lowfashion presents: raising goats by todd stadler

Goat raising builds confidence,
character of student

    In 1988, the National Livestock Exhibition added a dairy goat division. And every year since then, Farmerville senior Albert McDonald has won a major title for his goats.

    That is no coincidence.

    "I don't believe in taking anything out that's not going to come in first," he said. "Take your best. If it isn't going to win, leave it at home. I hate losers."

    McDonald, who is not affiliated with the restaraunt of the same name, has been working on raising the best dairy goats since 1980, when he bought his first one at age 10. That is, he was 10 years old. The goat was younger, unless his age was counted in goat years.

    The lady who owned McDonald's first goat encouraged him to get involved in 4-H competitions. I guess you could say she really got his goat.

    "We started out with bad animals at first," he said. "As we started seeing how an animal should look and what they need to have, we started getting smarter with what we bought. We started breeding for the qualities that we liked, such as bright eyes, a sunny disposition, and a real love of children."

    Leslie McCann, one of McDonald's 4-H leaders for about seven years, said his ability to distinguish quality goats from bad ones has contributed to his success in competition.

    "He has a very keen eye when it comes to evaluating goats," she said. "He can tell within seconds when a goat is lacking the things judges look for - legs, head, whatever. But he's just at quick noticing goats with an extra leg or head. Albert really is gifted."

    McDonald said goats that are long, tall and lean, and have a strong legs are good quality. Most important, the animal must have potential to mature, a desire he also expressed for his current girlfriend, Kindra. "She keeps wanting us to get serious. I already gave her three goats."

    One of McDonald's goats has matured quite well. From 1988-91, Xtremist, an Alpine breed goat, won major titles in the North American competition, including "Most Radically Named Goat" and "Baron of Worcester".

    Xtremist won "Grand Champion Senior" from 1988-91. She won "Reserve Senior" in 1990. And in 1989 and 1991, she won "Best in Show".

    "Animals like that come around once in a lifetime. I mean my lifetime, not theirs," McDonald said. "For myself, I feel like I've gone as far as I could possibly go with an Alpine breed. I am the Albert Einstein, if you will, of the goat world. Now I plan on taking a Saanen to the top. Sure, people laugh at me when I say that, but I've shown I'm unstoppable. No one can take away my immortal goat powers."

    McDonald's mother performs most of the manual labor at their farm in Farmerville, including feeding and grooming the goats, as well as McDonald. McDonald is involved in public relations, like preparing advertisements for state goat club newsletters and doing extensive interviews on the farm report circuit. "Someday," said McDonald, "I hope to do an interview with Billy McMaster."

    When the female goats begin having babies in the spring, McDonald said he will travel home from Bowling Green more on the weekends. McDonald said having a small farm of about 30 goats lets him give them more attention, as well as receive attention for himself from the many fans he has garnered in his trips around the Midwest. "Oh, McDonald's the best," said one such fan. "He's really kind of a hero to me. He taught me not to do drugs, but to focus my energies on raising goats instead."

    McDonald said that while it is nice to help out humans in what does, the most rewarding aspects of operating a goat farm is caring for the animals. "The enjoyment, the pride and pleasure, and the experience of raising something is almost like having a human child," he said. "You plan the breeding, mate the parents, buy some extra hay, and put all your hopes and dreams into it. It's really a lot like being married. Also, the young of both species are called 'kids'."

    McDonald said he also gets excited about the competitions.

    "When you walk into a show ring and there's people just watching all around, cheering you on, placing bets on you, buying your shirts at the concession stand, all that - it builds confidence quickly," he said.

    Since 1981, McDonald has won about 46 awards at county and state 4-H competitions, and at the North American competition, he said. His goats have not won as many awards - only 15 - but McDonald hopes to work on that.

    He said after graduating in May with a degree in computational and applied mathematics, he may work as a 4-H agent helping members age 9 to 19 with their 4-H projects. "One kid I know is trying to build an artificial frog," he said.

    McDonald said the most important part of raising and competing goats is the effect it has had on his character.

    "We all go through that stage of development and finding ourselves, getting secure about who we are and stuff," he said. "Having something different as a kid builds my character of who I am. At least I'm not a loser who sits around all day surfing the Internet".

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