Show time! As dairy goat exhibitors, we are goodwill ambassadors for animal agriculture and the production of quality, safe food and fiber. As dairy goat producers, we need to do our best to be prepared for a smooth, successful show, as well as promoting our craft and/or occupation. An analogy that I appreciate is as follows: Showing a goat is like going to a high school prom. (Oh, maybe you missed it because you were at a goat show that weekend?) Would we go to a prom without giving it 110%? Can you get ready for a prom an hour before? Are there prerequisites that need to be addressed before your participation? You also need to think about comfort not only for your goats, but also for you.
Showing starts long before the actual show. Below are some guidelines I suggest for preparation.
Know the rules
First, carefully read the show rules. These show rules do not only represent the show, but also ADGA. Get your highlighter out and look for the following information:
• Make sure you have the appropriate pedigrees for every goat you are exhibiting. In the show rules, there will be a statement that references the respective health requirements—make sure you have the proper health paper work. Different states have different rules, and usually have special rules for out-of-state exhibitors.
• You may also want to look into what feed is available at the show, if any. While I would never suggest changing grain at a show, I often buy straw and hay at a show if it is available. When you are traveling across the country, it may not be possible to easily haul all the hay you are going to need. Hay racks on top of trailers are a great way to take care of this issue and keep the summer sun off the top of your trailer, and on the hay instead. I used to travel with Anne Whitney of Winterberry Nubian fame, and she always liked to feed a new hay at shows. She said the new taste often encouraged the goats to eat more and would build the barrel they lost on the trip.
• Are you taking your own pens or are you using pens at the show? You may want to do some research on the pen dimensions so you know how many pens you will be using, and making sure you have ample supplies for each pen.
Select animals that are ready to show.
• Contact the show secretary and get a feeling for the number of goats already entered especially if the breed being sanctioned is important to you.
• Remember the animals you show and the way they are presented are a reflection upon you. We all get asked to take an extra goat to a show that we were not planning to show, in order to help a show sanction. Even if you do not have time to clip the animal, you should still make sure the feet are trimmed. Now, I have clipped many goats at shows. I also raise Saanens, and Saanens look great with a short close cut. Alpines often look really sharp with short coats. Other colored goats look best at different coat lengths. You need to experiment with the proper length of the coat that makes this respective goat look best. A black goat needs roughly two weeks’ of coat growth, whereas a brown goat may only need one week of growth.
• Hoof care is something that needs to be done on a regular basis. Too many people wait to trim hooves until the night before the show, and then the following day the goat is walking uncomfortably on the tanbark and the pasterns and feet are impacted as the animal is being evaluated.
• Check your does to make sure they each only have two teats and one orifice in the teat. Also check the bucks for extra teats and testicles that have not descended. Many of us accidently overlook these disqualifications/defects, but a simple check before the show avoids the embarrassment or the waste of an entry fee at a show.
• Read the tattoo. Does it match the pedigree? Is it legible?
Is your vehicle ready?
Inspections are not meant to wait until the morning you are leaving, because you may not be going if a mechanic needs a part or tire that is on backorder. Likewise, make sure your registration is up-to-date as well. Sitting alongside the road dealing with a police officer, while your prized goats are sitting and baking in a trailer, is never a good idea. One option you may want to look at is traveling at night when there is less traffic and cooler temperatures. Regardless of what you decide, make sure there is ample ventilation in your trailer or the back of your truck so that your goats do not overheat.
Is your tack box packed?
While I had a tack box to store many of these items, I have found storing items in smaller totes or organizers is helpful in finding show supplies quickly, prevents loss, and keeps them safe. My father, who shows horses, has a set of supplies that never leave the horse trailer except when being unloaded and loaded at shows.
- Check to make sure every goat on your list was loaded
- Directions to show (Ed. note: Take an old-fashioned map and written instructions, too—GPS devices are not always reliable!)
- Health papers
- Registration book
- Milk stand
- Stainless steel milk bucket
- Teat dip (sprays work great for shows)
- Bathing suits if you are staying at a motel with a pool
- Sleeping bags
- Snacks/beverages (some shows do not offer these items for sale). Always think about food safety and make sure the "people food" is handled in a sanitary way, so you do not have to worry about food borne pathogens. (A cooler is a good idea, too.)
- Suitcase with plenty of clean clothes
- Show clothes—at least one clean pair per show day unless you are going to a Laundromat. (Also, check on the attire for your show—many require white pants in the ring.)
- Alcohol preps
- Broad Spectrum antibiotic
- Mastitis treatment
- Rectal thermometer
Goat show supplies:
- Baby wipes
- Brushes (body and feet)
- Clipper lubes and oils
- Flashlight (for those of us who do not have that application on our cell phones)
- Fly spray
- Halters or lead ropes
- Hoof rasp
- Hoof paint
- Hoof trimmers
- Measuring stick if you are a Nigerian breeder
- Microchip reader if your goats are microchipped as their official form of identification
- New or sharp clipper blades (10 for body and 40 blades for udders)
- Shaving cream and razors, if you use them for udder clipping
- Show chain for securing goats at ringside
- Show collars
- Spray bottle (helpful for keeping the doe who wants to lay down, up)
- Teat tape or teat adhesives
- Water additives such as sugar, Kool Aid, or Gatorade powders
Exhibition supplies/pen set up:
- Baby bottles with nipples if showing kids still on milk
- Clorox or disinfectant to spray down stalls (The stalls your animals are housed in most likely have housed animals with contagious diseases in the past, and probably have not been washed down.)
- Curtains/farm signs/display boards
- Electrical chords
- Feed containers including the one for the milk stand
- Hay racks
- Hog panel
- Pasteurizer for kid milk
- Power strips
- Water (if you are taking some from home)
- Water hose
- Wheelbarrow (tarps also work for after show cleanup)
Are emergency contact numbers available for your help at home?
At the show, do you have a plan for relieving does? How soon after the show will your does be milked (it should be immediately)? Over-uddered does are frowned upon by judges, other exhibitors, and spectators. Judges who exhibit often are understanding and may offer you a chance to relieve a doe, but the spectators who are non-animal people are often unforgiving. I know that many shows may not have enough handlers, but the comfort of our goats should take priority over showing for our friends. Many of my friends and I delegate responsibilities. I have a rule: I only show my goats, my mother’s goats, goats for people who handle my extra animals, and goats I choose to show for a special reason or I am paid to handle. When anyone else asks me to a show a goat, I say no. After a while, people know how you stand and they know not to ask you. I have found this to help me prevent over uddering does, an issue I have struggled with when showing for everyone.
The exhibition of our dairy goats is important to the promotion of dairy goats. Those of us who have been around for a few years have noticed a decline in the numbers of goats and exhibitors at many of our shows. There are many reasons for this. However, the popularity of dairy goats in our country is increasing in many ways. While shows are not the only way to promote our goats, they are one way to have positive interactions not only with other members of our smaller community, but also the general public. While I have not shown seriously or a large strong string in several years, I hope to contribute and do my part in patronizing some local fair shows this summer.