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Queen for a day at the fair

Annie’s Belle was a pretty goat, but she’d never been to the big city.

The entirety of her short life had been spent nibbling scrub brush at the Lazy U in Athol, Idaho. All that changed Tuesday after her owner, Vicki Upchurch, entered the doe in the best of breed competition for Boer goats at the Spokane County Interstate Fair.

Annie’s Belle turned out to be more than a tin-can glimmer in a ram’s eye. She won grand prize.

If her story stopped there, the sturdy doe’s accomplishments would be a 10-word blurb in a fair program. It doesn’t because of a worldly goat named SFB Odette who showed up at the Interstate fair with three championships and several county fairs under her collar.

The doe from Shelley, Idaho, was major league. Annie’s Belle was strictly farm team.

“She’s been to 10 fairs since May,” said Upchurch of Odette after the battle.

A clause in the rules for show goats allows a proven champion like Odette with at least three titles to skip competing with a full field of entrants and instead, go straight for the newly crowned champion.

Odette threw down the challenge and won. The newcomer from Athol learned that away from the farm, they don’t treat you like a kid.

“It’s very competitive,” said Debby O’Brian, judge of Tuesday’s competition.

As the entrants lined up with their backsides poking out for inspection, O’Brian passed by each animal, while speaking into a microphone.

“This goat says ‘I can reproduce. I have the quality. I’m the doe every buck wants to meet,” said O’Brian, circling a competitor.

It’s a lot like a beauty pageant, with traces of gymnastics and professional wrestling thrown in for good measure.

Young goats get points for being light on their feet and for their gracefulness. The goat that stands tiptoe like a cloven ballerina scores big style points. Older competitors get points for being full-bodied, female adults. And title ribbons are abundant; professional boxing has fewer grand champions.

A big motivator for all the fanfare is money. SFB Odette’s owner, Alesia Sterner, said contest recognition pushes up the value of her breeding stock. Her 70 animals are mostly sold to other ranchers who raise the animals for meat.

Americans aren’t big on goat meat, but for 90 percent of the world’s meat consumers, goat is what’s for dinner, O’Brian and Sterner said.

As goats go, Boers are an exceptional breed. Originating from the South African plains, they’re built for the hard life. Their black skin and white fur deflects the sun much like a polar bear. The animals are disease tolerant and built to run away from fast predators like cheetahs, O’Brian said.

Upchurch said her goats can give birth in the snow with a low mortality rate, unlike dairy goats that have to be brought inside. They’re more than a pretty face.

The goats are on display throughout the week at the Spokane Interstate Fair, which is actually seeing a boost in attendance despite cooler weather, according to fair spokeswoman Dolly Hughes. The fair ends Sunday.



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