Goat breeders trump county fair competition
Anything a cow can do, a goat can do better. Or so says Courtney Knisley, 9, of New London. Knisley and her family showed 17 of their furry four-legged friends during Friday's dairy goat judging at the Kandiyohi County Fair. Courtney's brother Av...
Anything a cow can do, a goat can do better. Or so says Courtney Knisley, 9, of New London. Knisley and her family showed 17 of their furry four-legged friends during Friday's dairy goat judging at the Kandiyohi County Fair. Courtney's brother Avery, 13, agreed. "You'd be surprised how much you can do with goat milk," he said.
Their mother Margaret said that beyond typical dairy-based products like cheese, yogurt and ice cream, goat milk is also hailed as a soothing ingredient in lotions and soaps.
Avery said he became "obsessed" with dairy goats three years ago when the family decided to try their hand at raising them for show.
"I just started doing all this research and read every book I could get my hands on," he said. "I could name every breed of dairy goat right now and tell you pretty much everything about each kind, if you wanted me to!"
His studies paid off Friday when the family's 1-year-old Toggenburg "Jenna" was named the 2008 Top Dairy Goat at the Kandiyohi County Fair in Willmar.
According to the American Dairy Goat Association's website, "At first glance, a dairy goat show looks like a beauty pageant for goats. In reality, the purpose of a show is to select animals that come closest to the ideal of sound, productive type."
The quality of a good dairy goat is judged on four areas -- general appearance, mammary system, dairy character and body capacity.
But according to Margaret, the overall physical health of the goat is as important for making milk as it is for winning ribbons.
"A fat goat doesn't make for a good producer," she said. "Because they're putting all their energy into their bodies rather than their milk."
On average, a dairy goat will produce approximately three quarts of milk a day. Each breed produces a bit more or less milk than the others, Saanens creating the most by far.
"They are sort of the Holsteins of goats, if you will," Margaret said.
Once they reach their first birthday, dairy goats usually have their first litter and then begin undergoing twice daily milkings. They generally have one pregnancy a year to rest and rejuvenate their mammary systems.
The Knisleys use milking machines twice a day to get the good stuff from their goats, and although each quart can bring in about $8 wholesale, they've so far chosen to simply keep the kids fed with it - the cloven kids, that is.
"It's just a hobby for us," 11-year-old Brandon said.
Courtney said her favorite part of showing their animals at the Fair is milking them, "because everyone likes to watch you do it, and the goats like it because it feels good."
Although you're not terribly likely to find a tub of goat-milk Rocky Road in the freezers at Cashwise anytime soon, Brandon said that ice cream made from goat milk is preferable. "It has a much sweeter taste and it's just delicious!"
As for the goats' quality of life on the Knisley farm, "they're pretty spoiled," Margaret said.
And they make better barnyard companions than do cows. "Goats have very distinct personalities," she said. "All you have to do is look in their face and you can see there's something there."
As the 2008 Kandi Fair comes to a close today, the Knisleys are encouraging anyone interested in meeting Jenna to stop by the barn for an opportunity to say "haaaay" to a truly grand goat.