WINDSOR — By 10 a.m. Sunday, Emily Williams was coaxing her herd of goats, one by one, to parade through an open barn at the Windsor Fair and to show their figures to a judge who was handing out blue, red and white ribbons.
By 2:30 p.m., Williams, 18, got into her car and began driving nearly 200 miles southwest, to the New Hampshire college where she will start studying biology and pre-veterinary medicine this fall.
In fact, the Mount Vernon teenager was supposed to start her studies at Franklin Pierce University a day earlier, but she wasn’t going to miss the Sunday goat show, one of many events held on the opening day of the annual Windsor Fair, which will continue every day through Labor Day.
“I told my college I’d get there as soon as I can,” Williams said, holding on to a nine-month-old billy goat that she was about to bring in for a rotation through the showing barn. “My animals come first.”
A moment later, she realized the show had started — “I’ll be right back!” — and rushed into place with the bleating animal, whose name, Patches of Frosbite, was partly inspired by the Nor’easter that was raging on his birthday last winter.
The goats in the Sunday morning show were all the same breed: Boer goats, which come from South Africa and are raised for their meat, as opposed to their milk. Their most distinguishing feature is their chest, which is more barrel-shaped and bovine than those of other breeds.
“You could say they’re the ‘Angus of goats,’” said Curtis Prime, livestock superintendent of the Windsor Fair, referring to Angus cattle, which are raised for beef production. “They’re thicker and wider.”
Prime has raised Boer goats for about 15 years at his farm, Roseledge Farm, in Augusta. While goats aren’t traditionally thought of for their meat in the U.S. or Canada, he said there’s a growing market for goat meat here. He also noted that a majority of the red meat consumed around the world comes from goats.
“These are really catching on in this country,” Prime said. “They’re readily available around the world, because goats can live in any conditions. They can live in deserts. They can live in jungles. They can eat cactus, flowers or any damn thing, and they can live.”
As the competition proceeded Sunday morning, farmers from around Maine and New England walked their goats through the ring, and a Boer goat farmer who had come from Indiana judged each on a variety of factors, including size and shape. Some of the animals were more obstinate than others, bucking upward, squirming with their heads and nibbling on the clothing of their overseers.
Several generations of Williams’ family had come to the show, including her parents, who own Romp & Stomp Acres Boer Goat Farm in Mount Vernon; and her grandparents, who also raise the goats, in Chelsea. In interviews, they offered glowing but wistful assessments of the fledgling college student, who graduated this year from Maranacook High School.
In some ways, Williams already has been doing the work of veterinarians. She has helped raised her family’s goats for a number of years and shadowed Matthew Townsend, a veterinarian in Fairfield.
“I was fascinated by it,” she said of the work.
For about eight years, she has been learning how to diagnose the diseases affecting her family’s livestock, such as parasites, and give them shots.
She’s also ushered plenty of Boer goats into this world, a task that sometimes involves reaching into the mother goat’s reproductive organs to ensure the fetus is exiting in the correct position and direction. Once the baby goat is out of the womb, the midwife also must make sure that it’s breathing, a task that can involve swinging it around or even delivering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, said Williams’ grandmother, Sherill Hallett.
“For an 18-year-old girl to be doing that, that’s pretty amazing,” Hallett said.
Once, Williams even was forced to deliver a baby goat in the back of her Ford Focus.
“It took me about four months to get it clean,” she said of the resulting mess.
For a couple hours Sunday morning, she walked her goats in laps around the shaded showing barn at the fairgrounds, in friendly competition with the others participants. She wore jeans and a pink rodeo-style shirt, and by the end of the morning, she’d amassed a multicolored collection of ribbons.
Several of her relatives also were competing, including her uncle, Alden Hallett, who at 15, is younger than she. And her grandmother, Sherill Hallett — Alden’s mother — was forced to participate because her family had brought two goats that qualified for one age class.
“As you can see, I wasn’t really prepared,” said Sherill Hallett, referring to her sandals and athletic shorts. Even so, Sherill Hallett managed to win a blue ribbon in her event.
The family members were excited about Williams’ departure to college, but they also said they would miss her. Sherill Hallett said Williams helped her uncle, Alden, come “out of his shell” by teaching him how to raise the stubborn animals.
“He’s kind of shy, so she took him under her wing and taught him showmanship,” Sherill Hallett said.
Williams’ great-grandmother, Caroline Tibbetts, of Chesterville, also came to the fair Sunday and noted, with certainty, that Williams would be coming back to Maine to compete in other shows. Tibbetts also credited her great granddaughter with throwing herself so enthusiastically into a demanding, hands-on industry.
“She’s going to be a vet.” Tibbetts said. “It’s a big deal for us.”
Charles Eichacker — 621-5642