Blog
Topnotch Livestock
517-588-9049
HomeAbout UsFor SaleBucksDoesCattle
Blog

We are perfecting Artificial Insemination and Embryo Transplant in goats to allow us to propagate elite gene pools from multiple breeding programs.  This allows us to offer more unique choices to our customers, at a reasonable cost.  Feel free to call or e-mail with any questions. We're looking forward to meeting you.


Contact Us
8 National/Major Show Champions, of 4 Breeds, & 2 species walk our pastures.
BEEN THERE, WON THAT.
Welcome
Upcoming Events
Contact Us
"BREEDING AGE DOE SALE "  
 Online Sale
June 22, 2016
Willoughby Sales
​http://www.willoughbygoatsales.com/
Photos will be up in mid-June
Yearling and mature does for sale.
Raising and showing Boer goats is a passion our whole family shares. 
Gary, Rebecca, Justine and
 Amelia Mitchell

Blog

Showmanship

by Gary Mitchell on 06/30/16

I have an opportunity to judge several shows of multiple species each year, and usually the day starts with judging showmanship.  Showmanship exhibitors usually fall into 2 camps.  There are those who are doing it only because a parent or advisor is making them.  And then there are those who look forward to the opportunity to showcase their effort and talent; independent of any budget constraints.  Not every family can afford the purchase cost of a champion-caliber prospect, but each kid has the same budget in terms of 24 hours a day and 7 days a week to work with their project.  Showmanship spills over to the conformation classes as well.  When the class winners are lined up, there are usually 3 or 4 that are of similar quality, and in the proper weight range to be named champion.  Showmanship will sort the champion from the class winners.  Yes, we have won shows with the 2nd best one there.  Showmanship made the difference.   Below is an article that puts into print what I have been coaching over the microphone for years.  Pay particular attention to points 3 through 6.   

I am re-posting, with permission, an excellent article from the Showbloom website https://showbloom.com/judges-divulge-10-secrets-winning-showmanship/#comment-963

Judges Divulge 10 Secrets to Winning Showmanship

Most times when you lead livestock into the ring, the judge’s job is to evaluate your livestock. However, when competing in a showmanship contest, it’s not the confirmation of your animal that’s under scrutiny, but you. Showmanship is a tough contest, but an important one, as the better showman you are, the better you can make your animal look when it counts. At ShowBloom, we understand the importance and value of Showmanship competitions and are proud to sponsor the showmanship series at Belt Buckle this summer in Texas. We sat down with the contest judges to see what they are looking for in the ring and each provided us with their top 10 tips and tricks to help you win your next show.

 

  1. Showmanship is won at home, not just the day of the show.
    Judge Jake Warntjes says the work to winning a Showmanship contest (or any show for that matter!) begins long before you’re at the event. Practice at home is vital to prepare yourself and your livestock for what will happen when you step in the ring.
  2. Watch the more experienced showmen and pay attention to the little things they may do that separate them from the crowd.
    No one likes a copycat, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn a TON by watching the best and those more experienced than you. Bonus: if you ask them to show you how they do something that will help even more than just viewing their skill ringside!
  3. Worry about the animal first.
    Eye contact with the judge is important but make sure the animal is lined out first and foremost and then start looking at the judge. Awareness in the ring is key, so ensure that your partner is doing what is required and then focus on the judge. Putting too much emphasis on the judge and not enough on your animal is also how many livestock get loose in the ring.
  4. Know your animal physically and psychologically.
    Your animal is your partner in the ring. You need to know how to make it look its best and how it thinks. Remember, you are showing the animal, it’s all about presenting it to the judge in the best possible way.
  5. Know the ring and the space you’re working with.
    Every show ring experience is different and ruminants look best standing “uphill” in plain view. Find the “sweet spots” in the ring and be aware of any obstacles that might be a challenge for you or your animal before the contest begins.
  6. Space is critical.
    Show rings can get crowded! Stop early enough to have room to move forward to reset your animal’s feet. If that doesn’t work, at least you can use the room to circle. For hogs, it’s better to use your distance for full views and sparingly swoop in to give a close up shot.
  7. Keep your animal looking natural.
    Head height is always stressful for young people. However, there is a fine line between having your animal’s head up and holding it uncomfortably high. Outside the acceptable range makes them move awkwardly or causes them to strain, which counters the way we set feet and drive them to begin with.
  8. Treat showmanship like a job interview.
    Try to convince the judge that you know what you are doing and have the best abilities in the ring.
  9. Keep your composure.
    Be confident in your abilities. Showing animals is a time-honored tradition and the husbandry between human and creature is a natural bond. Don’t overthink things and you’ll always be successful!
  10. Remember: Showmanship is subjective.
    It’s opinionated. It’s based on that judge’s perspectives and ideals. So learn from the past and strive to be better in the future.

 

Put these 10 tips into practice and you’ll be on your way to winning your next showmanship competition! We’d like to extend a special thank you to Jake Warntjes, Taylor Shackelford and Ricky Thompson for providing us with their secrets to winning Showmanship!

