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Goat projects remain popular at the Rock County 4-H Fair

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ANN MARIE AMES
July 30, 2010
— Responsibility. Opportunity. Production agriculture.

Yawn.


What kid is thinking about responsibility during fair week?


That’s what you get for asking a UW Extension livestock agent about why goat projects are a popular choice at the Rock County 4-H Fair.


What Randy Thompson meant was that because of their small stature, dairy goats are both an easy-to-handle 4-H project and a food-producing animal.


First-year 4-H’er Paige Lippert had a shorter answer.


“They’re friendly!” Lippert chirped Thursday afternoon as she waited for instructions before heading into the show ring.


A nearby goat proved her point by reaching his head over a gate and nibbling on a Gazette reporter’s pen.


Fellow Bradford 4-H’er Sadie Stueck didn’t have an immediate answer when asked why goats are good fair projects. She was too busy taking the opportunity to be responsible.


Stueck, 14, was spritzing and brushing two wiggling goats—including one held by Lippert—to get them ready for the show ring. She held onto a third goat by the neck between her bent knees.


With one ear, she listened to announcements on the PA. With the other, she fielded questions from Lippert and the Gazette.


Stueck will be a freshman at Clinton High School in the fall. Like most of the 4-H’ers who show goats, she doesn’t live on a commercial goat farm.


Fewer than 10 such farms exist in the county, although 84 kids signed up to show 240 goats at this year’s fair.


No matter what the species, more and more 4-H’ers don’t actually live on farms with their animals, Thompson said.


As the total number of farms dwindles in the county, however, the number of commercial goat farms is increasing, said Dixie Johnson, who raises goats and makes and sells goat milk soap.


It’s a slow increase—two farm families on Thursday morning said they’ve made the leap in the last year from a hobby farm to a commercial goat dairy. Both families milk more than 100 goats, they said.


But, again, fewer than 10 such farms exist.


Whether the goats come from a hobby farm or a commercial farm, the result is the same for the 4-H’ers, Thompson said.


“It’s still giving them an opportunity to work with dairy and livestock and, in this case, to learn how milk is produced,” Thompson said.


Goats are a family-friendly project because they’re less expensive to feed than larger animals and safe even for small children, Johnson said.


Again, Lippert had the short version.


Anyone could learn how to show a goat, she said.


“It’s easy!”



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