Raising and Showing Market Wethers

By Sarah Helms

Feed Management  Exercise  Health   Showmanship Back

Facilities

Before you get your goats you need to think about where you are going to keep them. Your facilities should be big enough in size to accommodate the amount of goats you intend to keep. I keep up to 6 goats in my area of about 50 ft X 50 ft and that acts as separate feeding areas for each goat plus an exercise area.

The feeding areas are such that I can close them up in it so they can eat by themselves but they are still side by side. They are also covered and enclosed for shelter in bad weather and can be opened up for wind circulation in hot weather and provide shade. The rest of my area is a runabout and exercise area. In it I have large wooden spools and an elevated wooden box about 4-ft square by 3 ft. high with ramps so my goats can climb upon them. This is the major source of their exercise. Your area should be predator proof as that should be more of a concern than your goats getting out. The more this area is shaded the better but leave some area open to sunlight for goats love to sun themselves. Keep this whole area clean of droppings so as to promote good sanitation, which helps ward off illness.

 Feeding

 When you select and buy your prospect wether for a show goat, ask the breeder what feed he has been eating.  Most breeders will provide you with enough of that feed to work him on to a new ration.  Giving him a strange feed will most likely make him stop eating or cause Diarrhea.

 Start out with the feed you get from the breeder for the first 2 to 4 feedings, then slowly add a little more of the new feed each feeding until you have him on straight new feed. This should be done over about a weekís time.

I recommend a palletized complete ration feed that has the following formula.

16 to 18% Protein

1-1/2 to 3% Fat

15 to 17% Fiber

And a Calcium to Phosphorus ratio of about 2 : 1, meaning the amount of Calcium should not be much more than 2 times the amount of Phosphorus.

This is considered a complete ration because the amount of Fiber it contains eliminates the need for very much hay as roughage. All the hay you need to give him is 3 to 4 good bites a day to keep the rumen stabilized. This will help keep the potbelly from developing.  

Your feeding program is not complete without a source of goat minerals to keep his mineral needs balanced. Just any old mineral supplement will not do, since goats have their own needs in that area, so make sure it is formulated especially for goats. Goat mineral comes in 2 forms, granulated and salt block form. I prefer the block because it is easier to feed.  Either way, make it available free choice so they can have it any time they want it. Do not put the granular type on their feed because goats only like minerals when they want them and may be turned off their feed by it. Keep the mineral source dry for it will mold like feed when it gets damp.

 I prefer to feed a pellet feed because goats have a preference for certain parts of the feed and will select through a loose feed ration and eat only what they like. With pellets they have to eat what I want them to eat.

 Weigh your goat as soon as you get him home and keep a progressive weight record. Weigh him every week, same day of the week, approximately the same time of the day, and record the amount of feed he ate that week. This will tell you what your feeding program is doing for him.

 Start your goat out on Ĺ to ĺ lb. of ration per feeding 2 times daily. The feedings should be spaced as close to 12 hours apart as possible so he has time to get hungry before the next feeding. If your goat does not eat all you have fed him, back off slightly on the amount until you have found how much he consumes at one feeding.

 Even if you intend to show only one goat, it would be money well spent to get another goat (a buddy) even if it is just an inexpensive (not show quality) goat.

Goats are herd animals and do not usually do as well alone as they would with another goat. The competition and companionship of another goat seems to keep their appetite going and it also definitely promotes self-exercise.

 I prefer to feed my goats separately in their own pens so I can control the amount each one eats since each goat will eat differently.  This will be helpful later on when you may need to control weight gain. The feeding pens should be situated such that the goats are near each other and can see each other. This gives the illusion that they are in the same pen and will make them eat better.  I recommend chain-link fence because goats tend to get their heads caught in metal bars.

 It is important to keep plenty of clean fresh water available to your goats at all times. You should not expect your goat to drink what you would not drink.  On hot days dump the hot water and offer a cold drink at least once.

 Management

 The amount of feed your goat consumes is not as important as how much he gains on a certain amount. This is the reason for a strict weighing schedule.  Figure out about what you want your goat to weigh on show day and calculate how much gain you need per week. Try to bring him up at a steady gain to that weight, rather than have him at the desired weight long before that time and have to hold him. Holding causes the goat to regress and not be fresh at show time.  It is OK to have 4 to 5 pounds to play with on his target weight. This makes your feeding program easier to manage. It is also not desirable to have your goat come up short of the target weight and push too hard to obtain it.  Goats grow and progress at their own rate so donít be afraid to alter your target weight if necessary. If it appears your goat isnít going to reach his target weight without putting on too much fat finish, back off on that weight target a little.  I would rather have an 85 to 100 lb properly finished goat than a 100 to 120 lb over finished goat.

