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Goats more popular among kids

By Staff | Jul 29, 2011

Sheep and goat shows are a growing interest among Iowa’s 4-Hers during summer fairs. Practicing setting up their lambs for last week’s sheep show during the Dickinson?County Fair are, from left, Andrew Carr, Aaron?Carr and Mat Carr, all members of the Superior Lakers 4-H?Club.

By KAREN SCHWALLER

Farm News staff writer

SPIRIT LAKE – Goats were up, and swine were down at the Dickinson County Fair.

There were so many entries in the goat class that the entire population of 60 goats had to be moved into a barn that, in previous years, housed the swine entries.

Swine entries at the July 24-28 fair were down by half compared to last year.

Melissa Brandt, left, of Lake Park, and Payton Ahrenstorff, of Lake Park, brush Brandt’s pigs at the Dickinson?County Fair in preparing for the swine show. Both are members of the Silver Lakers 4-H Club.

“We only had 11 swine exhibitors,” ISU Extension County Youth Coordinator Kasey Peters said. “I think this is a result of family farms disappearing. Kids who used to show pigs were those of parents who were also raising pigs, and there are less people raising pigs in our county.”

Melvin Wernimont, chairman of the sheep and goat committee for the fair, said goat numbers have increased quickly and steadily since the fair first began allowing kids to show goats four years ago.

Today, they are able to have various classes in the goat show, including breeding goats, meat goats and dairy goats – along with showmanship classes for juniors and seniors.

Wernimont pointed out some reasons for the increased interest in goats. “They’re a lower-cost project, and it takes up less space on farms and acreages,” he said. “Kids can manage it; it just takes a Port-A-Hut, some cattle guard and a post or two. With calves, it takes a lot more parent involvement just for safety issues.

“Goats adapt to kids very well they’re gentle and they love attention. It’s a good project for young kids.”

Michael Gonnerman, 5, pets a donkey named Mya, at the Dickinson?County Fair. Michael is the son of Todd and Kia Gonnerman, of Milford.

He said four young men brought the first four goats to the Dickinson County fair four years ago, not knowing much about showing them or clipping them. Since then, the goat numbers have rapidly grown, and “now it’s grown into its own fine, quality show.”

Wernimont said exhibitors showed four dairy goats and about a dozen breeding doeling goats, with the remainder being meat goats.

“I don’t think our number of goats will double next year, but I do think the numbers in that show will continue to grow,” he said, wondering if the committee will someday need to consider giving goats their own “day” at the fair.

“I’m happy to see that kids want to be involved in something else – a new project area like this. It’s a real good thing.”

Rian Byers, of Spirit Lake, took grand champion honors for meat goat and overall goat. Cody Wernimont, of Spirit Lake, earned reserve grand champion for meat goat and overall goat.

Josie Byers, of Spirit Lake, won the grand champion ribbon in the breeding goat class, with Amanda Bueltel coming in second with her female goat.

The fair also featured some standdby classics – including an incubator with hatching eggs, a kiddie pedal tractor pull, showmanship contests, a celebrity showmanship contest, a carnival put on by local 4-H clubs, the pie auction (a fundraiser for county 4-H clubs) and the fifth annual Farm Chore Olympics, in which teams of adults and kids of all ages gather to race against each other to complete a series of farm chores.

That event, which typically draws a large crowd, is sponsored by one of the county 4-H clubs – the Milford Pioneers.

A new event to the fair this year was the table setting contest, where participants brought in a table setting and acted as a host or hostess before someone who judged them on the setting and hosting skills. Peters said the setting could be done by a team or individual, and categories included casual and formal. Six youths competed in this new event – a pair of two-person teams and two individuals. Greta and Jack Goodlaxson, of the Spirit Lakers 4-H Club, won Best of Show with their “Beach Picnic” table setting.

Peters added there are areas of the fair that seem to be growing – including static (non-livestock) exhibits. 4-Hers brought in 36 percent more exhibits this year than last year.

Specific areas that Peters sees getting larger include photography, visual arts, and ag science and mechanics.

“We had camps in these three areas this past year, and I think that may have helped kids to be able to (feel confident) doing projects for them,” Peters said.

He said Dickinson County 4-Hers will have 38 static exhibits headed to the Iowa State Fair in August, along with 12 livestock exhibits.

Contact Karen Schwaller at kschwaller@evertek.net.

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