In order for your goat to behave in the show ring, you must start training it before hand. The more time you spend working with your goat, the better it will behave while you are showing. Most goats naturally dislike being led and will fight you at first, but eventually they will become more used to it. During a show, you should use a show chain, so it helps to practice with one too. It should be positioned high on the goat’s neck.
Keep enough pressure on the chain so that your goat keeps its head up at all times and walks along beside you, but avoid pulling too hard or your goat will not be able to breathe well. You can use treats to encourage your goat to walk next to you. Practice walking them in a variety of areas and if you have goats that don’t like to be separated, get them used to walking separated.
Bathe your dairy goat before you clip them, and again before the show. You can used shampoo and rub it all over their body before rinsing it off. Most goats can’t stand being bathed and will kick and yell. Make sure to clean in their ears and under their tail.
Dairy goats must be clipped before a show. Clipping is judged as part of showmanship, and if even you are not doing showmanship, it is important because it lets the judge clearly see the goat’s structure and conformation. In general, judges like to see fur clipped very short. However, some goats can get cold or sunburned when clipped extremely short. In general, you can use a 10 blade on the body, but if you want slightly longer fur, use a guard on the blade. The udder should be done with a surgical clip, which means a 30 or 50 blade. (This also keeps hair from falling into the milk.) If you do not have clippers that cut short enough, you can use shaving cream and a razor on the udder, but be very careful because it sensitive and can be cut easily. Some people clip their goats a week or two before the show so that if you make a mistake or you can see clipper marks, there is some time for the hair to grow in.
Clip the whiskers, eyebrows and inside the ears. Clip the tail as shown in the picture. Use scissors to trim the hair around the hooves. Make sure to clip the entire goat, even all the parts that are difficult to clip, because sometimes judges will check to see how thorough you were. Lift the goat’s legs and pull them out to get underneath the legs. In general, do not clip below the knee, but if your goat still has a furry winter coat, sometimes it is necessary to trim the backs of the hocks.
Goats should have some form of grooming periodically, not just before a show. This is healthier for them, and makes them easier to groom when you are getting them ready for a show. Goats love to be brushed, which keeps their fur healthy and shiny and helps them shed their winter under coat, which gets in the way when you are bathing and clipping. You also need to clip their hooves. When clipping a goats hooves you can use oat hoof trimmers or rose bush pruners. Depending on how long it has been since the goat had its hooves done, the hoof wall may have curved under the hoof. Trim all this part off, and trim the heel too. Trim the front of the hoof but make sure it still comes to a point at the end. You want the bottom of the hoof to be a flat and level as possible, but if you cut too far down you can cause the hoof to bleed. Blood stop powder can be used to stop bleeding.
Right before you go into the show ring, you can use a wet cloth to wipe your goat’s hooves, ears, nose and under its tail.
In the show ring
When showing a dairy goat, walk holding the chain in one hand and leading the goat beside you. Always make sure the goat is between you and the judge. If the judge walks around to the opposite side, stop and walk around the front of your goat and switch the chain to the other hand. Face your goat while you are doing this, do not cross to the other side while switching hands behind your back. Do not go behind your goat or step over your goat. This is very important to do correctly. If the judge asks you to step out of line and change to a different position in the line, lead your goat out of line on the side nearest to the judge so that from the judge’s point of view you are in front of the other goats. Switch sides on your goat as necessary.
The judge will usually have you walk your goats in a circle. If the judge is inside the circle, simply walk your goat around with your goat on the inside of the circle, and do not crowd the other exhibitors. If the judge is on the outside of the circle, you will need to switch sides before and after you pass the judge.
At some point, the judge will ask everyone to line up, either head-to-tail or side-by-side. During line up, do not crowd the other exhibitors. As soon as you have reached the designated line up place, stop your goat. When you stop, switch the chain into the other hand and stand with your goat between you and the judge, facing your goat’s side with one hand near the goat’s head and the other near its tail. Next, you “set them up”, also known as “stacking”. Your main goal in setting up your dairy goat is to show off your goat as well as you can and make them look their best.
To set up a goat, use your hands to place their front legs squarely, straight down from the shoulders. There are many helpful tricks to setting up a goat; however, not all judges like to see you use them. One is that if you hold the goat’s head and quickly lift their front off the ground, bouncing them, their front legs often fall straight into place when you set them down again. Never hold the goat in the air like this for longer than a second, this is cruel and if a judge catches you, you will usually be disqualified. The back legs should be positioned slightly more apart, to show off the udder, and slightly back at an angle. Another trick is to have your goat take a step back before you set them up, which causes their back legs to often fall into place. When you are done setting up your goat, stand up and let the judge see. Keep pressure on the chain to keep your goat’s head up. At this point, the judge may walk around and between the goats. Make sure to watch the judge and switch sides when necessary. If the judge walks over to your goat and touches it, reposition your goat and smooth down its fur when the judge steps back.
The judge may have you walk in different patterns, walk someone else’s goat, etc. One common pattern is for two exhibitors to walk their goats side by side towards the judge and back. Walk at the same pace as the other exhibitor. When it is time to turn around, stop and turn your goat into you. As you do this, pivot and switch the chain to the other hand.
While showing, try to keep eye contact on the judge, but act natural. Walk slowly, do not rush. If your goat misbehaves, remain calm and do your best to keep them under control. If this is your first time showing or your goat is young, it is normal for them to misbehave a little during a show, and if you handle it well you will not be marked down.
During a showmanship class, the judge will ask you questions to test your knowledge about dairy goats. Important things to know are the body parts, breeds, feed, diseases, and breed disqualifications and conformation.
There are eight breeds of dairy goats recognized by the ADGA (American Dairy Goat Association).
- Nigerian Dwarf
- La Mancha
You should research the breed you are showing so you know the breed history, breed standard, etc. If you are showing a doe in milk, you should know her age, her freshening date, and about the breeding and kidding process.
After the show, always remember to thank the judge. Remember that every judge has their own preference on conformation and showmanship techniques. Just try your best and have fun showing!