Dairy goats are animals that can be shown by nearly any person, of any age. Thousands of people show them every year across nearly every state, but the biggest show is the American Dairy Goat Association National Show.
This show brings in the best of the best from across the country. This year, the show was held at The Ranch in Loveland, Colo., July 7-14. An estimated 2,500 goats participated in the event.
Winning at a national show is a big accomplishment, and one that breeders strive for every year. Jill Whomble and Shelly Thomas, who own Heaven’s Hollow Dairy Goats, won the Grand Champion Oberhasli title with their doe GCH Heaven’s Hollow Shiloh.
Even though this wasn’t their first national champion, winning at a national show is always special. “It was a lot of fun showing all of our goats in Loveland. Our does really love what they do, especially Shiloh who won National Champion. You can just tell the way they perk up and almost prance around the ring. They are always happy to hop in the trailer and head to the next show. I don’t think I could drag a goat to the shows that didn’t want to be there. It wouldn’t be fair to them and it wouldn’t be fun for us,” said Whomble.
In fact, their first national champion was with Shiloh’s dam, named Heaven’s Hollow Shotsi, who was the 2005 National Junior Champion. “We only took a handful of goats and managed to win with a home bred doe. I vividly remember how happy for us all the big Oberhasli breeders were. That was the first time I realized that dairy goat people are really like one big family,” she said.
Thomas, who is Whomble’s mother, first got into dairy goats in 1984 when she purchased Nubian does to feed the milk to her daughter Nicole, who was allergic to baby formula. “The goats were definitely an answer to her prayers because Nicole was instantly better, and we have been hooked on dairy goats ever since. These first goats were pet milkers, not the seedstock that we now breed,” Whomble stated.
She continued, “When we moved to our current location in 1990, we were forced to sell our first does. It took us several years to build all the necessary facilities, but before we knew it we were back into the goat business. This time, we purchased several LaMancha does and even attended our first ADGA sanctioned show. It was at this show that I saw my first Oberhasli goats and instantly fell in love. It didn’t take long for Obers to take over the entire barn!”
At the time Whomble was showing animals in 4-H and the dairy goats seemed like the perfect fit for her. “I exhibited sheep and meat goats through 4-H, which was alright, but I wanted an animal that I didn’t have to sell every year and that could be shown at places other than just the fair. Dairy goats have definitely filled that need. And now that I am no longer in 4-H, it is great that I can still show the goats at sanctioned ADGA shows throughout the U.S. My daughter is now old enough that she is showing the goats too. The dairy goats are truly a family business,” she said.
Every day twice a day, the goats are milked and cared for. Tending to the goats takes a lot of time and dedication. “Raising quality show goats also requires a higher level of individual animal care. Every goat on our place has to be shaved for each show, feet need trimmed every month, they all have to be taught to lead and set up, and we annually blood test all of our animals for diseases. If we didn’t maintain a disease free, healthy herd, no one would care how high our does place at shows, they still wouldn’t buy them,” she said.
However, all of the hard work is worth it to this family. They work hard at producing high quality does, and their breeding success is evident at each show they attend.
“We are constantly striving to improve our herd’s quality. We do not have the room to expand our numbers; so instead, we only retain two or three of our best first fresheners,” Whomble said.
She continued, “We really want to sell goats that will win first for their new owners, not culls. If I don’t think a goat will win in the show ring I will not sell it as a show goat. But we don’t want just show goats, our does have to milk well too. Last year we had the top three Oberhasli milk producers in the nation. I want to keep breeding animals that will both show and milk, which is very hard to do.”
In addition to raising Oberhasli goats, the family also raises Nigerian Dwarf goats. “The Nigerian Dwarf breed is the newest addition to our herd. We accidently became the owner of a raffle kid from a local breeder and decided that if we were going to keep Nigerians, we were going to have to be just as competitive with them as we were with our Oberhasli. So we bought a buck and a couple nice show does to keep our free doe company and the Nigerians have grown from there,” said Whomble.
They love the goats due to the personalities and ease in training. “Dairy goats are very trainable. We open the gate to their pen and they run straight to the barn and hop on the proper milk stand every time. We have found the Oberhasli breed to be more docile than the other dairy goat breeds. We love their dispositions, gentleness, and personalities,” she said.
Having the Nigerian’s allows Rebecca, Whomble’s daughter, to also start showing goats. “The Nigerians are a little more ornery, but my 3-year-old daughter can handle them herself due to their miniature size. And of coarse we love their milk! Rebecca still begs for her cup of warm milk every morning and night when we get the goats out to milk,” stated Whomble.
In addition to showing the national champion, Whomble was also named the Premier Breeder and Heaven’s Hollow was the premier exhibitor for the Oberhasli breed. Best udder was won by GCH Heaven’s Hollow Lil Susie, and the family won several group classes as well. The family also sold an Oberhasli doe in the Colorama Sale.
For the Nigerian’s, they had the first and second place Junior kids, named Heaven’s Hollow Ava and Heaven’s Hollow Faithful.
“Our favorite part of having the goats is showing them. We love to travel as a family and visit with all of our goat friends at shows all over the U.S. Dairy goat people are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. We really have to help each other out even though we compete everywhere we go,” Whomble said. ❖
“Our does really love what they do, especially Shiloh who won National Champion. You can just tell the way they perk up and almost prance around the ring.”
~ Jill Whomble