Cashmere goats are becoming a favorite subject for 4-H and FFA participants because they are small, easy to handle and easy to manage. Children as young as six have successfully shown goats at the National Western Stock Show, right alongside the adults. Showmanship skills are very similar between breeds. It will be the well handled and shown animal that will take the ribbon, all other things being equal. Sometimes, an extremely well handled goat will take a ribbon over a better goat that is poorly handled.
Preparation for the show begins at least two months before the date. Animals selected should be medium to large for their age, in good condition, and anatomically complete, with the exception of the wether classes. Animals lacking a horn or ear tips, or having an injury that prevents them from appearing normal in every way should not be selected. Trim the feet on selection day to avoid bloody footprints and limping goats on show day. Correct foot conformation is essential for sound movement and stance.
Most cashmere goat shows split the available points evenly between conformation and fiber characteristics, so it is important to select the goat that best represents both of these important selection criteria. The genetics of the goat dictate that smaller, thinner animals will have finer fiber, but these are not necessarily the best candidates. Many top breeders, when selecting show goats, will sort out the largest, best looking, square, free moving animals and then continue the selection process based on fiber. In reality, good conformation is the first selection criteria. Any goat with obvious flaws such as cow hocks, short cannon bones, poor neck/shoulder attachment, bad feet, steep rumps, thin heart girths, broken pasterns or crooked backs and/or legs should never be selected no matter how fine and crimpy their fiber. Well conformed goats are the best breeders and the future of the breed is contingent upon retaining these characteristics along with fiber characteristics.
The second selection criteria is condition. Only select goats that are in "show condition". Fiber characteristics are closely linked with nutrition so a judge will have no way of knowing if the fine and crimpy fiber on the goat is due to genetics or to environment. A weak, thin goat will not show well and will be excused by most judges. Besides, the stress of transport and unfamiliar goats and places may well trigger an instantaneous outbreak of rhinotracheitis (the sniffles), sore mouth or even CLA.
Fiber characteristics important in the show ring include production diameter, cover, and crimp, not necessarily in that order. Many judges stress production as the most important while others select solely on fiber crimp. Production is most commonly assessed as a function of fiber length. Production can be low if a goat has extremely long guard hair and still have long cashmere fiber length. A minimum length of 1.5 inches is required to shear the goat and most judges will excuse a goat with short, low yielding fleece. Fiber diameter must be less than 19u as an average over the whole fleece. Typically, the neck and shoulder will be coarser than the midside. The britch, or back leg, is normally the finest fiber, although individual goats may vary. A fleece characteristic that is related to production is cover. While cover is not easily established in a fleece competition, it is very evident in a goat show. goat should grow fiber on every inch of its body, even in places that are not normally shorn. Judges can assess cover by checking the throat area and the belly for fiber production. The greater the cover, the better the goat. Angora goats produce 30 percent of their fiber on the neck alone, so a good coverage through the neck is essential for a high paying fleece. Goats with slick necks should not be selected for show. Lack of fiber on the belly is acceptable, although a goat with good belly coverage will be placed above another with none, all other things being equal. Ideally, the crimp in each fiber should be consistent from neck to britch. In reality, the neck and shoulder tend to "runout", or be straighter than the midside and britch. The coarsest fibers can be easily isolated by pulling a lock from the neck or shoulder area and then pulling just the tip of the lock out for examination. These will be the longest, coarsest and straightest fibers on the entire goat. If these fibers are straight, do not select the goat to show as this is a very undesirable characteristic in a fleece. It is also very easy for the judge to do the same sampling process and excuse the goat without ever looking at the rest of the fiber. Most shows require preregistration and class placement is determined by the number of teeth a goat has on the day the registration form is filled out. Normally, milk tooth kids show together, can only weaken the goat further, predisposing, it to followed by a combined two and four-tooth classes, a variety of health problems. and a combined six and eight tooth classes. Milk teeth are those that the goat is born with and retains until it is 12 to 18 months old. Kids born in December or January will have an advantage over those born in May or June as they will have up to six months more growth and still have baby teeth. Most judges will ask the birthdate of a small goat, horn size being the tip off for a younger goat, and will judge the class accordingly. Some regional organizations split the kid classes into under 50 pounds and over to sift out the younger animals, although this is not foolproof. If the got breaks over, grows an extra tooth before show time, it will be placed in the appropriate class at the time of the show with no penalty. However, the converse is not true. Be sure to tooth the goats. Don't go by birthdate! Some animals lose their teeth either very late or very early. Class placing is invariably clone by the number of teeth on the day of the show. Even an 18 month old goat, entered properly in the two-tooth class will be disqualified when presented at the gate if it has its baby teeth, even though it is as old as the rest of the two-tooth class. Since the milk tooth class has already taken place, normally, that goat will not be shown that day.
