Make no mistake about it. Wayne Cullen, Cherry Glen Farm, Maryland is very, very competitive. He has no problem saying the reason he takes part in National Dairy Goat Shows is because he wants to win.
"I try to breed the best goats I possibly can," Cullen said. "Then I like to see how they stack up against other goats from around the country."
Cullen, with a Master’s Degree in Agriculture from the University of Georgia, has years of experience in showing and fitting Holstein cows, and years of experience in the dairy goat industry, breeding for the best as a partner with Diane Kirsch, original Cherry Glen owner. He knows what he is doing when he strives for improvement and perfection in his chosen breeds of dairy goats, Alpine and Toggenburg.
It was a disappointment to him when the Cherry Glen Alpines didn’t place as high as he felt they deserved at the 2009 ADGA National Show and he was vocal about the reasons why he thought they didn’t. The Toggenburg show turned out a bit differently though, and when Wayne Cullen was awarded the highest honor of Grand Champion Toggenburg Senior Doe with SGCH Cherry Glen Tristan Ayla, the crowd (including Diane Kirsch and company) cheered loudly.
Wayne Cullen smiles as his seven-year-old doe, SGCH Cherry Glenn Tristan Ayla is named Grand Champion of the breed.
Ayla was first in the seven-year-old and older class and went up against some very competitive younger class winning Toggenburgs.
Prior to the Cherry Glen Toggenburg win Kirsch said there were times he wondered why he made the effort to get to ADGA National Shows.
"I just find it disgusting to see the politics that takes place at this level," he said. "There are times it is so apparent that goats get placed higher than they should just because of who owns them or who is handling them. Only three of these six judges here get elected by the membership, the rest are put in place by a select group of people. Those judges selected like the importance of judging at the National level and they make sure they reward those people who got them here and will have them back if they are happy. I just don’t agree with it all. The membership (of the American Dairy Goat Association) should at least get to see the result of their voting and know which judges got placed here by the committee."
Cullen said more transparency in how judges are picked and less control by the National Show committee in that area might make it more enticing for other breeders to get involved and attend.
"This year numbers were about half of usual," he said. "This is just not a money-making event for the association anymore. It’s bad for the industry when so few people seem to control the upper-end of things and the people who pay for the whole thing (the members) don’t get much out of it."
There were approximately 1,300 dairy goats entered in the 2009 ADGA National Show, compared to over 2,400 last year. Location could have played a part in reduced numbers as well as perceived inequalities.
Cullen and partner Diane Kirsch drove five days and over 4,000 miles from the east coast to participate in the 2009 ADGA National Show on the west coast.
Despite the trouble of it all, Cullen and Kirsch still find reasons to compete and show at the National level.
"I just love the thrill of competition, the reward of a victory," Cullen said. "I like feedback on my breeding program and I like to see my goats through someone else’s eyes. I just wish I knew if it was all legitimate or not."
Cullen said there were Boer (meat) goat shows where owners, owner-selected handlers, etc. are not allowed to show their own goats, they are not visibly marked in any way, and no one, especially the judge, knows who brought which goat.
"Those goats get placed entirely on their own merits, not on a favor-of-the-day sort of thing," he said.
Breeding, raising, showing and winning with dairy goats is a fun and profitable endeavor but it is the potential for profit that drives most breeders quest for success at the National level.
"Everyone wants to buy from a National winning herd," Cullen said. "It’s the best way to improve any herd. If the wins are legitimate, buying the best stock from a well-recognized herd name is the way to go. I recommend it myself."
Chances are that 2010 offspring from the lauded Toggenburg Ayla will be going for a pretty penny next year, and Cullen couldn’t be happier about that.