My venture in dairy goats started in 1970 when my parents acquired two "overgrown petting zoo nanny goats" from the petting zoo of what is now known as Darien Lake Amusement Park in Darien, New York. The family enjoyed those first two goats known and "Nanny" and "Patches" and we began the search for a few more. This was back in the day when people who owned "registered" goats were far and few between. There were no goat clubs in the area at the time where those interested in goats could connect. So by word of mouth we looked for registered goats all over western and central New York. I remember those first goats were alpines, nubians and toggenburgs from breeders like June Meacham, Walter Rochna, Murray Laubach, Anna Neinhart, Dave Funk, and Dick and Ellie Koziarski as well as a few others they managed to find here and there. The personal friendships made and developed with several of these early breeders continues through today! My parents registered the herdname "Bittersweet" and are ADGA lifetime members. I eventually chose the herd prefix "Brookwood" for the beautiful 55 acres of woodlands and brooks, creeks and ravines that encompass the farm. The herd has for many years now consisted solely of alpines, lamanchas and Nubians and has been on DHIR test at several points over the years as well as being linear appraised regularly.
After getting to know many of the other breeders in the area, they decided to form an organized goat club and the Niagara Frontier Dairy Goat Association was born. Several had been members of the long defunct Western New York Dairy Goat Association whose majority of members were from Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties............quite a distance for many to drive just to attend a meeting. Soon after the NFDGA was formed the group decided to lobby the Erie County Fair to allow goats to be exhibited. The first show and exhibition for dairy goats was held at the Erie County Fair in 1975. My family has exhibited our dairy goats there every year since.......47 years in 2023!!
In 1976 my parents went on a goat buying trip to Ohio with Murray and Shirley Laubach. They surprised me when they arrived home with my very first lamancha doe. Her name was Cloverlyne B-J Bold One and she was 50% lamancha. The only other lamanchas in the area at the time were the small Marshmeadow herd owned by Al and Sue Hyldahl in Frewsburg, so my little earless goat was pretty unique. I worked with this little doe for several years and then I was able to purchase a purebred buck and doe from June Meacham. The buck was "Silly Sumo's Chipper" originally from a herd in Oregon and the doe was "Playfair Starsong Lily" from the famous Playfair herd in California. ( I still have semen in the tank from a son of these first 2 original animals). In 1986 I was able to purchase the most influential buck I have ever owned, "++*B Quixote Shyla's Xcelsior" from Barbara and Rex Backus in California. In his time, Xcelsior sired at least 12 permanent champion daughters. It was a Chipper granddaughter/Xcelsior daughter that became known as "GCH Brookwood Xcelsior Yolanda 2*M EX91", a two-time CGS national champion and a multiple Best in Show winner all over the northeast who lived to be 16 years old!.............a doe many breeders still talk about today and who is the subject of my herd logo. With the dispersal of Sue Hyldahl's "Marshmeadow" herd a few years ago, I now believe that I have the oldest lamancha herd in New York state, started in 1976.
As the years went by, the rest of the family's interest in the goats waned while my interest and enjoyment of the goats increased. I took over responsibility of the goats and eventually it all became my project although I cannot forget the support of family when it came time to make hay every year and all the milking and chores done while I was away traveling to the many shows, whether showing or judging,, the conventions, as well as the time away at college and those early years as I began my job away from home with the NYS Department of Corrections.
My judging career started unexpectedly when I attended the 4-H show at the Wyoming County Fair, right after finishing college and my 4-H years. I was in the stands patiently waiting for the show to start. All the young 4-Her's were at ring side, all dressed in their whites, starting to get impatient when the judge didn't arrive by the time the show was scheduled to start. They waited a while and then the 4-H agent Larry Rogers came up into the stands and asked me if I would judge the show for him. I told him no and that I wasn't really comfortable with it. He walked away and soon after came back and begged me to judge the show.....and he wasn't going to take no for an answer. So reluctantly I went down and judged my first show.............and as they say "The rest is history"! I still sometimes see Larry at the NYS Fair and we laugh at that long ago experience and he is always interested in what exciting places I have been to recently in my judging travels. Not long after that, my long-time Canadian friend Grant Howley came for a visit. He urged me to come to Ontario and try for my CGS license at a CGS judging conference that was going to be held soon after. As is my nature, I didn't do any studying until the night before the test when I thought to myself "I can't go home and tell everyone I failed!". I studied and memorized all that was expected to be on the test...........and passed......and have passed every one since. My very first Canadian judging assignment (and airplane ride) was at the Atlantic Winter Fair in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I was scared to death but also very excited to travel that far away from home on a plane, but I did it and it all turned out well. I held my CGS license for a few years and then decided to try for my ADGA license. I attended my very first ADGA TC at the convention in Little Rock, Arkansas. I still remember the panel.......Steve Considine, Doug Thompson and Allen Bitter. I was petrified but they passed me and I accepted my very first ADGA judging assignment for a show in Contoocook, New Hampshire. I remember that day vividly. It was a cold, rainy and blustery day but I was so excited to see so many herds that I had only seen and read about in the magazines. My very first best in show was a beautiful alpine doe from Cathy Mabie's Roeburn herd. I remember the other herds that were there were Chateau Briant, Fox's Pride, Jesta Farm and Tansy Hill among others. That was just the beginning of a very exciting and enjoyable judging career that has allowed me to travel to 49 states (just missing Hawaii), all over Canada, as well as Mexico, Australia and New Zealand! The epitomy of my career has been being invited to judge four ADGA national shows...........as well as the national shows in Canada and Mexico! I attained my Advanced judge status many years ago and now frequently serve on the licensing panel at many TC's. I have served as the NYSDGBA president as well as the ADGA district II director for several terms and I greatly enjoy working with the local members and organizing events and helping to guide our national association.
One of the most exciting experiences I have had has been assisting Sheila Nixon in working with Mexican farmers and dairymen and educating them in judging selection and appraisal to help them improve the dairy goats in their country. It is such a rewarding, yet humbling, experience to work with these men, who I later found out, were all wealthy landowners, veterinarians, politicians and government representatives! It is gratifying to see how excited they get and how eager they are to learn, and how grateful they are for our sharing of our knowledge. The other most recent experience has been working with Australian breeders and helping them to select new American genetics that they are importing via frozen semen and embryos. The process is a very exciting and tedious one............and very expensive! I am very proud that I was able to be a part in getting the very first lamanchas on the Australian continent!
Who ever would have thought that my goats would have enabled this country bumpkin to travel to 49 states, many foreign countries and making so many friends that I consider "family" all over the world, as well the opportunity to see and experience so many exciting and wonderful places throughout our country, as well as ALL OVER THE WORLD! My goat hobby is pretty amazing!! I will be forever thankful to these wonderful little creatures!
Brookwood dairy goats
759 Clinton St.
Cowlesville, New York 14037