MOUNT VERNON — When Bart, a gray-and-white pygmy goat, looks up at his owner, Alyse Ladig, it is with an expression of trust from a true bond formed from the day he was born — one made even closer from his participation in a breeding class category the past several years at the Knox County Fair.
“He was a bottle-fed baby, so he’s really really personable,” said Ladig, a member of the Down on the Farm 4-H Club. The family bought Bart nearly five years ago at Echo Springs Farm in Saint Lousiville, and he has rewarded his friendship with Alyse by bringing home a few Reserve Champion awards.
Bart is kept in a barn on the family homestead. When he “talks to her,” meaning he bleats his readiness to go for a ride, she picks him up and places him on a tarp in her Honda Pilot. A good ride is never spoiled with a goat for company, it seems.
“They’re just like dogs,” said Alyse’s mom, Janelle. “This one, he’ll come to you when you call his name, just like a dog does.”
Larry Hall, a 4-H Extension educator, said his granddaughter’s special relationship with Bart is part of her overall life that has been blessed every year with county fair participation. “She turned 17 on Thursday and this is her 18th Knox County Fair,” he said.
Next to Bart’s stall in the livestock barn was another, even smaller goat, a female Nigerian dwarf goat, white with black spots and markings. Her name is “Panqueque,” which means “pancake” in Spanish. Little Panqueque is a yearling who has not yet had babies but is being bred to be a momma goat. Friendly yet shy, Panqueque didn’t mind when Bart put his head into her pen as they shared hay together from a burlap sack.
Annette Treffers, the mother of Panqueque’s owner, who is her daughter Claralyn Treffers, agreed that goats have dog-like traits, in this case a small dog: As a dwarf goat, Panqueque can only be 21 inches high to qualify for fair events.
“She wags her tail when she sees you,” Annette said.
Claralyn, 15, is a member of Dream Catchers 4-H Club. She and her mom looked forward to two events for which Nigerian dwarf goats make excellent competitors. One is the Pack Show on Tuesday, during which goats in all categories compete in events that test their deftness “a-hoof,” so to speak, going through hoops and up and down ramps. Then on Wednesday, Panquque will vie for awards in the Goat Costume Fun Show.
“She will be wearing a T-Rex costume,” Annette said.
Equally fond of his goats is Nate Cunningham, 13, of Little Rascals 4-H Club of Amity. His two Boer goats were being prepped Monday for the Junior Fair Market Goat Show. One was a mostly white with brown female, and the other a male that looked nearly identical. Their names are Atlanna and Arthur, named for the superhero Aquaman (Arthur Curry) and his mother.
Nate fed pieces of hay to Atlanna as his mom, Jasmine, finished prepping her on a small platform, using an air hose for general cleaning and a scratch comb to fluff her leg fur. The family plans to keep Atlanna as a breeding goat, and Nate — who also raises pygmy goats on a family farm — is particulalry fond of her. Goats are a bit stubborn at first but become friendly and trusting, she said.
The family, including father Chris Cunningham, and Nate’s sister Brooklyn, a highly talented beef shower with six entries including steers and a beefeater, hope Nate’s Boer goats fare well. That would mean each goat placing in the top 10 in Tuesday’s junior fair goat show.
But it appears Nate’s connection with Atlanna will go on no matter how well she places.
“If he has to sell her, we’ll probably buy her back for him,” Jasmine said.