This editorial is not meant to demean the show end of the industry or "point the finger at" individual judges. It is meant to ferment debate and perhaps foster improvement in the overall quality of the judging. It's not the judges that need changed it's the criteria that they apply to the animals that they judge.
Very few registered goat owners exhibit their animals in the shows, some estimates are six percent or less. This number is higher than it should be. The number of Boer goats that are of adequate quality to be in the show ring are relatively low. Many exhibited animals should be left home on show day and some should not have their genetic weaknesses passed to subsequent generations.
There are also a substantial number of animals that truly represent the best characteristics of the breed but never see the inside of a show barn. There are three basic reasons for this discrepancy.
Other reasons probably fall somewhere within one of these three.
- a.) the owner does not know that their animals are high quality
- b.) the owner does not care to become embroiled in the necessary politics
- c.) the owner views shows as unfair in one way or another.
Recent high profile shows were missing almost all the animals in categories a.) through c.). That is not surprising but nonetheless disappointing - we all probably missed out on viewing some exceptional animals because they were left at home.
The recent production sales were well stocked with Boers that were show winners and placement contenders, many of those animals are outstanding. What was missing from some of the sales was enough buyers willing to invest in these great genetics. I speculate that the reluctance was not based on price but on categories a.) through c.), above.
The best way to breakout of category a.) is through education and experience. If a novice breeder looks at enough good goats for a long enough time they'll learn what's good and what's not. Heck, even I am trainable and if I can learn so can you. The most convenient place to find good goats to learn about is at goat shows. Unfortunately there is the existence of category c.) - how do you know what a good goat looks like if judges can't or won't point them out to you?
There are many reasons for the existence of category c.). Of the many instances which I personally witnessed this last year three are etched in my mind:
Note that KLS Boer Goats did not have animals of our breeding competing in any of the classes cited so these judging errors did not directly effect us. They did make the industry look bad and promoted bad goats while maligning good goats.
- Favoritism: A Junior Grand Champion of a major show whose rear pasterns were so weak that the animal was walking on it's dewclaws - the animal was the product of breeding the judge's buck to the exhibitor's doe.
- Disrespect of the exhibitor: An absolutely fantastic animal handled by a controversial fitter - the animal was placed way down the line below more inferior goats - the judge was overheard discussing the show in the bar that evening - he said that the doe kid was nice but that he didn't think that the handler should be honored with a 1st place.
- Incompetence - Our own case while exhibiting someone else's goat, an animal with a perfectly aligned and formed jaw but with the misfortune of having loose milk teeth making way for adult teeth; the judges comment over the public address system... "We are concerned with the mouth of this buck." Or maybe it was one of the other reasons - the goat's ear tag had the breeder's herd prefix printed on it - the judge was familiar with the breeder of the goat - how do you judge an animal based on an ear tag? Which would bring up another question - why would a judge try to hide his dislike of a breeder by feigning incompetence? - Does the answer to either or both questions involve the judge's intelligence, his ethics, or both?
Until now KLS Boer Goats has not fallen into category a.), b.), or c.), above.
- a.) KLS Boer Goats has a pretty good grip on the relative quality of our livestock. We are not the "top" breeder but our stock stands well in the show ring and in production and sales. Our customers have won many championships with animals from our herd.
- b.) does not bother me much... We have always enjoyed being part of the companionship and the banter between various factions and individuals within the "show crowd".
- c.) I must now report that the animals owned by KLS Boer Goats will be in category c.) for a while. Our stock is proven both in the show ring and in production. Our reputation as a breeder is carefully protected by offering the most liberal guarantee on our stock that is compatible with a profitable enterprise - even to the point of buying animals back from clients who, for one reason or another, can or will no longer care for them. But inconsistent judging has removed much of the fun from trips to the shows.