Cherokee County 4-H students had a crash course in completing a livestock project Tuesday, as a goat clinic was held at the Cherokee County Fairgrounds in Tahlequah.
Not everyone grows up learning about animals and livestock. Jason McPeak, one of the camp instructors, said he's known people who thought chocolate milk came from black cows. The students at the 4-H goat clinic, however, are well-versed in livestock care and bringing animals into the show ring.
"About half of [the students show goats] and half of them are just kind of thinking about it, I guess you would say," said Carl Wallace, 4-H educator. "For some of them, it's introducing them, and some of them are just trying to further their knowledge. It's just like anything else; you're always learning and that's just part of the process."
The group of students had a full day of learning what it takes to properly care for a goat and how to prepare the animals for livestock shows. They started out the morning with discussions on selection and picking the best show project.
"Then we went into breaking them to lead and herd health, de-worming them and what they need to do to keep them healthy," said Wallace. "We talked about housing and where they keep them at home in order for them to stay healthy. Then we talking about showmanship and we did a little washing demo."
Unlike the 4-H students, goats have hair all over and therefore require extensive grooming when preparing for a livestock show.
Tavaree Tucker, 4-H student, said she knows "everything about goats, because I have eight goats: three does, three bucks and then two wethers." However, she wanted to attend the camp to see what else she could learn about the animals.
"First you have to shower them really well," said Tavaree. "You have to put water with Dawn and then mix it. Then you put that on them so the Dawn doesn't soak, because it's just soap. If it does, it can give them a very bad disease and they can get sick, so you want to put water in there."
Tavaree said she hasn't shown any goats herself, because she doesn't "want them to butcher my goats." But if she has a "really old goat that's about to die, then maybe."
As Wallace stated, goat care was a new subject for some of the students. Josie Ward said she learned "a lot of stuff that I didn't know about goats."
"I really like goats and they're just really playful," she said. "I wanted to learn a little bit about them. You have to give them water a lot and make sure they're fed right, make sure they're groomed right, make sure they're washed right, and a lot of things you have to do correctly so they can grow up a nice goat."
Other lessons students received focused on hoof trimming, prepping the animals the day of a show, and how to properly clip a goat.
McPeak took time to show the students how to become "goat barbers," as the trimming can require precision and attentiveness.
"A lot of times, guys, it is literally centimeters that we're talking about," said McPeak, as he blended hair from a goat's shoulder to its body. "We're not talking about taking off inches or feet; we're talking about taking off fractions of centimeters, because you don't want to change the texture of the hair."
McPeak discussed different types of blades to use when trimming a goat's hair, how to blend hair from one body part to next, how to angle the blades while cutting, and much more. It required patience, as the goat would often move around and begin to bleat at times.
4-H student Karmen Vaigas said she enjoyed learning more about the animals, because she has three at home that she takes care of every day, and one of them has a "personality."
"The baby was around a bunch of people, so now she's real used to people," said Karmen. "She's not like other goats. She won't run away from people. She just stays and follows me and my mom. She'll let anybody pet here, but if you try to pet the other two goats, they'll just run."
Camps like the 4-H goat clinic help students learn about caring for animals, but also give them a sense of where produce comes from. McPeak said agriculture is the biggest industry in Oklahoma, and it's important for students to learn more about the process of raising livestock. And while they're learning about proper care of livestock, they're making friends in the process.
"You show livestock and you make friends," said McPeak. "If you're showing livestock and making enemies, then you're doing it wrong."