Purchasing a Goat for 4-H
Choosing a Goat
Goats are a fun 4-H Project to take part in. Goats don’t require expensive housing or feed, so they are an achievable project even if you don’t have space to keep a cow or horse.
Choose the best goat you can afford, or if choosing from your own established herd, pick the best one possible. Don’t feel you have to spend tons of money though, even a goat that has less than perfect conformation can still do well in showmanship if you are willing to work at it.
A good goat is one that shows good character for her breed. As an example, this means a Nubian needs to have ears longer than her nose, and an Alpine must have erect ears.
She should also be well grown for her age and stand on good feet and legs. The dairy goat scorecard explains the traits you should be looking for when you pick your goat.
Learning About The Scorecard
If you are choosing a milking goat, the Mammary System is worth 35 points, as is the General Appearance. If you are choosing a doe kid, or dry doe, her General Appearance is most important, followed by Dairy Character.
Overall, a goat should have balance throughout. When she is viewed from the side, a milking doe will have a deep barrel, and a capacious udder. Her udder should be well ‘attached’, which means there should be a defined line between the two halves when she is viewed from behind. This line is called the Median Suspensory Ligament. The 35 point score for the Mammary System is further broken down into categories. The Median Suspensory is weighted to 15 points, while the quality of the rear udder, and fore udder are each allotted 8 points. The goat’s teats are also scored. Extra large teats aren’t desirable because it may be hard for young, or weak kids to latch onto them.
The General Appearance includes the overall ‘Style’ of the goat. Style is a little hard to define, but basically refers to whether or not the goat is pleasing to look at. Style is worth 5 points out of the possible 35 for the General Appearance. Another 5 points is available for Breed Character and Head. The Rump (8 points) should slope off from hips to pins at a slight angle, too flat or too steep is not desirable. The Topline (5 points) should be strong and flat. The final component to General Appearance is the Feet and Legs. Feet and Legs are given 12 points. A goat with good Feet and Legs is graceful and powerful when she walks.
If you are not familiar with goat judging, all this terminology will sound unfamiliar, but the more time you spend around goats and shows, the easier it will get. A sample copy of the American Dairy Goat Association scorecard is available at this link http://www.dairygoatjournal.com/goats/adga_judging_scorecard/
Do I Need a Registered Goat?
A 4-H goat doesn’t need to be registered, but if you are buying a goat for a longterm breeding project, you may be interested in choosing a registered goat. Usually, if a breeder has taken the time to register their animals, they will be of superior quality to unregistered animals; however, being registered does not mean they are of definite quality. A registration paper just means that both parents were registered. If possible, take a look at the parents before you choose your goat. This is especially important with a young doe, as her mammary system will probably be similar to her mother’s in the long term.
If you are particularly interested in showing, ask if the breeder shows, and how successful they are. This will give you an idea of how successful you might be showing the animal you are purchasing. Be aware that most Open (non-4-H) shows will require Registration Papers.
Ideally, only purchase goats from a herd that are free from Caseous Lymphadenitis (CL) and Caprine Arthritic Encephalitis (CAE) free; however, it can sometimes be difficult to find herds that are entirely free from these diseases. Don’t purchase a goat who has abscesses, or enlarged joints, as these are signs of CL and CAE.
Find out what vaccines, if any, the goat has had. Ideally, goats should be vaccinated for rabies and tetanus. Since goats are so inquisitive, and live to jump and climb, they are at risk of puncture wounds, which puts them at risk of tetanus. Also find out when the goat was last dewormed, and with what.
Ask the breeder about what they feed their goat(s) so you can duplicate this as much as possible when you first bring your goat home. Also check into their fencing style. Goats are amazing escape artists and you may want to know if your goat is already adept at clearing certain fences.
One final question you may want to ask is why the breeder is selling the goat. In the case of someone who has a large herd and sells off young breeding stock, the reason is clear, but in the case of someone who only has a few goats, they may be selling you a problem they don’t want anymore.
Choosing a goat may sound very intimidating, but if you take your time and ask lots of questions, you’ll find the perfect goat in no time!