Borderline 4-H Girls’ Goats Excel at PA Farm Show

The top three finishers in the Intermediate 2 Showmanship contest for dairy goats at the PA Farm Show were (above, from left), Scarlett Zeigler of York County, and sisters Sarah and Emily Gorham from New Milford, Susquehanna County. Below, Caitlin Demarest (foreground) gets some pointers on pre-show grooming from (back, center) Sarah Gorham and Emily Gorham prior to two full days of dairy goat contests at the Pennsylvania Farm Show.

Story and Photos by Rick Hiduk

(First installment of a two-part story published in the Susquehanna County Independent)

Among the members of the Borderline Livestock & Community Club 4-H who took animals to the Pennsylvania Farm Show this year were twin sisters Sarah and Emily Gorham and Caitlin Demarest. The twins were returning champions, having shown dairy goats for a number of years.

It was Caitlin’s Farm Show debut for an American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) show. She was a Cloverbud 4-Her last year and showed just for practice. Caitlin first official showing was at the Harford Fair this past summer where she did well. She is the daughter of Steve and Melissa Demarest of Forest Lake Township and a second-grader at Choconut Valley Elementary School. Caitlin said that working with goats is fun and that she enjoys taking them for walks with her brother and sister each night after school.

Sarah and Emily are the daughters of Luke and Ann Gorham of New Milford and are freshman at Blue Ridge High School. They also show meat goats and agree that they like the personalities of the animals. The girls competed in a number of different contests, piling up ribbons and eventually a banner for Emily’s LaMancha named Gingerale, who garnered Best Doe of the Show.

The crew arrived on the evening of Jan 11 and, after getting their animals into pens, started grooming them, Dairy goats, being barnyard animals from a colder climate, are not shorn. But there’s always some clipping to be done and certain areas, like the udders, need to be perfectly clean.

The youths were back at the pens bright and early the next morning to feed and water their animals. Borderline 4-H advisor was working closely with Emily and Sarah as they prepared for the first contest of the day: Intermediate 2 Showmanship. The girls are very familiar with the scorecard, and Jill was coaching them prior to entering the ring, carefully going through the list of criteria for what the judge would be watching, such as the relative arch or flatness of their backs, how they hold their heads, and the uniformity of their udders.

Showmanship is a unique combination of leading the animal, telling the judge in one-on-one conversation what they believe are their animal’s best attributes and possible imperfections, and moving them into the best positions to maximize their structures. Decked in traditional white dairy show outfits, the Gorham girls entered the arena with eight other youths. Though they started a fair distance apart from each other, the judge moved them around and, at times, Emily and Sarah were side-by-side.

The twins were showing LaMancha’s, a dairy breed with a characteristically-shaped “gopher ear.” In the first contest, Emily was showing a brown and white goat named Elena, and Sarah was showing a black and white doe named Gingerale.

At one point, Elena stopped cooperating, first dropping her front knees to the floor and then laying down on her rump. But Sarah didn’t waver, and neither did the judge. Without fanfare, the judge switched some goats around, giving Sarah the lead of a goat that a young boy had been showing. Her father, Luke, watched the move and explained, “The judges expect the kids to handle their own animals well,” he explained. “But, when something like this happens, the judge gets to see how a youth handles a goat that they aren’t familiar with.”

When you have to show another person’s goat, and it struggles to walk, all you can do is keep calm and do your best in the ring,” Sarah said afterward. “Although this can be challenging and stressful, it definitely makes you a better showman and ultimately will help you get better.” That said, one would never have known that the new goat Sarah was leading wasn’t hers.

The expressions on the faces of the showers are generally stoic, demonstrating how seriously they take their opportunity to have made it to the ring. It’s not necessarily nerve-wracking, but the scrutiny is intense. But, as the judge finally starts to move the goats into ranking position, smiles slowly return to their faces, especially if their animals are sent to the front of the lineup.

Such was the case for Sarah and Emily, who finished second and third, respectively, in the first competition of the morning behind Scarlett Zeigler from York County. But the day was still young. Caitlin had not yet been in the ring, and the twins had much more work to do for the rest of Thursday and Friday.

(To read the second part of the story, click here: )



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