PENRYN, Pa. — When Emlyn and Julie Williams decided to finally tie the knot in May after 10 years, they couldn’t think of a better place to spend their long-deserved honeymoon than, where else, at a goat show.
It might seem strange to some that they passed up an opportunity to spend quality time somewhere else, but for these two, showing animals has become a passion.
The Williamses will be showing off their prized Boer goats at the upcoming Pennsylvania Farm Show.
Goats have become a sort of labor of love for Emlyn Williams, who didn’t grow up on a farm, but boarded horses when he was a kid.
The couple got into goats four years ago, after a cousin of Emlyn Willilams loaned him a goat to clean up a pasture.
Winter came and his cousin offered him a chance to purchase the goat, along with another one he had on the farm.
He bought the goats and slowly built a small herd for showing. But it was just two years ago that the couple made the decision to invest in good quality animals that would not only get them awards, but also enable them to build a reputation as good breeders.
“I’d rather become a breeder that, if someone wants good qual ity goats to show, I can come and I can offer them quality animals at a much better price,” he said.
The couple invested in goats from quality breeders in Texas, West Virginia and Ohio.
The 2012 Farm Show was a learning experience for Emlyn Williams. He didn’t know how to fit his goats for showing, but he got help from some of the other competitors.
The goats produced some good results, including a first place percentage Boer yearling in the 18- to 24-month category and the reserve champion percentage Boer yearling.
At the Empire State Boer Goat Show in May, an American Boer Goat Association-sanctioned show, his animals did even better. A 3-year-old doe, Sapphire, won overall grand champion in the fullblood division, while another doe, Peaches, won reserve yearling champion.
“The competition of the exhibitors at the ABGA show is pretty stiff. You don’t get people that just have any old goat,” he said. “It lets you know where you’re at and where you have to go.”
For Emlyn Williams, getting a good animal is all about finding a proven bunch and doing some good breeding. He’s planning on bringing eight of his goats to the Farm Show.
“You got to go out and find the best quality bunch and start breeding that animal,” he said. “I enjoy it. I think it’s fun.”
The couple have had animals on their small 15-acre farmette for about 10 years.
Julie Williams grew up on the farmette and remembers her grandparents raising steers, chickens and horses when she was a kid.
“My dad, as a child, showed cattle. I showed horses. I loved horses. But I never did the livestock,” she said.
It was only when her children, Heather and Kevin, now 24 and 23, became old enough to show animals that she got back into the show ring.
The children were diagnosed at a young age with Asperger’s syndrome, a disorder that delays the development of many basic skills, including the ability to socialize with others.
Julie Williams said she was encouraged to get animals as a way for her children to not only have a pet, but to also get a chance to socialize with others in a show-ring setting.
She first got them some pigs and then a Polypay lamb, which was donated to the family as a pet.
The children liked lambs, and the Williamses started breeding the original animals, growing the herd so the children could show future animals at shows.
“They really enjoyed it. They did like it and that was what mattered most,” she said. “It gave them a chance to socialize, just to be around people.”
Although the children did well with the lambs, Julie Williams said she wanted to take the herd to the next level in terms of color and wool quality.
In 2008, she purchased her first natural colored sheep, which were eventually bred to the Polypays.
After attending several Maryland Sheep and Wool Festivals, where she got tips on breeding for color and wool quality, she purchased other varieties of sheep, including a British Teeswater sheep.
“I was looking to have phenomenal fleeces,” she said.
And she thought breeding the Teeswater would “soften up” the fleece her lambs were already producing.
“I am a very, very competitive person, and I want to be the best that I can,” she said.
She bred the Teeswater to the natural colored and Polypays. In 2011, she bought a Cotswold ram, which she also used for breeding.
“I’m breeding for phenomenal fleece and color. That’s my goal and I want really nice confirmation,” she said.
“Their wool is just beautiful,” she said of the Teeswater crosses and Cotswold.
The sheep have been racking up awards at shows for the past several years. At the North Carolina State Fair in October, her animals won several awards, including champion ewe, champion fleece and supreme champion ram.
The 13 sheep at the farm consist of two rams, a Cotswold and Teeswater, a Wesleydale ewe, five natural-colored ewes and several crossbreeds.
Raising the animals is expensive. Julie Williams sells the fleece from her sheep for some income. But basically, the animals on the farm are kept for showing.
And while the couple have competed at many shows already, they’re still learning about what it takes to put a good animal in a show ring.
“I’d say the length that people will go to improve the quality of their animals is the biggest surprise for me,” Emlyn Williams said. “Just in terms of breeding and other things.”
“It’s a constant learning experience. You never see it all,” Julie Williams said.