Showing can be a really fun part of life with goats, and there are so many advantages, too! We get to meet and exchange ideas with other breeders. We get to see goats and compare. We get to draw attention to our goats and perhaps create a list of buyers who want our bloodlines. Shows can be a place to meet up and deliver to a new owner the goats they have bought. Showing can be a family activity and create connections with other families. For us Kinder breeders, showing is extra important because it helps to publicize a breed that many people haven’t yet seen.
With so many pluses it’s easy to see why showing is a good idea, but it’s also important to consider how to keep your herd free from the main diseases that goats can contract. Experienced breeders have developed a range of strategies to minimize the risk of bringing home a disease from a show.
1. Ask several questions of the show’s organizers before you decide to show at a particular show.
- Will there be a vet onsite who walks around and inspects the barn?
- Are goats required to have a health certificate or be inspected before entering the barn?
- Will the organizers turn away goats that appear to be ill?
2. If you are happy with the answers you get, and you are ready to sign on, ask for two more stalls than the number you need for your animals. The strategy is to have buffer stalls between your goats and the next farm’s goats. The two buffer stalls can be super helpful — use one of them for tack and one of them for feed. Having these buffer stalls will prevent your goats touching noses with goats in the next stall and hopefully prevent sneeze or cough blown pathogens from landing in your goat stalls. You can also bring small tarps to clip between pens to keep the goats in the next stall from sneezing on your feed or tack. Hay feeders can be attached to the back wall of each pen so that the goats tend to congregate away from fairgoers who may be strolling down the row of pens, patting goats in each pen. (You want to avoid as much as possibly the chance that someone will pat a sick goat and then pat your goats, exposing your group to illness.)
3. Once you arrive at the fair and before unloading your goats, walk through the barn looking for open sores, crusty eyes, bad coughs, emaciated goats, and diarrhea. Look also at barn cleanliness. If you see anything that creates concern, be prepared and willing to turn around and go home. Have a plan A and a plan B in place so that you’ve got an alternative in mind if you decide it’s best to not unload your goats for the show after all.
4. Before you unload your goats and take them to their pens, liberally spray the pens with a disinfectant that will kill paratuberculosis organisms that cause Johne’s Disease. Apply deep bedding, get your pens ready, and only then unload your goats.
5. If you want to minimize the chance of your goats picking up something while they are in the show ring, wipe their feet off before putting them back into their pen. Check your own boots for fecal matter as well and wash them before stepping back into your pens.
6. Now that you are settled in, you can enjoy the show. Show those goats! Meet people! Learn new skills! Get incredibly useful evaluations that you can use to improve your herd!
7. When the show is over and you bring your goats home, watch for sickness and then test a month later for CAE, CL, and Johne’s Disease. (This is easy. Just schedule your annual testing for a month or so after the show you are attending.) Some folks will quarantine show goats upon their return, but that measure may not be practical for many farms.
Though these steps may seem like a bit of fuss, by following them we can enjoy the show, network and learn, give our Kinders the recognition they deserve, and simultaneously drastically minimize the likelihood that we will bring something home from the show other than those prize ribbons, great memories, and new, fun face-to-face connections. On with the show!
By Kathrin Bateman