Hours of work are worth it for Brentford goat breeder

Erin Ballard

Jarret Haven isn’t a hair stylist, but he plays one during the Brown County Fair.

Using a blow dryer and hairspray, the 18-year-old put the finishing touches on the four goats he was showing in open class shows.

But the process of preparing for showtime starts long before Haven leads his animals through the ring.

The gig is a year-round venture for Haven and one he’s grown pretty much all on his own. When he was only 11, Haven begged his parents, who are primarily cattle ranchers, to let him show goats in 4-H. They conceded, and what began with only two is today a successful breeding herd of more than 30.

“There’s been a lot of trial and error. There’s a lot of things you’ve got to figure out and now that I’ve been in this for seven or eight years, it feels good that I kind of understand it,” he said. “There was a big learning curve but a lot of that’s normal in breeding goats.”

Haven spends countless hours preparing his goats for show, starting when the kids are born in late January at his Brentford farm.

After they’re weaned from their mothers, Haven gets straight to work, with late summer a target date that looms on even the coldest of March days.

Haven gives his goats special feed every day and exercises them just as often, either by being walked on leashes or roaming freely in corrals. He’ll take them on treks as far as half a mile, keeping them healthy and active so they look their best on the big day.

“I’m trying to get them bigger and that’s a big part of being competitive in the shows,” he said. “A healthy goat is always going to look better in the show ring.”

Before the show, each goat gets a haircut and a bath. On the day of, Haven is up earlier than normal to dole out feed, so they have enough time to eat, settle and relax before the grooming and moving process begins.

That happens about an hour before the show. Haven uses a blow dryer to brush off any wood chips and then spot-checks each animal for hard-to-see dirt and grime. Then it’s styling time, when Haven uses a very strong hairspray to comb up the hair on the goats’ legs, making them appear bigger and perhaps a bit posher.

“It kind of makes the goat a little fancier for show day,” he said.

Even after all the shows are done for the season, Haven’s work isn’t finished. By September, he’s already making plans for next year, deciding which goats he’ll sell, which ones he’ll breed and which will bring home the most awards. It’s a lot of work — hundreds of hours of dedication — for only half a dozen shows, but it’s a passion for Haven. This fall, he hopes to expand his herd and knowledge in farm and ranch management courses at the North Dakota State College of Science.

“I enjoy getting them ready and at the end of the day you get to see this animal that you’ve prepared to show and you can take pride in that,” he said. “I like having that connection with the animal and working with them.”

Jarret Haven of Brentford uses a curry comb to groom a boar goat he has entered at the Brown County Fair. American News photo by John Davis