Muskrats and Show Steers

by Gary Mitchell on 01/14/16

Back when we showed cattle, I would often get asked to do show cattle fitting and management clinics.  One of the key points that I wanted the attendees to take home was that "I can tell you what to do, but I cannot do it for you."  Just like football games are won with the daily grind of practice; winning at livestock shows requires daily commitment.  Some people wake up in the morning thinking of easier ways to do their livestock chores.  Others go to bed at night thinking of extra things they can invest time into to give them a winning advantage.    

After I would introduce myself at these clinics, I would ask the audience how they paid for their show steer.  Most kids had the response of their parents buying the calf.  Occasionally some unassuming kid would have a better story than that.  Then I would share my story. My parents did not have a livestock background, but we lived on 20 acres that had a barn.  The 20 acres bordered 2,000 acres of state land, all woods.  We simply didn't have the money to buy a show steer.  If I wanted one, I had to raise the funds myself.  Hunting and trapping were also interests of mine, growing up in the woods of northern Michigan.  I looked at the local muskrat population as a resource to be harvested.  At $5/hide (early 1980's), it would only take 100 of them to buy me a $500 calf (that's $4,000 in todays dollars if you believe prices double every 10 years, as some Economists say).  That's right, only 100 of them for this optimistic kid.  For today's couch potato society (if your into showing livestock, you are probably not one), 100 may seem like an impossibility.  I can tell you this: it took a lot of tromping around the marshes, woods, and swamps of the winter northland, but I caught, skinned, and sold enough fur to buy my1st show steer.  Interestingly, the 1st millionaire in the land that was to be later named the United States of America was a fur trader by the name of John Jacob Astor. 

This story has an end that ties back to the beginning.  If any kid has enough ambition to spend a couple of cold months outside separating muskrats from their fur; that same kid isn't going to melt in the heat on show day at the county fair.  If anything in life is this hard to come by in the beginning, it gives one an appreciation for doing all that is humanly possible to make it the best it can be in the end.  Football coaching legend Vince Lombardi gets credit for one of my favorite quotes “….I firmly believe that any man’s finest hours – his greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear – is that moment when he has worked his heart out in good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.”  

Mine came as I lie exhausted in bed, 12 years old, cold and tired from checking muskrat traps and working with my show steer after school, asleep with my eyeglasses and lights on, with a show cattle magazine draped across my chest.

County Fairs

by Gary Mitchell on 09/28/15

Have I told you how much I hate the county fair?  It's the hottest week of the year, dust from the horse show arena always drifts over to the goat barn, people bringin' a coffin-sized tack box for 1 goat, and the general public and their strollers are always in the way.  In terms of competition, the county fair is the easiest show we go to all year.  However, it's the show where you are most likely to not win with the best goat.  Oftentimes, the criteria for hiring a county fair judge include cheap and close; and is hired by an Extension Administrator who doesn't know who's-who in livestock judging circles. 

We had a good fair this year.  It started off with Justine winning the county fair Princess crown.  I really don't care about the fair royalty, it takes away from my "all livestock, all the time" mentality.  However, I am lucky that I was there to cheer for her when she won (I almost stayed in the barn to shear a lamb).  Later that night, Princess Justine changed out of her formal dress and back into a t-shirt and jeans to shear lambs.  We started the next day with the lamb show.  Justine won Senior Showmanship (out of 18) and Amelia won Junior Showmanship (out of 16).   Justine had Champion market lamb and Amelia was 4th overall, out of about 100 lambs.  Justine's ewe was 3rd overall, and Amelia's was 2nd in class behind Justine.  This was Justine's 2nd and Amelia's 1st year showing lambs.  The showmanship lessons from Todd Wolff at Team Wolff Show Lambs paid off.  Todd won Showmanship at NAILE his last year in 4-H. 

Next was the market goat show. Justine won Senior Showmanship and Amelia won Junior Showmanship.  Amelia has won her showmanship class at the county fair every time she has shown.  Justine had Champion market goat and Amelia won her class, and was the unofficial 3rd overall.  In the doe show, the girls won 3 of the 4 trophies.  Fortunately for us, both the lamb and goat show judges where qualified individuals who are well respected in the industry.    

Next was the Livestock Judging contest, where we place a class of 4 market and breeding animals of the Beef, Sheep, and Swine species, and have questions to answer as well.  Both of my daughters and my wife have won a trophy at this event.  I am the only one who has not, despite being a competitive member of the MI State University Livestock Judging team.  My reasoning for this is that it is hard to find a local judge to officiate who is competent in all species.  Justine won the Senior Division and Amelia was 3rd in the Junior Division.  

The highlight of the week was the Showman of Showman competition where the showmanship winner of each specie get together in a show off of all species.  This year they showed beef steers, dairy feeders, dairy cows, market hogs, market goats, market lambs, rabbits, light horses, and draft horses.  It is a marathon event.  Justine qualified through both the lamb and goat showmanship, and chose to represent goats to "bring a little respect to the goat barn", as they have never had a winner in this event.  In between Princess commitments, she worked hard all week to learn how to show each specie. I give a special thanks to the Von Stein family for their coaching in this endeavor.  Sure enough, little Justine was the winner!  She is a very determined kid, who I would never bet against.  In the effort to win the 7 trophies that Justine won, and the 4 that Amelia won, there where several moments that filled this proud father's eyes with tears.  Have I told you how much I love the county fair?

