At the LaGrange County 4-H Fair, the goat barn has been overflowing for at least four years. The barn was extended in the past couple of years, and this year part of the sheep barn has been taken over by rowdy goats. So why is it that so many 4-H kids have decided to raise a goat for the fair this year and for the past few years?
Peyton Schrock, 13, has been showing goats for three years. He said he doesn’t really know why the club has grown so much recently, but he really enjoys the process of raising a goat and all the friends he has met through the club. This year, he picked a goat out while it was still just nursing, making sure to pick a large kid with a good balance of muscles and fat.
Schrock enlisted his step-brothers Matthew Troyer, 13, and Micah Troyer, 10, to join the goat club this year, in their first-ever 4-H experience. Matthew, a self-proclaimed shy guy, said everyone is very social and nice in the goat club, which might be why the club has grown so much in the recent years. His goat is “Tank,” and his brother’s is “Jet,” both Boers, and the boys said it’s a lot of work to feed the animals, give them fresh bedding, and exercise them.
Last year’s premier goat showman was Lillian Venema, 15, who comes from Shipshewana and now lives in Michigan. She is the daughter of Aart and Marion Venema of Shipshewana. She gave some inside knowledge about raising a goat and mused about possible reasons for the recent popularity of the club. As a seven-year goat club member, she said the club has a good social atmosphere, which may contribute to the popularity.
Another positive factor about raising goats is that they are fairly easy to lead and transport. “Goats are good to work with,” said Venema. “They don’t have much of an attitude.” Venema, who also shows cows at the fair, noted that cows are really difficult and sometimes dangerous to control, whereas even large goats are more cooperative.
Don’t be fooled by the relative ease of showing goats. Venema said she knows firsthand how difficult raising a goat can be. Living on a farm that breeds and raises over 100 goats, Venema’s entire family pitches in to take care of the animals, both meat and milking goats. Venema brought eight goats to the fair this year, Saanan and LaMancha goats, both milkers and non-milkers. She chooses the baby goats in January, picking the bigger ones that drink the most water, and then she bottle feeds them until they are four months old.
If you are thinking of joining goat club, Venema suggests you prepare for a lot of fun, affectionate animals, and above all, “a lot of hard work and responsibility.”