Allegany Fair Judge Searches for 'Ideal' Goat

7/26/2014 7:00 AM
By Rick Hemphill Maryland Correspondent

CUMBERLAND, Md. — “There is no ideal goat,” said Jeff Semler, Allegany County Fair judge. “We don’t eat goat chops or white meat or rib eye steaks like we do with other animals, and so with market goats it is not that easy.”

When it comes to judging, Semler said he looks for a goat with the most muscle volume, shape and design for retail meat.

Those characteristics were best represented in the grand champion market goat shown by Zach Flinn.

“I am so excited right now I can’t talk,” said Zach, 11, as he stood with his goat for the grand champion photo.

Goat shows are a recent addition to the Allegany County Fair, which wrapped up last weekend.

“Ten years ago, we didn’t have Boer or meat goats at the fair,” said William McKenzie, president of the agricultural portion of the fair. “That industry has grown up and hit us in the face. We have 30 or 40 goats in the show and we are really proud of that.”

The spectators were out early for the 9 a.m. judging on Thursday, July 17, and as the animals and their handlers paraded through the show, Semler reviewed the animals and put the handlers through their paces.

“I love working with kids regardless whether these kids ever become professional goat breeders,” Semler said. “The animals today are pretty good. The quality was from top to bottom and the young people did a great job of preparing them for me and I appreciate that. I enjoy giving them tips and pointers as they go through.

“Part of showmanship is knowing about your project, not just taking them out there so I ask them questions about their product,” he added. “I asked them if they knew what Boer meant and where it came from, and I asked them if they had ever eaten goat.”

Some of the 4-H and FFA exhibitors knew that Boer goats originally came from South Africa, but were surprised when Semler told them the word “Boer” meant farmer in the Afrikaaner language. However, eating goats is not on their menu, at least not yet, even for the overall grand champion showman, Danielle Flinn, and the reserve champion showman, Jessica Appel.

The first Allegany County Fair was in 1868 “and we have been on this ground since 1924,” McKenzie said. “We have seen changes in the style of animals. Twenty years ago, market hogs were 220 pounds and today they are 280 pounds, but we have leaned those hogs out and they are not as fat. Beef is still the same 1,200-1,300 pound steer, but lambs and sheep have less fat and more muscle. This is what the consumer wants. We also have market chickens representing a new aspect of the poultry industry and the other white meat, rabbits.”

Many changes have occurred at the fair including switching from craft exhibits to computers and photography.

“The kids are eager to come here, have fun and enjoy the fair as we adapt our entries to their needs so we stay on the cutting edge,” McKenzie said.

Changes in the types of awards given out have also occurred. Instead of plaques and trophies, the fair awards a folding chair embroidered with the exhibitor’s class and winning category.

“We started that six years ago,” McKenzie said. “We give them something they can use embroidered with their success rather than a trophy to hang on the wall.”

Several rows of chairs were awarded in the goat show. Reserve champion market goat went to Anderson Brody, while the grand champion dairy showman was Kelsey Price. Reserve dairy goat went showman went to Cassidy Stickel, who also took champion breeding dairy goat.

Later in the day, the costume parade provided a different look as Keith Fairgrieve and his goat, Luke, won the parade contest with his masquerade of the Lone Ranger and Silver over William O’Boyle and his chicken, Einstein; Charles O’Boyle as the chuck wagon cook; and Makayla Donahoe and Sarah Parker, whose goats were dressed for the Miss Allegany Farm Bureau Show.

“The costume animal parade gives contestants a chance to dress up their animals and write a story about them,” McKenzie said. “They are judged by their costume and the story that they wrote. It is just a fun time.”


Is the USDA doing enough to accommodate small-scale direct-marketers of meat?

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9/30/2014 | Last Updated: 8:45 PM