Prairie Summer Extravaganza sees wide variety of dairy goat activities
After a wildly successful first outing in Moose Jaw last year, the Prairie Summer Extravaganza goat show was back at the Golden Mile Arena the last weekend in July – this year with a focus on the dairy side of things.
Around 150 dairy goats of all breeds took part in the show, coming from farms all over western Canada. The event was broken into three parts, with the Canadian Goat Society Western show on July 20, a junior show and buck show Saturday and the CGS double-sanctioned show on Sunday.
In between the main events, a wide variety of seminars and demonstrations were held, including milking and hoof trimming demos, as well as a nutrition seminar by the feed company Masterfeeds. Sandy Larocque of Triple C Farms near Sifton, Man. was one of the veteran showers on hand, with more than 35 years in the industry.
“It’s been busy, and the quality of the animals has been just super,” she said. “It’s so good to see that many people coming out, we’ve lost a few of the dairy goat shows so when there’s one this big people try to come and make it.”
Larocque – who maintains a heard of Lamanchas, one of the 10 breeds covered by the CGS – pointed to the opportunity to meet and greet her fellow breeders as a key part of the show.
“The biggest part is the networking of not just your breed but other breeds in general,” she said. “It’s a fast-growing industry so you need to know who else is in the industry, and the networking opportunity is fantastic.”
As a show, it all comes down to comparing the animals and ideally picking up awards, and on that end it’s much like any other animal show event: there are certain attributes for every breed that will make the difference when it comes to success. When it comes to dairy goat stock, the quality of udders is the most important aspect.
“Judges when they’re judging dairy will look for certain things and then break them down by breed,” explained Larocque. “The mature ones have to have a well-developed udder, one that has the capacity to hold milk. And things like a well-attached udder, that would place higher than a less well-attached udder. Feet and legs are another thing, they’re not kept in a stall in a barn, they’re out wandering around in the pasture, so they have to have good feet and legs.
“And then, after all that, there’s the breed characteristics. Nubians have to have the long ears, Lamanchas have to have the small ears; you can’t bring a Lamancha into the ring that has big ears... there are a lot of things they look for and the difference can be really small.” Actually winning a show can have benefits, especially when it comes to breeding and selling. Champion breeders can advertise their stock as such, making them more valuable when it comes to husbandry and future animal sales.
“That shows that they were judged against animals that you’d never see otherwise,” Lacroque said. “So then if someone is looking for an animal they can look at that ad and say that doe has a perfect udder and I need to improve udders, or it has great feet and legs and I need to improve that. So it can work out pretty well that way.” Then there’s the whole dairy side of things. Larocque pointed to the steady rise of goat milk sales in recent years as a sign that the commodity could be on the verge of large scale growth. For now, though, the industry in western Canada is of a smaller scale, as seen by the number of shows each year. The Extravaganza is the only one in Saskatchewan in 2018 and there are only two taking place in Alberta this year.
“We used to have lots, when I started 35 years ago we used to have 12 shows to go to,” Larocque said. “Every industry that you get into, no matter what it is, has highs and lows. The dairy goat industry is no different. We’re at a low now, but you can see it climbing because the demand is there. “Goat milk is the healthiest milk you can drink, and goat meat is eaten by more people all around the world than any other kind of meat, so we’re expecting things will only get better in the future.”
Dairy goat breeders show off their Toggenburg goats.
Sandy Larocque of Triple C farms milks one of her stock during a break in the show.