The reason for combining two and four tooth classes is that the second set of incisors come in at about 18 months of age although this dare is variable. It is quite possible to have twins exhibiting two and four teeth respectively, especially in the winter when most goat shows take place. The reasoning for combining the six and eight tooth classes is similar, although some organizations prefer to segregate the eight tooth, or aged, animals. The reasoning behind this is that older animals that retain their cashmere characteristics are the more valuable breeding animals. Great changes can still occur between the six and eight tooth stages.
So once the goat is selected and the registration form sent in, the real work begins; teaching the goat to lead. All shows require halter broke animals to make a better show for the audience and to safeguard the safety of the goats and handlers. If the goat has never been handled, start slowly. Halter the goat using a lead that will not tighten as pressure is applied. Tie the goat short and low to an immovable object and withdraw a good distance. The goat will struggle mightily and you must be sure that it does not endanger itself. Usually, it will accept its fate and settle down within an hour. Feed a handful of grain and call it quits for that day. The next day, repeat the process and offer the grain as soon as the animal settles down. Untie the rope and entice the goat to follow by offering more grain. If the goat throws a tantrum, go back to step one. Reward each series of forward steps with a little grain and try to minimize tugging on the lead rope.
After several days, the goat should lead without the grain at every step. In fact, withholding grain for each successful pass will encourage the goat to walk willingly in the hopes that this time, the reward will be forthcoming. The goat should follow wherever the handler takes it, no matter what the distraction or circumstance and only patience and repetition for at least two weeks will accomplish this task.
For particularly intractable goats that do not respond to grain, stronger measures are required. Either a stout handler or a small vehicle such as an ATV can be used to force the goat to walk on a lead. Sometimes the goat will lay down in protest. Usually, gentle cajoling will not produce results while dragging the goat for a short distance will. Be sure to do this on soft ground or a significant portion of the cashmere cover may be worn away. Intractable goats require that much more patience and perseverance. Remember to end each training session on a positive note, no matter how small. Goats are highly intelligent animals that will remember from one day to the next, much like horses. Firm voices, strong hands and well timed rewards are the keys to success.
Several days before show day, bring the show string in and groom them. Never, never wash a goat. Washing tends to straighten the fiber and there is nothing more miserable than goat that is wet to the skin. White goats present a problem in that the urine stain is very obvious.They may not smell any better than a black goat, but they look terrible. Using a high pressure power washer, wash only those stained areas. Then, using a high pressure blower or air compressor, blow out the rest of the fleece to remove excess vegetable matter and dust. A clean fleece is not normally a requirement for a goat show. Judges should not excuse an animal for some vegetable matter in the fleece, although a very dirty fleece, perhaps with numerous burrs entangled might be excused. All burrs should be pulled, and not cut out, even if it means sacrificing some fiber in the process. The point is to present an attractive spectacle to the audience. The judge may be able to see bits of alfalfa deep in the fleece, but the audience must see only clean and well-groomed animals.
On show day, bed your animals deeply in straw, not shavings. Goats will inevitably lie down and shavings are very hard to remove from high yielding fleeces. Shows normally issue individual numbers for each goat in each class. Sequence these numbers in the order in which they will show and pin the entire pile to your back. Some exhibitors have a strong clip that attaches to the belt instead of ruining your best shirt with safety pins. This way, as you pass into the ring for each consecutive class, all you need to do is remove the top number and you're ready to go. It is recommended that exhibitors dress neatly, again for the audience. Some organizations suggest wearing black trousers and white shirts. This makes for a very pleasing lineup in the show ring, although it is difficult to keep clean during preparation. Protective aprons can help.
