Why breeders show and what can be gained by showing your well-bred animals
By Melody Reynolds
Our farm started to be exposed to animal shows as many do, with a youth program. The animals taught my children responsibility and the ability to nurture and love animals. The Rhode Island 4-H program offered many opportunities for the children to take their beloved goats out of the barn and enter them in fairs. The fairs encouraged the 4-H er’s to work with their animals and display them to their best ability. The shows offered showmanship and fitting classes. Showmanship taught the youth how to best position their animals to the greatest advantage. Fitting classes inspired the youth to bring a perfectly groomed, trimmed and clean animal into the show ring to express the quality of care taken.
As my children were developing these skills and winning awards for their hard work a greater benefit for our dairy goat herd was developing. In addition to the 4-H fairs the older my children got the more “open” shows we attended. The open shows, usually held by the American Dairy Goat Association, exposed our goat herd to breeders from all over the United States all looking to improve their herds and competing for the “best doe in show” based on the perfect goat characteristics determined by the score card point system.
Exposing our herd to this bigger array of dairy goat breeders opened up the possibilities for us to improve our herd. We love our goats and did not realize we had become “barn blind.” We, until that point, bred to bucks that were convenient and local. We were ensured kids but the quality of kids was always a roll of the dice. Yes, we did get lucky many times with award winning animals that measured up to score card standards but our breeding’s were never consistent and we were not able to track or find characteristics that we wanted or knew how to duplicate.
Being exposed to a larger population of dairy goats and dairy goat people made us aware of traits in our breeding program that we liked. I was able to look into a show ring and say “that’s where I want our herd to be.” I would watch the ADGA shows and start asking questions to the breeders who had what I hoped to achieve.
This information was transfered to our barn decisions. We started to be able to look beyond the personalities of the goats and choose the stock that had the most desired characteristics. From that point a slow and steady culling of goats started to evolve and I became less “barn blind” and more observant of the flaws we needed to correct and where we could improve.
The exposure to open shows had many other benefits that affected the goat herd and our family as goat breeders.
The more shows we attended, the more people started to see our breeding program and what we have. Last year we sold out of our buck and doe kids before they were born. This was a direct result ofattending open shows and all the knowledge fellow dairy goat herders shared with us. We were able to make educated breeding and buying decisions.
The best benefit I receive from the open shows is spending a day with other likeminded people, “goat people.” Having various conversations all day with potential buyers and breeders enriches us all. Yes, we are competing against each other in the show ring for the best dairy goat, but after the show, for the most part, we all want to help each other grow a well-developed, healthy, and milk producing herd.
The years of transporting my children to 4-H shows to teach them the skills needed in life taught me the skills I needed to best show our goats to their best ability, clean, trained and in great conformation.
Melody Reynolds owns the first certified goat cheese and dairy in Rhode Island and has been raising goats for 25 years. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.