July 20, 2011

County Fairs

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind with one county fair after another. First we had 5 4Hers (and 5 goat kids) at our local San Joaquin County Fair. This was followed by taking our “show string” to attend Alameda county fair. County fairs are a lot different than standard goat shows (sometimes called “club shows”) in several ways.

First, you often stay there longer than at a standard show. Most club shows have you come in Friday night or Saturday morning and rarely stay past Sunday afternoon. During a fair you usually stay for the better part of a week.

Second there are rarely public (non-goat people) in attendance at club shows. Not that anyone should think of not coming to a club show who is interested in goats, I love talking to new people at goat shows, but a lot of questions you get at a fair you don’t get at club show. In fact I would say there are 3 popular questions that people ask at a fair.

1. They ask why we cut off their ears (the Lamanchas)? Sometimes the fair has signs up and sometimes we put signs up, but no matter what we do, we always seem to have that question posed to us. I suppose since dogs get their ears cropped the idea of cutting outer cartilage off of an animal’s ear is not that far off. And I feel like we should at least respect that they were willing to go out and get the right answer. Better that, then forever passing around miss information. We, of course, do not cut the ear off – they are born this way. Depending on the other animals around we may get asked if we cut their horns off too. If the only goats around are dairy goats (and they are all disbudded) then we only get that question once maybe twice during the full time there. However if there are other goats in the general area who have horns (either at a petting zoo, or at Alameda the breeding meat goats were nearby) then we get this question a whole lot more.

2. What are those things on their neck? Speaking of course about the wattles. Now to be fair, I think I would ask this question too. I mean, wattles are never seen in the pictures or models. Images nearly always show animal with a smooth neck. And since this is usually the only exposure people have had to goats, it is understandable that this question gets asked. We always try to let them touch the wattles (and most of our goats are totally willing to be petted) and it is highly amusing as people tentatively reach out and touch the goat’s neck. Somehow they are really worried that the goat is just going to turn and bite them I guess. Too bad no one shows pictures of goats not having top front teeth and that they are not going to bite anyone.

3. The third question we get CONSTANTLY is “where are the pigs”. I have no idea what it is about pigs that everyone wants to see. Is it because they are in story books? Or is it because they are so unusual? I have no idea. I personally do not find them all that fascinating but someone does I guess! Most fairs have a rotation of animals (if they are large enough) so that livestock – things that go to market like market lambs, market hogs, and market steer usually come in during a different time than the dairy animals I always feel bad that I have to tell them there are no pigs around.

Please don’t think that I don’t like answering questions. I love fairs because you get to really brighten someone’s day by letting them get close to the livestock. Nothing can beat pulling out a goat kid from the pen and letting a human kid really pet or hug the goat. Personally I feel a deep connection with the fairs because that was when I first encountered goats and really for a child living in a major metropolitan area, where else would you encounter them? Without our local county fair, I can’t even imagine where I would be in life. You never know what little thing will change you life…

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