When entering the ring, the show steward may line up the exhibitors numerically, or they may enter randomly. In the staging area, the show steward or his representative will tooth each goat to be sure of class placement. Be sure to wait until the steward gives you the go ahead before entering the ring. Position yourself on the goat's left, with the halter lead in your right hand, coiling any slack in your left hand. The halter should be close fitting with the head strap passing between the horns and the ears. The lead rope should be on the left of the halter. As you walk, keep the lead short and the goat at arm length. Walk to the side, allowing the goat to walk in a normal and relaxed fashion. Normally, the judge will position him or herself at a vantage point to observe the gait of each animal as it enters. Be aware of the judge's position and why he/she is there. Present only square lack, front or side views of your goat to the judge, depending on what you perceive his/her intentions to be. Pay attention and reason out why the judge is where he/she is positioned. Present your goat in the best light and stance possible at all times
Follow the goat ahead of you at a respectful distance to allow the judge to clearly see your goat, however, if the person ahead of you is clearly deviating from the show steward's instructions, do not follow, but strike out on a course that follows instructions. Normally, the exhibitors will walk their goats out to a position in front of the judge and turning 90 degrees, lead the goat away from the judge down the ring to take a position in a line facing the audience, lining the goats up side by side. Leave at least four feet between you and your neighbor so the judge can get an unobstructed. view of your goat. The line should be even with exhibitors standing at the goats' heads. After the class is complete, the judge will survey the class front view and back view. Always keep your goat between you and the judge. Always watch the judge to see if he/she is looking at your goat. An additional set of eyes would be handy, but not practical, to watch not only the judge but also the goat and your neighbor's goats. f your goat acts up, don't panic. Take a short and firm hold of the lead, get all feet on the ground and relax. The goat will take your cue and relax also. Gradually set him in a show stance, all the while monitoring whether or not the judge is taking notice. With luck, he/she will not be.
Show stance is ideally a moderately stretched position with all four feet placed at the corners of an imaginary rectangle. The head should be held high and the tail arched gracefully over the back. The goat should be aware but relaxed, and so should the exhibitor.
After examining the line up from afar, the judge will then examine each individual. As the judge approaches, take firm hold of the horn and chin, bracing the head against your thigh. It is helpful to lift smaller goats' forefeet off the ground. The judge will check teeth not only for age but also for palate/tooth alignment. Help him/her out by rotating the head slightly. The judge will also check for testicles and teats. It is helpful if during the training process you have accustomed a buck to having his testicles squeezed. A buck unaccustomed to this procedure might take exception and run you across the ring.
The judge will then take fiber samples from two or more sites and examine them under the light. Sometimes the judge will make comments to you and these should be remembered. After all, it is the judge's opinion that you spent all that time and money to get. As the judge finishes his/her examination and steps back for a final look, release the goat as crouch down by the head, encouraging the animal to take up the show stance. This may not be possible, but this is the goal. This makes the goat appear larger to the judge and it gives him/her a positive last impression.
Wait patiently as the judge completes examining the class. Do not slouch or gossip with your neighbors. Remember that the audience is watching and they assume that you take this exercise seriously.
After examining the class, the judge may reexamine certain goats. Be aware of the judges' movements at all times and be ready to hold you goat if he/she returns to you. Normally, the judge will ask the top contenders to step forward and form a line in front of the original lineup. The order of this lineup is not necessarily the order of placing. At this time, the remainder of the class will be excused.
Now the judging starts over again. Some judges will ask that the lineup be paraded in a circle around the ring. Remember he/she is watching for gait and freedom of movement. Try to give the judge an unobstructed view of the full front, back or side of your goat. Avoid oblique angles as they may give the wrong impression to the Judge. Be aware of your position relative to other exhibitors at all times. Keep your distance and try to make the circle as large as possible. Circle back if necessary to maintain your distance and position. Watch the judge at all times and listen to the show steward's instructions.
Line up again and allow the judge to reexamine your goat. Listen and be aware. At this time, the judge will ask his first, second, etc. choices to step forward. Position the goats in the order in which they are indicated. Some judges rely upon an eye movement or a quick hand signal to indicate placement, so take notice, it is not over yet. Even after this placement, the judge can change his/her mind. Often, what you think is the top of the class is the bottom, so make no assumptions.
When the judge steps to the mike to defend his placement, relax and listen. This is the time to observe other goats and to appreciate the judge's opinions. Remember that a show is nothing more than one person's opinion on that particular day. Another judge a week later may see something entirely different. Remember also that different judges value different characteristics. Some may not value good body as much as fiber; some may value production over diameter; some may excuse spotted or multicolored goats. The most important thing to remember is that any one of the top six placings may be a valuable goat to someone in the audience, a potential buyer. As this industry progresses and becomes less dependent upon the opinions of a few ''revered experts'' and breeders begin to depend upon their own opinions, being cognizant of the breeding goals and needs of their own herds, it may not be the grand champion that is the highest selling lot at auction.
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