 Check the finish often (at weighing time is good) once your goat reaches 70 to 75 lbs.  Finish means the amount of fat covering the goat is carrying and is measured over the rib section. Run your fingers over the ribs from front to back. Compare what you feel to the feel of your hand made into a tight fist. The back of your hand between the wrist and knuckles is too much fat.  Across the knuckles is not enough, and the fingers between the knuckles and the first joint is about right.  If you were to misjudge, I would prefer to misjudge on the side of lack of finish rather than too much.

 Each week when you weigh your goat, compare his weekly gain to the desired gain and if there is too much difference (plus or minus) make the appropriate adjustment up or down as necessary to bring that in line. A pound difference should not prompt a change unless it happens the next time you weigh because several things could cause that. A change in the weather to the hotter side will sometimes slow down the gain or he just may not be feeling his best at the time.

Any change in the amount of feed (especially an increase in the amount of feed) should be done gradually over several feedings depending on how much change you are making.  Example:  A Ĺ lb per day change should take at least 5 to 6 feedings to complete. Decreasing the amount of feed can be done in 2 to 3 feedings.

 When your goat reaches 75 to 80 lbs, make your feed changes considering both weight and amount of fat finish.  You may have to adjust your target weight up to achieve more finish or down to keep the finish off. Once your goat gets over finished it is hard to take it off without effecting his quality. An under finished goat can be fixed by adding more fat content to his feed.  Adding a little rolled corn (about 15 to 20% of his total diet) for a couple of weeks should do it, but watch and donít over do it. Check the finish every 2 to 3 days while doing this.

An over finished or under finished goat is not likely to stand at the top of his class.

 Exercise

 Exercise is important to your goat since it helps tone up his muscles and helps keep him healthier.

It will not put a lot of muscle on him if he does not have the genetic predisposition to muscle up but the combination of genes and exercise does wonders.

If you do not observe your goat or goats (they do better when there are 2 or more) running and romping and playing with each other then you need to get involved and make them exercise. Do not over exercise them especially during hot weather.

Stop them every once in a while and observe their breathing. If they are starting to breathe hard, foam at the mouth, or their tongues hanging out it is time to back off and think about doing this in two sessions.

 Health

 I do a lot of my own doctoring but I limit it to preventative medicine and some simple ailments that I have encountered many times.  Since I am not a Veterinarian I will not go into this subject in depth. I will say this however.  Spend a lot of time with your goats so you get to know what they act like normally. Then when they act abnormally it is a sign something is going wrong and should be looked into immediately by a Vet.  Consult your Vet concerning the symptoms of Coccidiosis and Urinary Calculi, which are two of the more devastating ailments you are likely to encounter. You need to know how to detect these early and get help quick for time is of the essence when that is the problem you have.

 Many times you can treat your sick goat as you would a small human.

Some instances of this are:

Scours or Diarrhea can be treated with Pepto-Bismol or Kaopectate, same amount as for a child of the same weight.

A Fever can be treated with Aspirin or some similar medication, same amount as for a child of the same weight. Signs of pain can be helped with this medication also.

However these are only immediate stopgap treatments as first aid until you can get professional help. And you should get that help to determine what is causing the problem. It could be more than just a simple easy to cure case.

 Showmanship

 Showmanship is defined as the ability to present your animal at its very best.

So knowing your animal and how it reacts to a show ring atmosphere will help you know where your problems are and what to work on.  Knowing your animal comes from working with him so its practice, practice and more practice

You should work with your goats often enough to gentle them down so they are easier to handle.  But be careful of making pets of them for pets are so gentle they are hard to show properly. They get too relaxed and all they want to do is play.

 It is difficult to teach someone how to show a goat in an article such as this without the opportunity for some hands on guidance. The best I can do is give you the basics and let you grow as you go and learn from experience in the show ring.  That show ring experience is going to be 75% of your show ring success anyway.  What I tell you and give you here will make that experience mean more to you. Each time you go into the show ring you will learn something if you pay attention and listen to the judge. Every chance you get to demonstrate what you know about showing your animal will strengthen your knowledge and ability so do it as often as possible.

First some never doís.

(1)   Never pass behind or over your animal when switching from one side to the other. Always pass in front of him

(2)   Donít try to fix what is wrong.  By this I mean, as long as your goat is set up properly do not succumb to the temptation to adjust his settings just to be doing something. There is nothing wrong with just standing there showing your goat as long as you maintain that balance of attention between your goat and the judge. But stay ready to adjust should your animal move. 

