Showing goats has been popular at the Georgia National Fair and 2015 is no exception.
With 460 students showing 750 goats, the goat barn at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter in Perry is at capacity.
Most of the goats are Boer with a red head and white body, said Niki Whitley, extension specialist at Fort Valley State University who was helping run the event Oct. 9.
Goats are easier for children to show because they are relatively small and are very personable, Whitley said.
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The shows are judged for market -- based on salability as meat -- as well as showmanship, which is judged on the presentations of students.
Kylie Whitworth, a ninth-grader from Madison County High School, has been showing goats for six years.
“My brother started showing goats when I was in the second grade. It really interested me, and once I started (showing) I couldn’t stop,” she said.
Already on Friday, Whitworth had won her ninth-grade showmanship class and had been named supreme champion out of all of the sixth-12th-grade students for showmanship.
The goat she won with is a doe and Whitworth plans to keep the young goat for breeding. The animal was bottle fed and lived in her house when it was young.
“I like goats’ personality more than cows,” she said, although she does show cows as well.
Austin Beard, an 11th-grader from Effingham County High School, shows both pigs and goats.
To show a goat, the handling starts from birth. To win at showmanship, you have to work with the goat every day.
“Once you work with them so much, they learn you are the boss,” Beard said.
One common misconception about show goats, he said, is that they can eat anything.
“If they eat a tad bit wrong, they can get really sick,” Beard said.
Living on a 500-acre farm, Beard has his own herd of goats that he breeds. The demand for goat meat is high, and he said he can make good money selling his goats.
On the other end of the spectrum is an urban program that is making a team debut at the fair this year.
Warner Robins Middle School had eight students with eight goats along with 20 pigs at the fair.
“This is our first full-fledged team,” said Tripp Tolleson, an agriculture teacher.
Interest in the program has skyrocketed. Tolleson had 56 families express interest in the agriculture program, which is limited to 20 children due to barn space.
“I have a waiting list of 16 people,” he said.
Tolleson and Northside High School’s agriculture teacher Ryan Talton have been sharing ideas. This isn’t Talton’s first time around the fair. He’s had a team since 2010.
He is excited to have Thomson Middle and Northside Middle schools start an agriculture program. This will not only help out his program, but help the children grow as well.
Talton was in FFA when he was young and now his three daughters are being brought up in the circuit. He has made lifelong friends from participating in agriculture events.
Students are also taught responsibility, record keeping, science, public speaking and math.
“The stuff our children are able to get (from showing) is life skills. It reinforces everything they learn in school,” he said.