While some families enjoy summer vacation at the ocean, a resort, or at an amusement park, the Conaways are preparing to show their purebred Boer goats at the annual 4-H & FFA Fair, on their family farm, Falling Leaf Farm, in Sykesville.
Staci, Jim, Lily and Grace Conaway have been working together for the last couple of years with their goats, and educating other youth in preparation to show their own meat goats at the fair.
Last year, Staci and Jim were assistant superintendents for the fair, and this year is their first year as superintendents. They are continuing a fair tradition. As youth, they both showed animals at the fair; she showed pigs, and he showed animals such as steer and pigs.
"That's how we met, in 4-H," Staci Conaway said, "Now our daughters [Lily and Grace] enjoy participating and we like not only working with our kids, but helping others as well."
Lily is in her fourth year of 4-H and Grace in her second year.
Children new to showing meat goats are prepped in advance on how to take care of their animal, prepare them for show, and prepare themselves to show their animal in the ring.
On June 28, the Conaways hosted, along with Samantha Anthony, a workshop at Falling Leaf Farm for 24 people. Anthony is an intern for the Carroll County Extension Office and 2013 was her last year showing in 4-H.
During the workshop, Anthony, Staci, and Lily discussed what to look for with their goats and how to care for them including health, nutrition, vaccines, prepare their coats, horns and feet for show, and more. The event ended with a chance for the attendees to ask questions. In order to show their goats at the fair, they had to attend the workshop as a requirement.
They plan to have 34 children, ranging from 9 to 18 years old, showing approximately 70 goats at the fair this year.
The Conaways had about 16 of their own goats, but did sell some to children to show. The family enjoys helping others prepare, making sure that they have registered and that the animal has been seen by a vet prior to the fair.
There are different contests that will be held throughout the week. Fitting and showing is when the children are judged on how they show their animals; market class goats are judged on their appearance, taking in factor such as health, weight and how much meat they have and how they would be graded by a butcher.
With meat goats, they're looking for animals that produce lean meats, as opposed to meat from other animals that may be marbled with fat. A "fat" goat isn't necessarily a good thing, as they're looking more for muscle, balance and structure, according to Staci.
Trying to spread the word and educate people, as well as increase attendance/purchasing of meat goats at the Fair, Conaway went on to explain the differences in dairy and meat goats, as well as breeding goats.
All goats are popular but they're all judged differently. When judging meat goats, they're looking for overall body structure and muscle. Breeding goats, which are not sold at auction, are judged based on their hips, milk production capabilities, etc. These are the qualities that help determine how well they will produce offspring.
The goats typically are young, approximately 8 months old when they're shown.
Twenty of the goats will be auctioned off during the Livestock Sale that will be held at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 1 in the Shipley Arena. Not all of the children sell their animals at the Fair, some sell privately, or keep their animals. During the sale, the goats will be sold in two groups of 10. The first will be sold near the beginning of the auction, with other animals to follow, and then the second group will be sold. They break them up in order to reserve some for those buyers that may come later due to work.