(3)   Donít let any situation upset you and make you nervous. Your animal can sense your nervousness and will become upset also.  This is tough to do I know but work on it and it will come with experience

 Now lets go into the basics of showing a goat.  The first thing you need to do is get your goat to walk with you without pulling back or acting up, like throwing themselves on the ground. No showman no matter how good can show an unruly goat.  I use a dog training chain (some refer to it as a choker chain but we do not use it as a choker) around my goats neck for control. The chain should be positioned as high up on the back of the neck and head as possible without the goat slipping out, and the part on the bottom should be just behind the jaw.

Start out slow and do not make your goat fight it any more than is necessary to get him to go for he will come to fear it if it is too painful and that fear will only make him more unmanageable. Try a while and let him rest and pet him to show him he has nothing to fear. Try using a little hay or feed to toll him along at first and he will get the hang of it faster.

 Once your goat will walk with you well and stop when you pull back on the chain, stop him and set him up.

The set up is with his back legs set slightly back of straight up and down. Two to three inches back at the feet is probably about right. Do not set the back feet back far enough to make his back legs look straight like a stick. We call this post-legged. However do not let him set his back feet up under him as this tends to bunch him up and makes him look shorter.  The back legs should still have some bend in them at the hocks. The back legs should be set wide apart but no wider than the width of the front of his hip. If his feet are not as far apart as his hock joints he is set too narrow. Some goats have a tendency to hock in or out. Watch for this at selection time and stay away from it because it sure causes problems in getting a good set on the back legs. The hock out will make your goat look bow-legged and the hock in will make him look the opposite and is hard to correct. Sometimes your goat will place his foot or feet (usually one foot) crooked in or out which will make him look crooked in the hocks but that is fixable simply by setting his foot or feet straight with his body so that his toes are pointing straight forward.

 The front legs should be set straight up and down and the front feet as far apart as possible so the legs are straight down under his shoulders. The front legs should neither be angled in our out as viewed from the front, but straight up and down. Never let his front legs look like he is trying to cross them. On the other hand do not let him look spraddle legged either.

 Once you have him in this position, pull up tight on the neck chain and make him stand straight and with his head at about a 45 degree angle. His body should be straight so that if you laid a broom handle down his back it would start between his ears and extend down his back to his tail setting.

 When you have your goat performing this with little or no trouble, try having someone act as the judge and move around the area slowly.  Always have your goat between you and the judge so the judge can always see your entire goat easily.

Always know where the judge is so you can always be where you should be.

When the judge moves so that the goat is no longer between you and the judge, smoothly move around the front of your goat to the other side always keeping the neck chain tight to try to keep your goat from moving. Any time you have to move, immediately check your goat to see if it has moved.  If so fix the set up without delay. But never pay so much attention to your goat that you loose track of the judge. By the same token, do not pay so much attention to the judge that you donít keep your goat set up properly. Try to obtain and keep a good balance on this.

Any time you have to switch to the other side of your goat do so slowly and smoothly, not fast and jerky. Quick movements will make your goat act up.  Donít do it in slow motion but do not move fast either and make it smooth.  Smoothness is the key!

 Always listen when the judge is giving instructions whether or not he is talking directly to you for it will usually pertain to you later. Many times a judge will tell one person to do something and then tell everyone else to follow suit. If you were not listening you may not know what to do. If you did not understand what he was trying to get across or have any questions at all about what he is wanting, ASK THE JUDGE to clarify or explain again.  Any judge will be more than willing to repeat themselves for that tells them you want to do your best. It is better to ask that to guess what they want and be wrong.

 Enter the show ring showing your goat and never stop showing until you are excused from the ring. Even when it appears the judge has made their final placements, keep showing no matter where you stand.  I have seen judges make changes in their line up after everyone thought they were finished.  This has never happened to me, but it has to some of my friends.  They say it is a mistake they will never make again.

 When moving your goat around the show ring always make your turns on a 90-degree angle. Do not round off your corners or cut across, but go straight ahead until you are in line with where the judge indicated and make a good sharp turn. When moving around the ring with your goat keep everything at a moderate pace not fast, not slow.  If you go too fast the judge does not get a good natural look at him. If you move too slowly you may be holding up the show. Here again make all your moves smooth and calm. Also as you move around the ring know where the judge is and stay on the opposite side of your goat away from the judge.     Goat between you and the judge right?

 Never quit showing as long as you are in the ring, be courteous to all others in the ring, congratulate and shake the hand of the winner if it isnít you, and if it is you be gracious when congratulated. Always shake the hand of the judge and thank them for who knows you may have to show under them again somewhere, sometime so leave a good impression.

 One last thing to remember, several factors come into play as to whether you win or not. You should never be considered a looser because you tried. So if you are not on top donít be disgusted but resolved to win at the next one.  If you can smile in the face of failure you are on your way to becoming a real showman.

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