in first place. A line will form nose to tail behind it. When the entire class is placed, the judge will give his reasons for the placement. The judge’s reasons for placement are what we heard long ago at our first show. It was a mystery then. Now, we know why we place where we do. Experience teaches you how to know a good goat when you see one and how to be realistic about your own. If you question the placing, you may speak with the judge when the class is over, but his or her decision is final.
Over the years, people have asked what we do with our goats and why. I always tell them that I enjoy showing our animals so that we can share them with other people and that’s a big part of it. The ribbons are nice and the premium money is very much appreciated, but more importantly, we show to affirm that the breeding, nutrition and health management decisions we are making are the right ones.
Lisa Palmer raises Oberhasli and American Alpine dairy goats at JGP Butternut Farm, a small hobby farm in central Connecticut. A long time animal lover, Lisa grew up on Cape Cod, where she worked for a man who bred race horses and ran a Frontier Town during the summer months. This has allowed her to add Stagecoach Robber, Indian Guide and Barrel Racer to her resume, which also boasts of more than twenty five years as a landscape designer and installation team foreman. When Lisa isn’t working, she enjoys showing her goats all over New England and making cheese and killer chocolate gelato from her goats’ milk. Lisa hopes to start a soap making business soon. She is also an administrator for The Goat Care Unit, a health care based website on Facebook which currently has over 1300 members.