GETTING HIS GOAT: When I was 11, my parents bought a house in Damascus from these people who had a dairy goat. My family thought it was pretty cool, so we asked to keep it. Goats are great: gentle and inquisitive. Next thing you know, my sister Anne and I had begun breeding and showing our own. At one point we had 40 or 50 of them. They're super smart -- we even taught one to shake hands. When I turned 18, I decided to get my goat-judging license from the American Dairy Goat Association.
JUDGES WANTED: I typically do anywhere from four to 15 shows a year, everything from state fairs to small shows sponsored by local dairy goat clubs. I usually make around $200 to $300 for a day of judging, plus expenses. Sometimes my girlfriend comes with me. She gets a kick out of the shows. I do have a full-time job, too -- I'm the co-founder of a Web design and multimedia company. But everyone knows I'm a goat judger. Since the seventh grade, I've been nicknamed "Goat." Even some business associates call me that. It's pretty funny. People also love to buy me stuffed goats.
PERFECT 10: Generally I judge female dairy goats, known as does. A healthy specimen has a strong body, wide chest, clear eyes and a high, well-functioning udder. I examine each goat by hand, but I'm pretty fast, so an age class of eight or 10 goats usually takes me only about 10 minutes. When I'm finished, I'll line them up from first place down and explain on the microphone why I've scored them that way. Each age class has one winner, and the best overall gets Best Doe in Show. People can get pretty competitive -- I've had them get upset or trash-talk other competitors. But they're paying me for my opinion.
ACTING OUT: Every once in a while you'll get a goat who decides to lie down and take a nap in the middle of judging or run around the circle on its hind legs. Goats can't really bite because they don't have upper front teeth, but they do nibble. It's a good thing their owners keep them on a leash.
YOU'RE FIRED: The whole idea behind the judging is to decide whether you should keep the animal. A healthy, strong goat will generate 3,000 to 4,000 pounds of milk per year, and that's where the money is for the owner. If a goat isn't producing, it may need to be culled from the herd.
As told to Michelle Hainer
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