Somebody was crying “Ma! Ma! Maaaaa!” repeatedly at the top of her lungs.
Occasionally, the noise would stop. In its place, a long nose followed by large eyes with vertical pupils, would silently appear at the slats of the livestock trailer. The look conveyed a series of unspoken questions: What is going on outside? Why couldn’t somebody let me out? Finally, and perhaps most important, is that notebook edible?
The event was the Badger Stateline Classic, a goat show sponsored by the Wisconsin Dairy Goat Association. Held on the Walworth County Fairgrounds, the show featured dairy goats and a handful of bucks (boy goats). The event, which continues Sunday, features animal judging, showmanship contests and the opportunity to meet the universe’s most curious animals.
Here’s a few things we learned:
- Dairy goat judging is similar to dairy cow judging.
“We’re looking for four things,” judge Joe Pilotte said. “General appearance—that’s feet and legs, top line—dairy strength, body capacity and mammary system.”
Translation: A sturdy but elegant-looking animal with a body shape that indicates health and longevity and a nice set of udders. Some breeds of goats also have breed characteristics such as a Roman nose, an all-white coat or no ears.
On Saturday, a Nubian named Lollipop won first in her class. It was her first big win, but she didn’t let it go to her head, said Lauren Schifski, Lollipop’s owner. At press time, Lollipop was chewing her cud and could not comment.
- Dairy goats come in nine breeds, and each breed has its own personality.
Melissa O’Rourke and Joe Skoda run Dry Creek Acres Toggenburgs in Decorah, Iowa.
“The Toggenburgs are the businesswomen of the barn,” O’Rourke said. “When they come into the milking parlor, they go right to their spot to get milked and to have something to eat.”
The Nubians, on the other hand, come into the milking parlor and wander around as though the whole experience is new to them. Yes, their udders are full, but this doesn’t appear to register. Not that they are dumb. No goats are dumb, that’s generally agreed upon by all dairy goat owners.
Oberhaslis, another Swiss breed, are the “sweetest ever,” according to at least two owners. One of these owners accused the Toggenburgs of being “jumpers,” but she wasn’t saying it to be mean.
Randy Adamson, the Milton farmer who is president of the Wisconsin Dairy Goat Association, has a commercial milking operation made up mostly of Alpines.
“They’re curious and smart,” Adamson said. “If they figure out how to unlatch a gate, you better add another chain.”
Owners of dairy goats, no matter the breed, are friendly and willing to talk about their animals.
- Bucks are handsome.
The buck, as we’ve noted, is a male goat. Owners leave the hair grow on bucks’ chins and in the area humans would call sideburns. As a result, some bucks look like distinguished 19th-century authors—think Herman Melville, Charles Dickens or Walt Whitman. Other bucks just sport goatees, which makes them look like hipsters from Brookyn, New York. We’re not going to touch “goatees.”
Alas, bucks do have their draw backs. During mating season, the bucks urinate on themselves to make themselves more attractive to females. In order to keep bucks contained during their, um, special time, a fence is required that is “horse high, pig tight and bull strong,” according to one farmer.