Getting the goat at the fair

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Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald Judge Tammy Long leans in to talk to 5-year-old A.J. Sandoval and his goat Applejack during the market judging at the Grant County Fair on Wednesday.

MOSES LAKE — One of the great risks when you win a grand champion ribbon in the goat show at the Grant County Fair is that your goat will try to eat your ribbon.

That’s what Jaquellein Dodson found after winning a big purple ribbon in one of the market classes of the goat show at the Grant County Fair on Wednesday.

“Isabella, stop it!” she said to her prize winning animal as she hoisted her ribbon to show it off.

“They try to eat them every time,” said Alyssa Shearer, one of the adults helping to run the goat pen. “I have lots of ribbons with the ends nibbled off. In the stalls, you have to hang them high enough.”

“Goats love ribbons,” she added.

Shearer is an almost life-long enthusiast about goats. She and her sister raise 200 here in Moses Lake, something she started doing as a teenager in 4-H.

“I always liked them,” she said. “My family would raise rabbits and pigs and show them off at the fair, but I would always disappear off to the goat barn. It just slowly built.”

As she speaks, her 5-year-old nephew A.J. Sandoval shows off a goat named Applejack. As the judge, Tammy Long, who raises goats herself in Clarkston, Wash., bends over to talk to A.J., Applejack — a Boer cross with tiny ears — stretches its neck up to the judge.

“That goat loves to give kisses,” said A.J.’s mom Amanda.

Wednesday morning found Long judging goats for fitting and show — how well animal and owner work together — as well as for market or for milking. Most of the “market” animals would be kept for breeding, but Shearer said she sells lots of goats for eating.

“I largely sell to Latinos, though I sell goats to a number of people from Southern Africa,” Shearer said. “Sometimes they’ll drive by and see our goats and stop by to ask if we have any for sale.”

Goat meat is probably the most widely eaten meat in the world, though most goat is eaten in the developing countries of Africa and Asia, where goats are easier to raise and easier on the environment.

Lena Doyer appreciates that people eat goats, but she wouldn’t sell Wesley, the 6-month-old Nigerian dwarf goat she just won the grand championship in fitting and show with.

“I like that they are small,” said Doyer, 14, who lives in Moses Lake. “We moved out to the county to raise goats for show. I’ve been doing this since I was in kindergarten, and sometimes we sell them.”

It took two months of hard work to train this little animal, which barely reached her knee, Doyer said.

“You have to bond with them, so I’m working with them every day. We keep them very clean, and we thoroughly bottle feed all the goats so they follow us from the start,” she said.

But as Doyer stood in the 4-H goat barn, full of goats of all kinds and sizes and colors, it became clear there is one substantial advantage to having a pygmy goat.

They’re less likely to nibble at your championship ribbon.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at

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