It’s exhausting, it’s expensive, it’s an emotional roller coaster at times, but even more, it’s inspiring, it’s educational, and it’s essential to the growth and life of the dairy goat industry. "It" is the National Dairy Goat Show.
I had the pleasure of attending two national dairy goat shows this year, one in June in Stillwater, OK, put on by the American Goat Society, and the other in July in Harrisburg, PA put on by the American Dairy Goat Association. There were some differences, mostly in size and organization, but both gave dairy goat owners who attended and/or participated a chance to be inspired, educated, and revitalized in their chosen professions of raising and showing top quality dairy goats.
There is no doubt it is absolutely exhausting to prepare for, haul to, and participate in a week-long show event with from one to 30+ dairy goats along. I personally don’t know how some folks do it, hitting the show circuits and going from one show to the next each weekend. They certainly are more organized and prioritized than me and my family.
There is also no doubt that attending a National show is expensive. By the time one adds up travel, feed, vet, entry, food, lodging, and "help back home" expenses, a sane person may not even venture off the farm. But, for those that do, the rewards are plenty.
While the focus of going to a National dairy goat show is, of course, showing dairy goats and trying for the best placings possible, there are so many other benefits to just being there, that the whole affair gets to be a bit "addicting" and once a breeder has ventured out into the National spotlight, it’s hard not to go back again, and again, and again.
It’s hard to put a price tag on the invaluable information that gets exchanged at a show of National magnitude. Many goats are sold, traded, and/or "spoken for" at a National show because the whole thing is like a crossroads for some of the best bloodlines in the country. While it may be somewhat difficult to get a doe from FL to WA or from CA to ME any other time of the year, exchanges of such magnitude are made easier at a National show, simply because of goat breeders willingness to help others out with transport, and because the National show is the central meeting point of the year for many breeders. This impacts the dairy goat industry on a large scale, allowing regional bloodlines to spread and be "proven" beyond geographical boundaries. Of course, this applies to semen too, as many processors are there, selling, visiting with, educating others, along with a variety of other goat-related businesses in the vendors area.
Being able to put names to faces at the National show and being able talk to breeders renowned for excellence in their programs, in person, is, quite frankly, thrilling. Learning the tricks of the trade, or sharing management tips, ideas, and/or secrets, is so easy at a national show, because thousands of dairy goats are located so close together, and visiting with one’s neighbors is as easy as pulling up a chair.
Most dairy goat owners are hard-working folks who rarely take a vacation (unless to a show, with their goats along) because the nature of the goat business is so personally demanding. There is no getting around the fact that going to a National show is expensive, but if ever given a chance, my suggestion to my fellow goat breeders is to give it a try, go to a National show, take a few dairy goats along and see how they place. Be inspired to improve the genetics in the home herd, experience all there is to experience. And, don’t forget to congratulate those who do win, because someday it could be you.
Hats off to all the 2004 National Champions! Those that I saw were all beautiful and deserving of their awards.
Best wishes to all…Jennifer