Goats Take Center Stage at Washington County Ag Ed Center

8/27/2011 5:05 AM
By Shannon Sollinger, Virginia Correspondent

BOONSBORO, Md. — It was the day of the goat Aug. 21 at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center in Boonsboro.
More accurately, it was the weekend of the pygmy goat, as the Keystone Pygmy Goat Club put on three shows over Saturday and Sunday, and sandwiched its annual membership meeting and election of officers between shows one and two on Saturday.
Pygmy goats were first imported to the United States in 1959 from their native Cameroon area of West Africa. They can be milked, or slaughtered for meat — one exhibitor said it would take an awful lot of feed to make that worthwhile — but have found their niche in the U.S. as pets and for showing.
They were originally used for research — smaller and friendlier than the more common dairy goat for researchers to work with — and for petting zoos, said Maggie Leman, a pygmy goat enthusiast for the last 21 years.
In those pre-goat days, Leman recalled, she and her husband were “looking for something to do.” He remembered raising an orphaned fawn when he was a youngster. But that’s illegal, she pointed out, so the closest thing was a goat. And she remembered seeing the pygmies at a petting zoo.
So today, Maggidan’s Minis, near Durham, N.C., is home to anywhere from 60 to 100 pygmy goats, more in the summer before the year’s crop of kids has grown up and moved on to new homes. Goats are herd animals, Leman noted, so a new goat fancier must buy two of them. Like their larger cousins, the pygmy goats are very good at clearing brush and vines, even if they can’t reach quite as high.
Leman wore two hats at the Sunday show, judged by Denise Fraser of San Diego. The Keystone Pygmy Goat Club elected her president the day before, and she took occasional leave from supervising the three shows to exhibit her own animals.
Maximum allowable height of a buck, under the National Pygmy Goat Association breed standard, is 23 5/8 inches at the withers. The does top out at 22 3/8 inches.
Lynda Gredin, of Royersford, Pa., the vice president of both the Keystone club and the national association, and currently a Region 5 director with the national, got started 23 years ago when her husband objected to having dogs in the family. They bought a brother and sister pygmy goat —unregistered, not dehorned — from a breeder in the neighborhood.
The busiest exhibitor of the day was Sarah Read, in for the show from her Washington, Pa., home, and also a Region 5 director of the national association When the doe classes took to the ring, Read won first in the 3- to 6-month class, first in the 12- to 18-month class, first in the 18- to 24-month class, and first in the 2-year-old class.
Her 2-year old winner, Old Orchard Wish, went on to senior champion doe and grand champion doe of the show.
Read’s son, Lucas, handled Old Orchard Blue Orchid, the junior champion doe, for reserve grand champion, but the reserve award went to second place in the 2-year-old class, Lynda and Bill Gredin’s C&C Kid’s Scarlet.
Read’s mother, Marcia Read, got her first pygmy goat in 1974. Sarah has followed as a breeder, exhibitor, judge and currently Region 5 director. Her children, Bree, Lucas and Emma, are the third generation of the family to be active in the sport. The Old Orchard entries at Boonsboro were all remarkably similar — fairly petite, all a silver agouti coat.
“”I really want to be very consistent in what I produce,” Read said. “I have a very particular idea of what I want my herd to represent and look like.”
Read said she wants her goats to be built correctly, “but I want my does to be pretty and feminine, and I want my bucks to have a lot of presence and style. That’s what I try to home in on in my breeding.”
She and her mother insist that bigger and stouter is not better, that it detracts from the goats’ longevity and productivity.
Judge Denise Fraser pointed to her champion’s “balance and symmetry,” and to her reserve senior champion doe, another Read entry from Old Orchard, for her “tremendous femininity.”
Her triumph soured quickly when a count and recount revealed that 18 does had been exhibited, two under the required number to record the victory. No points would be forthcoming for Old Orchard Wish.
Kim Shunney, of Hedgesville, W.Va., had the champion wether — altered male — earlier in the show with her Hope Hill Farm Momma’s Boy.
“He’s a silver wether, and close to gold, then platinum,” Shunney said.
Junior champion buck went to teenager Kelly Mayfield of Monroeville, N.J., and her Breckenridge, a little less than a year old. Kelly has been showing pygmy goats for two years, and also works with paint horses and does some dressage.
Breckenridge “is starting to muscle out,” she said. “He was a little sunken in earlier. He’s starting to look very masculine.”
Shunney came back strong in the buck classes and took grand champion buck with her homebred Hope Hill Farm Christmas Star (“my first grand champion under my own herd name”), who got to the championship ring with a win in the 12- to 18-month class.
“He tracks very well,” Shunney said. “His back foot falls right where the front one was. He’s got a lot of width in his chest and abundant hair growth.”
The young buck has not yet been bred, Shunney said. She will correct that soon.
Fraser said his “development for his age and his overall muscling” made him the winner in a tight decision. Reserve champion went to Read’s Old Orchard Roadie, second in the 12- to 18-month class. Fraser noted her reserve’s “excellence in head carriage and good angulation.”

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