Think of Caleb and Maggie Arnold as kids with kids at the 97th Pennsylvania Farm Show.
The West Pennsboro Township siblings on Thursday competed in the Farm Show Junior Dairy Goat Showmanship contest that this year had fewer entries than in previous years.
“This is Granite,” Maggie, 11, said, petting her 8-month-old Alpine before the judging. “I’m training her to be a pack and harness goat. She will be able to carry things and pull a cart.”
The 50-pound goat, whose weight will triple by maturity, nuzzled Maggie and demonstrated the bond between goat and girl. Nearby, other goats surrounded Caleb, 13, who grinned happily.
The Arnolds, members of the Cumberland County 4-H Goat Club and home-schooled students, work hard to prepare their goats for the Farm Show. They train them, feed them well and practice with them.
“We walk our goats to get them used to walking in the ring,” Maggie said. “We also clean them up.”
They show at the Shippensburg Fair and at various American Dairy Goat Association shows in nearby states.
“Our goats are very social,” she said. “If we’ve been away and come back home, they come and greet us like a dog would. Goats make me happy.”
The Arnolds bought goats three years ago and quickly bonded with them. Now, they have three Oberhasli, three Alpines and five Nigerian Dwarf goats who all are like members of the family and the entire family gets involved in their care.
Anita Arnold, Caleb and Maggie’s mother, milk the goats daily with Maggie. Last year, they milked four goats and this year they will milk seven. Caleb feeds and waters the goats.
“They like to eat grassy hay and an organic grain mix,” Caleb said. “Sometimes, I give them molasses biscuits for a treat.”
The Arnold goats have their amusing moments too, he said.
“We had an Oberhasli named Mimi who fell asleep with her head in the feed bucket, then couldn’t get her head out,” he recalled. His sister said that Mimi once got into the lawn chairs stored in a barn stall, got her head in the arm of one and was stuck, walking around attached to a chair.
Helen Snyder of Newport, show chairwoman, said that the number of goat entries in this year’s Farm Show is low because of health problems among owners and goats alike.
“Usually, we get 300 goats at the Farm Show,” she said. “This year, we are off by about 100.”
The junior show had 67 entries on Thursday.
Sophia Kreider, 9, of Penn Township showed one of them. She said she was both excited and nervous to be showing goats for the first time at the Farm Show.
“I’m showing Maggie’s goats today,” she said. “But we plan to buy two Nigerian dairy goats in the spring. My mom (Kim) fell in love with Nigerian dwarf goats, We’re going to get two kids who will be born in late May — I hope to name them Brownie and Cookie Dough. We want to make goat milk soap. Goats are great. You love them and they love you back.”
Snyder, a long-time goat farmer, said that the goat export business is thriving. Last year, she exported 200 goats, mostly bred ones to Trinidad and Russia.
“Later this month, I’ll export goats to Trinidad and Tobago,” she said, adding that she currently has 20 does. “There’s a lot of red tape when you export.”
Snyder said that usually when the economy is bad, the goat industry thrives because goats are efficient producers of milk and meat. That’s not the case now, she said, “because things are so tough and feed costs are so high. Less people are getting into goats”.