So you think your goat is pretty fabulous and would rule the show ring. But where to start? Diving into the show world can be very intimidating if you’re just getting started and don’t have a good mentor to help prepare you.
Registration and Tattoos
Is your goat registered with the American Dairy Goat Association? With the American Goat Society? Check your registrations and make sure your goat is up to date with their registrations for the shows you want to participate in. Most shows are sanctioned by ADGA, but AGS has quite a few shows as well. Sometimes it’s good to have goats dual registered if you’re interested in showing your goats. Many 4-H shows are sanctioned by a registry as well, so if you have younger folks in your family that would like to show, this is a great program to look into as well.
No matter what type of show ring you decide on, be sure to check your goat’s tattoos. No awards can be given to goats that have unreadable or wrong tattoos. If a tattoo needs to be fixed, make sure you notify the registry you’ve altered the tattoo, even it’s to re-tattoo the correct sequence.
Nigerians and Height Restrictions
As a miniature breed, Nigerian Dwarfs are the only dairy breed with height restrictions – 22.5″ max for does and 23.5″ max for bucks. For showing, if an ND is measured and comes in over height, it’s an automatic disqualification. This can be incredibly frustrating and embarrassing on the day of a show. Make sure if you’re showing Nigerians you make sure they’re within height before you try to show your goat.
Check out the shows in your area and decide which ones you’re interested in participating in. Request the paperwork to register for the show and read it carefully for what classes they offer, and when the registration deadline is. Make sure your paperwork is submitted in a timely fashion.
Most shows offer classes by age and if your doe is dry or in milk. Many will offer “specialty” classes such as “dam and daughter” or “get of sire” where pairs or more are shown to represent a line of breeding. Some shows allow you to show bucks. Many shows will pay a premium for class wins. Figure out what matters most to you, and what shows will appeal to those needs.
Also pay attention to if shows are multiple days and if that will require you to house your goats overnight on the grounds. This will most likely mean accommodations for yourself as well. Decide how far you’re willing to travel and if you’re comfortable housing your goats overnight.
Clipping and Finishing
While clipping isn’t necessarily required for all shows, you do your goat a HUGE disservice if they’re not clipped and bathed and looking their best for the ring. No beauty queen steps on stage without hair and make-up, and you’ll never see an unclipped goat in the hands of show professionals. Clipping can be challenging for beginners, but with practice comes perfection. Try to clip your goats 2-3 weeks before the show. This way any bad lines can grow out, or missed areas can be touched up. Making sure hooves are trimmed and clean is also an important step to presenting a well maintained goat.
Make sure your goats are regularly walked by their as a part of every day life on your farm. This will help ensure they cooperate in a show ring. A goat that is rarely handled or led may freeze or struggle, making them hard to handle. Leading them to and from the milk stand, or around the barn is a great way to get your goats comfortable. Goats wear a special show collar in the ring, so it would be worthwhile to get at least one to practice handling with.
Practice squaring up your goats so they get used to you handling their legs and positioning them without freaking out. Work on getting front legs under the shoulders, back legs under hips, back nice and straight, while keeping heads steady and neck extended.
Showing Nigerians will usually require a lot of crouching or squatting to set up or hold a goat’s position, but you should always be careful not to touch your knee to the ground.
Knowing Your Way Around the Ring
Get your self familiar with how goats are led around a show ring. There are a ton of great videos on YouTube that demonstrate proper movement and presentation in the show ring. If you have the opportunity, attend a show clinic if any are offered in your area.
A show line often leads off from the left, but that can vary. Walking the ring will always go in a clockwise direction. Always make sure your goat is between you and the judge. If you’re on the wrong side, change over in front of your goat. Always be sure to leave space in front of your goat and the goat in front of you. Listen carefully to the judge, as they will tell you when to stop, change places in the line, and when to square up your goat so they can get a closer look. Try to watch as many classes as you can before you get in the ring, and always make sure you’re not first in the line for your first few shows.
A Winning Wardrobe
When you’re in the ring to show your goat, it’s important that you look as nice as your goat. For showing dairy goats, “show whites” are the standard dress. This means a clean white top and clean white pants. Shirts can have small logos or farm names. Some open shows are flexible on this, especially with weather considerations. However, most judges do prefer a strict white dress code, so not to detract from the goat that’s being shown. Showmanship classes for 4-H are very strict regarding proper show attire.
No matter how nice your goats are, it’s unlikely you’ll walk out of the ring with a Grand Champion ribbon on your first go. Not saying it doesn’t happen, but it’s unlikely. You’ll be nervous, your goat’s will be nervous. Showing can be a challenging world to get involved in and excel in. Go into showing hoping to learn a lot, meet some great people and have a good time with other people who are passionate about dairy goats. Take note of what the judges tell you about your goats and learn what areas to improve on. Don’t get crushed if you don’t place well in your first few shows – take it for the experience it is and keep growing
It’s All About Confidence
The biggest show ring secret weapon? Confidence! Even if you have no clue what you’re doing, fake it ’till you make it. Stand tall, keep your head up, and tell the judges you deserve to win with your body language. Having a good presence in the ring gives your goats confidence as well.
This is the biggest concern for most people when they are considering getting into showing. The hard reality is, people show sick goats. Goats with respiratory infections like BRSV, mycoplasma, parasites and even CAE and CL may end up with the show ring with you, or housed next to your goats in pens. Disease, parasites, illness stress from showing can have a huge toll on your herd.
A lot of herds will take as many precautions as they can to guard against potential exposure to illness. Disposable tarps can be put down on the ground before bedding is laid down and goats are put in pens. Tarps can also be used between pens to keep goats from having direct contact with goats from other herds. Some show folks have their own portable pens they use for shows. Avoiding any direct contact with outside goats is also aimed for.
In the end, nothing is 100% effective, and knowing that you’ll have exposure to potential risks is important. Regular herd fecals and blood testing for major diseases is especially important if you have a show herd. Good immune systems support and reduced stress between shows can also go a long way in reducing your risks of show related illness.