ELLERBE — Sixty-five kids and 150 goats have registered for the annual 4-H Farm Credit Showmanship Circuit goat show this weekend, and Savannah Shepard is one of them — the human kids, that is.
“I used to get really, really nervous and my stomach would turn,” she said this week, remembering the first time she competed in a goat show. “But once the line moves inside the ring, (the nerves) goes away …
“But my heart still pounds.”
Savannah wasn’t one to play with Barbie dolls when she was younger. According to her mom, she preferred animals.
“I could see how much she liked animals when she was little, and it just rolled into horses,” Crystal Shepard said.
“More like exploded into goats,” Savannah added, laughing. (She still rides.)
Savannah began competing when she was 6. She’s now 13 and a seasoned pro, showing off three goats for this year’s competition: two does, Lucky and Sprite, and one wether, Cola.
“The females are more moody and bossy,” Savannah says, “and the males are calmer and easier to work with.”
The competition is broken down into three shows: the showmanship show, wether show and the breeding doe show.
During the showmanship show, judges ask owners about the goats — how they should be taken care of, what goes into their feed, etc.
The wether show looks at the goats themselves. Judges check the animals’ overall structure and look at how much meat is on their bones.
During the breeding doe show, judges look at the doe’s overall structure and ability to carry babies.
The children who place first through fifth receive monetary awards, and the rest receive participation ribbons and small, $5 premiums to cover the cost of feed and travel. Grand champion and reserve champion awards also are available for the wether and doe shows.
N.C. Extension agent Tiffanee Conrad said the children who participate in the competitions learn a great deal of responsibility and other valuable skills.
“I look forward to seeing the kids have good sportsmanship,” she said. “I like seeing them thank the judge and ask for how they (can) improve, and to also shake the hand of the person who came before them.”
Conrad also sees kids develop self-confidence during the course of the competition.
“During their first show, they’re shy,” she said. “But after their first year, they’ll talk to anyone.”
And both Crystal and Jerry Shepard agree that they have seen their daughter grow, and learn responsibility and understanding of her goats, as well as how to take care of them properly.
“I’m very proud of her because you see all the hard work she puts in while at home,” Crystal Shepard said.
Every morning and afternoon, Savannah Shepard’s routine is the same. She gets up early before school to feed her goats, give them clean water and make sure their pens are clean. After school, she’ll come home and run exercises with them in preparation for upcoming competitions.
“The more you put in, the more you get out of it,” her mom said.
“She’s able to see her work pay off,” her dad added.
Savannah Shepard has a couple of wins under her belt, but she still practices before competitions because the questions can be the difficult part.
“You have to look at the judge and also watch the goat,” she said. “It’s nerve racking.”
But most of all, Savannah looks forward to meeting new friends and reconnecting with old ones during every show … while still keeping an eye out on the competition.
Reach Jasmine Hager at 910-817-2675 or [email protected]