Saturday, October 17, 2009

At auction, buyers get their goats

By Jay Tokasz
Updated: October 17, 2009, 5:04 PM / 0 comments

Wearing a faux mink stole and a jeweled collar, Zasu Pitts strutted her stuff like a runway model.

A spotlight shone, accenting the sprayed glitter on her black-and-white coat. The emcee pointed out her impeccable pedigree.

And by the time the bidding was finished, Richard and Rica Waldeman from North Carolina bought a goat for $2,050.

Not just any old goat, either.

Six-month-old Zasu Pitts was among the 17 finest young goats in the country selected as part of the annual American Dairy Goat Association Spotlight Sale this morning in the Adam's Mark Hotel.

"It's hard to part with her," said Zasu Pitts' previous owner, Sheila Nixon, a California goat farmer who named the flamboyant goat after a 1930s and '40s era film actress.

"They're very intelligent, curious animals," said Nixon. "This week, I taught her to dance for her dinner. She wags her tail and gets on her hind legs and jumps up and down a little."

The four-hour auction was the capstone event of the association's 105th annual convention, which began Oct. 10 and ran through today.

Here, no one was blaming the goats for anything.

They traveled from as far as California, many in airplanes, with only so much as a few bahs, and ended up drawing winning bids that ranged from $800 to $3,800.

Handlers outside the hotel prepared each of the goats for their momement in the spotlight, brushing coats, applying glitter and feeding treats of animal crackers and ginger snaps.

The goats acted as if it were just another day at the farm.

Elenna, an American Saanen doe, got the top bid of the day. White as a fresh snowfall in Buffalo, Elenna calmy strode the stage and coaxed $3,800 out of an Oregon dairy farmer, Flavio de Castellanos.

Shari Reyna, a fellow Oregonian, submitted the winning bid on Castellanos' behalf and told him by phone "you got a really good doe."

Reyna made out all right, too, picking up two bucks for herself.

"I didn't intend to buy anything," said the owner of Ferns' Edge Dairy in Lowell, Ore., which has about 300 goats.

Her purchases proved too much of a bargain to pass on. She plans to breed a purebred Nubian buck named Forevermore, which sold for $1,900.

"He'll sire a lot of daughters," said Reyna. "He will pay for himself in a year or two, there's no doubt in my mind."

About 500 people participated in the weeklong convention, which included, yes, a trip to Goat Island at Niagara Falls, as well as a variety of health workshops with veterinarians, a goat first-aid class and seminars on cheesemaking.

The Spotlight Sale is typically a highpoint of the week. Goats bought from the sale will be used for breeding, showing and producing milk.

"These traditionally are going to go to show homes and be exhibited at fairs and shows throughout the country," said Kristina Bozzo-Baldenegro, co-chair of a committee that organized the auction.

And if you thought $3,800 was a lot to spend on a goat, Bozzo-Baldenegro said a single goat once sold at spotlight sale for $16,000.

The sale brings out the best young goats in the country, submitted by nomination to the American Dairy Goat Association. Because of the difficulty with travel, larger adult goats aren't included in the auction.

"They are the cream of the goat crop," said Doni DeVincent, a hospital laboratory technician who owns 40 goats on 16 acres in Middletown.

DeVincent started caring for goats 25 years ago, when her parents purchased two Nubians to help clear away the woody brush on their property.

Now, "it's an obsession," she said with a smile. "It's my hobby that takes all my money."

Reyna's raising of goats stems from her own lactose intolerance and discovering that while she could not drink cow's milk, goat's milk was easily digestible.

Interest in goat's milk is growing rapidly, she added.

"Now, goat cheese is a really big deal," she said. "My milk is selling at $7.99 a half gallon, and I cannot fill all the orders."

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I grew up in Chautauqua County, NY. I graduated from Edinboro University of Pennyslvania in 1981 with a BFA in Jewelry and Metalworking. I have been married 31 years. I currently run a small business with my husband. We both enjoy the outdoors and animals a great deal and live on a tiny farm in Western, NY.