Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Christy McPherson, 12, left, of Buford, and Joseph Torres, 11, of Lawrenceville, mind their business as they wait for their competition to begin at the Gwinnett County Fair, as a Saanen goat tries to get their attention on Wednesday morning.
For exhibitor Lynne Faircloth, her goats are more than just an investment in milk and cheese production. They're almost like part of the family, she said Wednesday during the Dair Goat Show at the Gwinnett County Fair.
"The goats become like pets because we name them, bottle feed the babies and milk the moms," Faircloth said. "The bottle feeding makes the babies think we are their mothers."
Faircloth and her husband have been attending goat shows across the Southeast for more than 27 years. In Georgia there are two to three annual shows hosted by the Georgia Dairy Goat Breeders Association, of which Ms. Faircloth used to be the treasurer. The couple owns 45 goats and continues to make it a family pastime to care for them.
When raising their children, the Monroe-based Faircloth's educated and trained them on goat care.
"The kids would get out and walk the goats. My son would clean the barn. We would all be in on the clipping of the goats, and bathing and grooming them. We all went to the shows together," Faircloth said.
The goats became a part of the family, taking the role of pets. Living in the pastures the goats were named and weaned by the Faircloth's. Goats are typically social animals that live for 10 years.
"Early on it was hard when we sold the goats," Faircloth said, "but now it's a compliment if someone could take one and win with it as well."
Thirteen-year-old goat breeder Tiffany Naugle understands the Faircloth's affections for their goats. Naugle began breeding and raising her own when she was 10.
"My friend had goats and I just wanted my own. My parents bought me a fence and we got some," Naugle said.
Her family has always been animal lovers, currently owning rabbits, chickens, and turtles. However, Naugle's five goats are clearly her favorites.
"(Goats) have great personalities. They really know what's going on," Naugle said. "One of my goats you could sit there and pet for hours. He would just love it."
When asked if she plans on selling her goats, Naugle quickly responded, "I could never sell my goats! My babies follow me around."
However, even with so many goat owners who do have a unique bond with their goats, there are also those who don't. Some simply breed goats to make a profit as part of their farm business. For Buford-resident Susan McPherson, who began breeding goats in 1994, it is an experience meant to teach her kids about animals, as well as commerce.
"The (Gwinnett County Fair Dairy Goat Show) competition is a good learning experience for the children, it's educational," McPherson said.
For Faircloth, breeding goats and competing in dairy goat shows will always be a part of her family memories. One of Faircloth's most memorable competitions was at the Georgia National Fair's Goat Show.
"My daughter won best showmanship at Perry's Georgia National Fair the very first year she competed," Faircloth said. "They gave her a really nice belt buckle and she was so happy. She still has it today and she is 35 years old."