There is a quote that I like to share: Champions do not become champions when they win the event, but in the hours, weeks, months, and years they spend preparing for it.  The victorious performance itself is merely the demonstration of their champion character. 

The traveling Salesman husband and the farm wife

by Gary Mitchell on 09/19/15

As I was home this week (once again) while Gary was traveling for work in Texas, I had a family friend text me to make sure the girls, the goats and I were all OK.  He asked if I write the blog while Gary was away.  I laughed and said I always have something happen that I could wright about.  In addition to working full time with an hour commute each way, I have two very busy teenage girls to keep up with, and 40 goats to take care of; all while my husband travels 3 out of every 4 weeks!  This past week was no different.....The night before he leaves we noticed one of our spring doe kids was just off.  She wasn't aggressive at the feeder and just not her normal perky self.  We temped her and she had 105 degree fever.  No other physical symptoms.  So here I go...I give her some Duramycin, Banamine and Probiotics.  The next morning, not much changed.  She still has a 105 degree temp, so I give her Sulfa and some Power Punch.   I worry about theses silly goats all day long at work.  When I get home I drench her with ice water but the fever hangs on all week.  Two days after the first dose of antibiotic and Banamine, she got a second dose of each.  I continue with the probiotics, Sulfa and Power Punch every day.  The fever finally broke Friday evening, and Gary got home at 9 pm Friday .

The second crazy thing that happened was with our track dog Scar.  I took some table scraps out to mix in with the dry food for the guard dogs and Scar.  During chores Scar hangs with me and I throw a tennis ball for him.  I noticed he had found the empty plastic container the table scraps were in and was licking it.  I figured no big deal until I looked over and saw him chewing a large chunk of the plastic.  When I went over to take it out of his mouth he swallowed it!  I knew if I called Gary he would freak cause this is a valuable dog.  I worried he wouldn't be able to pass it and I would end up at the vets office with a dog on the operating table.  I called a friend from church who is a small animal vet.  He recommended to induce vomiting.  I drenched him with a tablespoon of hydrogen peroxided every five minutes  until he vomited.  (it took four doses)  Up came his dinner and a piece of plastic slightly larger than a golf ball. 

There is hardly a day that something interesting isn't going on here.

 

  

Fullblood vs Wether Type goats

by Gary Mitchell on 08/21/15

When we first started traveling around the country to acquire genetics to start a goat her, we were interested in both fullblood and wether genetics.  We had just sold a herd of cows that half were purebred Maine Anjou, and half were 3 or 4 way cross club calf cows.  We were interested in duplicating this with our future goat herd.  When we asked goat breeders about both segments of the industry, we were not prepared for the answer we got.  The fullblood breeders hated the wether industry and the wether industry had little use for the fullblood breeders and their association.  Both segments of the industry are still in early stages relative to cattle, sheep, and swine industries; and are learning to see the bigger picture.  The fullblood breeders resented the fact the someone could sell a non-papered, castrated goat for $10,000.  The wether breeders wanted some muscle from the original fullblood imports, but can not use the extra hide, head, bone, and ribcage.  If you can think of each segment in terms of each a different specie, then it becomes easier to understand the value that each brings to the goat industry as a whole.  I will try to explain each below.   

The show wether industry, and judging criteria is geared towards filling the needs of the meat packing industry.  Imagine a wether carcass hanging vertically by a hook through the tendons of the hock joint, with no hide, head, legs below the knee or hock, or internal organs.  The rack and loin are worth more than the rest of the carcass put together.  The higher the ratio of rack/loin to the rest of the carcass and the throw-away parts (head, hide, leg bone, guts, ribs), the more value it is to the packer.  This is why competitive show wethers have historically had a large rack/loin and a small cylindrical ribcage, small neck and head, tight hide, and fine boned legs.  In order to accomplish this unique creature, multiple breeds of goats have been used to the point that the wether type goat can be considered it's own breed, apart from the boer goat.

On the contrary, fullblood breeding stock type of  goats are selected for "production" rather than "carcass" traits.   In addition to muscle and structural correctness, this would include a big, deep rectangular ribcage designed to converts large amounts of low quality forage into meat.  A loose hide is needed to dissipate heat.  Additionally, a loose hide is needed to achieve the high growth rates.  Ever see a tight hided elephant, St Bernard dog, or grizzly bear?  A large circumference of foot and leg bone is needed to assure sturdiness of travel over long distances while browsing.  The large head, ears, and roman nose was selected by the original South African breeders to dissipate heat.

A parable to help understand each would be to compare a compact car designed to go 40 miles on a gallon of fuel, with a dually truck designed to pull 5 times it's own weight.  They are both good for the auto industry, however comparing (or hating on) either segment to the other is an exercise in frustration. 

I usually ask our farm visitors "what are your goals?".  The most common response from ones that are new to the goat industry is something along the lines of this: "a registered goat that we can show competitively, and then raise our own county fair wethers out of".  That would be the minivan of the goat industry.