Getting their goats
By KAREN SCHWALLER
SPENCER – 4-H members from Clay, Emmet and Dickinson counties received hands-on experience on April 5 at showing, fitting and grooming meat goats, as well as learning about goats in general at a workshop called, “Get Your Goat On!” at the Clay County Fairgrounds.
Kate Rinehart, of Everly, a member of Clay County Fair’s meat goat committee, said this is the fourth year the workshop has offered 4-H’ers deeper understanding of their goat projects.
“When we started,” Rinehart said, “this was such a new project area.
“The kids were all younger members and nobody had a lot of information about their goats. They really needed more information to help raise and show them.”
Ray and Linda Foerster, of Ruthven, stepped in to teach 4-H’ers about goats, and started by going from farm to farm to do it.
As the goat project numbers grew, it was more difficult to get to all the farms, so having it at the fairgrounds and inviting members from area counties was the answer.
There have been 4-H’ers from as many as four and five counties attending at a time.
The Foersters, a 4-H family that moved from Pennsylvania to Iowa in 2003, saw a need for educating 4-H members when they moved here in 2003.
They have 25 female goats and use to expand 4-H’ers’ skills in showing the animals.
“We try to teach them the right things to do,” said Ray Foerster, “so they can have a little fun and not get frustrated with their meat goat projects.”
Rinehart said the workshop gives 4-H’ers a hands-on experience before they get their goats home.
“They will know how to handle it once the goat gets to their farm,” Linda Foerster said, “and when they are in the show ring, they’ll know what to do.”
Haley Schwenneker, 13, of Spencer, is a member of the Meadow Busy Bees 4-H Club, said she attended to be more informed.
“I had a goat last year and it was fun,” she said. “Last year, I learned that goats are a lot like cows, but easier to manage.
“You do a lot of the same things to care for a goat as you do for a cow.”
This year Schwenneker said she wanted to learn how to be a better showman and be more involved in the care of her goat.
She said she will have two or three goats at the fair this year.
Emma Schwarck, 14, of Spencer, attended, she said, to help teach younger members about showing.
She said in her four years of raising 4-H goat projects, she learned mostly about the responsibilities of having a livestock project.
She earned reserved junior goat showmanship honors last year and said she earned mostly blue and purple ribbons at the Clay County Fair, and blue ribbons at the Iowa State Fair.
“I like to see their personalities,” Schwarck said. “They’re really more like a young pet than a livestock project. That’s what I like the best.”
Schwarck said goat projects are easier for younger 4-H members to manage and is a great starter project for 4-H’ers who want to get some experience in the show ring.
She also learned something else.
“If you purchase a goat,” Schwarck said, “you don’t make out as well at the sale.”
It’s better to bring a goat that was bred and born on one’s farm, she said.
Ray Foerster said there are two things 4-H’ers must remember about their meat goat projects.
“They should tend to their animals twice a day,” he said. “They should pay attention to their goats and get as much exposure to them as they can so they can observe them and see what’s normal and what’s not normal.”
The other part is practicing with the animals for the show ring.
“It’s like anything else,” he said. “If you do it a lot, the animal will know what to expect, and you’ll know what to expect from your animal, and everyone will have a better time.
“If you don’t practice, it’s easy to get frustrated, and it’s not fun anymore.”
Rinehart said the goat project area has “exploded,” with just under 100 goats entered in the Clay County Fair 4-H show, and around 140 goats entered in the district fair.
“I am impressed,” Rinehart said. “Goats are one of the largest 4-H projects happening in the animal arena right now.”
She attributed that to their small size, affordability and ease of manageability, which is good for younger 4-H members.
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