by Elizabeth A. Tomlin
Once again, SUNY Cobleskill has forged ahead of the curve by sponsoring an American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) Judges Training Conference at the campus.
The three-day event included a Judges Pre-Training Conference, which took place all day, Friday, June 8, a formal training program followed on Saturday and a day of written, oral and placement testing.
“There are normally two training conferences held each year throughout the country,” said ADGA District 2 Director/ NYS Dairy Goat Breeders Association Inc. President, Peter Snyder, who was on hand throughout the training conference.
The last training conference in New York State was held in 2009 in Buffalo in conjunction with the annual conference. Snyder credits Dr. Cindi Shelley, professor at SUNY Cobleskill and currently an ADGA judge, for her assistance in securing the site to hold the training conference.
“We had started with 24 participants on Friday to learn about how to evaluate dairy goats and the application of the unified dairy goat score card.” Shelley explained, “It has four parts: general appearance, mammary system, dairy strength and body capacity. By Sunday we had about 17 people that judged pool classes and delivered two sets of reasons. Reasons were evaluated on accuracy of what was verbally mentioned as well as poise and confidence. Candidates had to meet minimum levels in each area to get an apprentice, 2 or 4 year license.”
Dairy goat judging has become more important as the industry grows across the country, with dairy goat showing becoming increasingly popular.
“There is a popularity right now with the public recognizing and becoming accustomed to utilizing dairy goat products such as the various cheeses, chevre, feta, hard cheeses, etc, and other milk products, as well as goat milk-based soaps,” Snyder remarked. “Many people are now keeping a few goats in their backyard for their own milk and cheese needs, and many young 4-Her’s find dairy goat projects to be fun and enjoyable — and a lot easier to manage than a cow, horse or pig.”
Many goat owners enjoy exhibiting their goats at various club shows and fairs throughout the summer and judges should be licensed for consistency in judging and evaluating dairy goats at these events.
Snyder gave a detailed explanation of the training conference, emphasizing that the first day, or the ‘pre-judge’s training conference’ consists of “everything related to judging being reviewed.”
“This includes knowing the various standards for eight different breeds, as well as general defects and disqualifications, points on the general scorecard, as well as the rules related to the operation of a sanctioned show and the required paperwork, among many other aspects. This takes most of the day and then, if there is time, there is actual practice of judging and evaluating classes of live animals.”
“The second day starts out with a very intense written exam that takes several hours. Then the afternoon consists of more practice judging of several classes of live animals. If the candidate passes the written exam they move on to the next phase on the third day of the conference, where they are required to evaluate and place 11-12 classes of live animals that have been previously judged by a panel of three senior qualified judges.”
Snyder said not only are candidates required to “place” two classes of four goats in a logical order as close as possible to what the panel judges had determined, they also must stand in front of the panel and give a very precise set of oral reasons for the placing of the class, requiring a determined format and correct terminology.
Panel judges are then responsible for determining whether the candidate is qualified and has satisfactorily demonstrated their ability to judge and give oral reasons for their decisions.
Shelley says obtaining a dairy goat judging license is “one of the most rigorous procedures in the country — over all species of animals.”
Snyder agrees, commenting, “This three-day judging course is very intense and rigorous. As a candidate, who is a lawyer in her personal life, said, ‘This is a more intense training than taking the bar exam!’”
Reportedly, fewer than 200 people in the United States and Canada are licensed to judge American Dairy Goat Association officially sanctioned shows for does, kids and bucks.
Snyder reports that the SUNY Cobleskill conference was attended by participants from throughout the east coast, as well as from Texas, New Mexico, Oregon, and several mid-west states.
“Participants absolutely loved the campus environment and learned about some of the opportunities for people to explore career prep opportunities,” commented Shelley.
For more information on becoming an ADGA licensed judge or on sanctioned shows, contact District 2 Director Peter Snyder at 716.863.1317 or