Kids get kick out of goat competition
Walter Pritchett, 10, of Puslinch gives a hug to one of the goats his family showed at the Norfolk County Fair on Thursday. JACOB ROBINSON/Simcoe Reformer
Don't let the name fool you, the Norfolk County Fair and Horse Show has plenty of animals on display throughout the week.
On Wednesday it was cattle being judged while Thursday morning saw horses in the spotlight. In the afternoon the goats had everyone's attention at the fairground's 'cattle ring'.
The event was a special one for the Pritchett family of Puslinch. Having acquired a handful of boer goats in the springtime, this was their first official competition. The boer breed was developed in South Africa in the early 1900s for its meat production, but it also produces milk as well.
The Pritchett family moved to Ontario from Newfoundland and hadn't been involved with 4-H long enough to join and show through a local club, so they went another route.
“(The kids) really wanted to show,” said Janet Pritchett, mother of the children who were presenting the goats. “We looked around and people said the Norfolk Fair was amazing.”
“The kids are excited,” she added. “They're a little bit nervous – and it's a little bit stressful but everyone here seems to be nice. Sometimes you go somewhere and people are kind of mean, but the competitors are just like 'good luck, way to go' which is great, especially having the kids here, it's not having a negative impact on them.”
Boer goats are scored on a plethora of criteria, the amount of meat on the body is the most significant.
“They're going to be looking at the meat on them, not the fat,” said Pritchett.
“(Also) how they're growing for their age, their teeth, their eyes, how healthy they are.”
In the days and weeks leading up to a show, owners must ensure a goat's hooves are as clean as possible. Should one develop a disease they'll begin limping which leads to inactivity and an increased risk of putting on more fat than meat, Pritchett said.
“So (the judges are) going to be looking at their rumps and the major cuts - they want to see a straight back and a nice, long neck,” she explained. “They like nice long ears, I'm not sure why I still haven't figured that out.”
As the competition approaches, the goats are washed head to toe while some even get sandpaper applied to their horns for a smoother finish.
A couple of the Pritchett goats are already showing signs of a winter coat and while some breeders would opt for a trim that wasn't an option for the family.
“We have a shelter for them so we can't clip them because they'll freeze,” Pritchett said.
“Most people would just clip them because it's probably not going to show so great, but we're not going to because we're not going to risk their health in the long term.”
Ten-year-old Walter Pritchett said owning the animals has been like having dogs around – they lounge around the family's property and often follow them on hikes from pen to pen without guidance.
The youngsters aren't shy about showing their affection for the animals and that fondness goes both ways.
Said Walter, “The one thing I think that's interesting is they're friendly.”