Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Show Time

I had just set the bucket full of pine and oak leaves in its holder on the milking stand, when the first large glop of water splattered on my shoulder. Tilting my head back, I glared at the swollen rain clouds that hovered above me. I wanted to be frustrated, but instead I felt the resignation that, "Yeah Lily; this is what you get when you wait till the last minute".
It was a grey Friday morning, the day before the Forever Goat Show that my mom and I attended every year. I had started shaving down our goats the previous day, but I still had one more to go.  Unfortunately the spring storm clouds that had been lingering ominously had finally decided to break. I had contemplated moving the shaving equipment into the milking room for all of five second. But for those of you who don't know, shaving goats is a furry business; I wasn't going to be the one sweeping up the piles of fine shavings and completely taking apart our milking machine because it had gotten clogged with hair. No thank you.
Exasperated, I put all of the equipment safely under cover and went back inside, hoping that I would have the luxury of a little sun later in the day. Around 2 O'clock a goat-breeder friend of our's, Mrs. Kelley, would be arriving with her goats, and we would be trailering to the show together. Some time after 5:30pm, a church friend who was also a tattoo artist would be arriving to help us tattoo our yearlings. We had a full day ahead of us, and yet the sky had decided that it was going to have a meltdown.

Despite the difficulties of the event, goat shows were always a lot of fun. The pre-show preparations could be somewhat laborious, but the show itself was a time where all the long time goat breeders gathered together for a day for friendly (and on occasion not so friendly) competition. All of the goat breeders of central Florida knew each other, either personally or through association, so it was also a time for old friends to catch up with each other. Sadly, I would not be going to this show, simply because I had other commitments that needed to be fulfilled (mostly school related), but my mother and Mrs. Kelley would attending.
I realize that not many people know exactly how a dairy goat show operates, so allow me to explain:
Just like any livestock show, conformation is key, but dairy goats do have their own set of qualities that are most important in a breeding-quality animal. Since a dairy goat's primary use is in milk production, their entire anatomy should be best suited for their job.
Naturally one of the main thing that a judge will look at is the mammary system (a doe's udder). There are many aspects to the udder, all of which contribute to the over all milk production. There are also things such as length of bone, dairy character, chest and rib-cage, depth of barrel, escutcheon, hip placement, et cetera et cetera. The list is overwhelming. What surprises most people, is that all of these characteristics, even the most seemingly trite ones, are not just to describe the "prettiest" goat.  Every single detail contributes towards creating the most fully functional, milk producing dairy goat. Even something as insignificant as the width of a doe's nostrils, because the more oxygen that she is able to inhale and circulate through her system, the better her milk production will be.
Needless to say, the judging process can be quite lengthy, but in return you get an excellent evaluation of your animal, and you get to show off your animal. It's one thing when an animal that you bought from someone else win. It's entirely different when a doe that you bred for yourself wins.There is a huge amount of gratification, and it is excellent advertisement for your farm.

Goat shows have always been apart of my childhood, and some of my best memories with my mother were at them. These shows were a wonderful way for me to bond with my mother, and it was something that we shared together. Not only that, but most of the people that I know at the local shows have known me since I was very young, and have watched me grow up, so attending these shows is almost like a family reunion.

Granted, some people may have a hard time seeing the draw, but there is something charming about the dairy goat and the people that own them. We all share a similar love for the same creature, and this brings us together.


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