How do you raise better animals?  You have to be critical of your own stock.  It is a requirement that you be able to look at your stuff, go “I raised how many premium sale goats last year?”, then pop a top and go “That wasn’t enough.”  Then answer the question, “What do we have to do to keep moving forward?”  Some would use the term progressive.  The Dragon Lady would just call me a dumb ass and nobody would argue with her.

     If you own a herd, you shouldn’t rely on an adviser to make your decisions.  They should just “advise”.  Not make the decisions.  If you are paying somebody for advice, you need to feel like you are getting you’re money’s worth.  If not, make a change.  You have to be critical.  I do, however, believe in a “marketer”.  They are different and should be treated differently.  Pay the advisor what they are worth.  There is a damn short list of people in the goat world that should be paid to be an advisor.  Pay the “marketer” a  commission.  You won’t have to question a good advisor and you pay a good marketer what they earned.  

      If you have a herd and most of your wins are coming from other areas than your home area, then something is wrong.  That means nobody within that 150 mile radius wants to mess with your stuff.  Why?  That is the question you need to ask.  And you need to ask it of the people that do the most buying/winning in your area.  Likewise, if all of your wins are within a small radius, then there are issues.  I look at my little deal around here.  To be critical, I have a very strong, somewhat local following.  No cult.  But, I don’t sell a pile outside of that circle.  This means that I provide real good advice to those near me and do a piss-poor job of marketing my stuff outside of that small circle.  I can be critical of myself and my stock.  

      I am very good at being critical of people, livestock and most of all, myself.  If you want to know what I am good at, just ask me, I will probably tell you.  If you want to know what I am not good at, then watch me, ask me or listen to those around me.  I’m working to fix it.  (Well, some of it is just plain old unrepairable, and I have learned how to live with it, the rest, I will take care of.)  And if you are really brave, ask me what I think about stuff.  Then, stuff goes sideways.  

      It is hard for most to be self-critical.  Why?  I don’t know.  I feel that everybody should be able to crtiticize themselves.  Know your strengths, know your weaknesses.  Then deal with it.  Show animals are the same.  Know what a judge wants, then feed/select towards that tendency.  If a judge will NOT use an animal that doesn’t walk wide, don’t start with a narrow based critter.  If they like pretty, bring ’em a runway model, smoking hot son-of-a-gun.  Do NOT sit at your pens pumping yourself up about one that isn’t good enough.  Don’t get barn blind.  So what if you paid a pile.  The highest-priced goat that I bought in 2012 placed 11th at OYE.  So what?  Did I go back to that breeder?  Hell, yes.  I saw the faults when the goat was little, but I got blinded because I had my head up my ass.  I see it now.  Lesson learned.  Be self-critical and decide if you have the right stuff.  (That was a good movie–the Right Stuff)

       This critical part is something that I wrestle with.  I price animals how I see them, not what I think they are worth on the open market.  I don’t want to hang it in somebody just to make a dollar.  I should, but I don’t.  On the other hand, I am damn sure in the minority.  I may not be well liked, but I have the BEST group of feeders and showmen, plus my checks always cash.  And because some of us will spend some money, most breeders want to JACKPOT when we are there.  I can name a short, very eff-ing short, list of breeders that have dealt me WAY fair when buying goats—Sonny Wagner ( if you don’t know him then you should), Kenneth Helms and Jared Schneberger.  There are others, but these three have done it right in my mind.  The rest have just wanted a check, the biggest check possible.  And I have written BIG checks to all of three of these clowns, but they are in it for the kids, more than the dollar.  Therefore, they will get more of my dollars.  Why?  Because I am not critical of whether they are in love with the $ or good kids, showing good goats.  They get it.  

      I don’t go running to get in pictures of all the winners that we have.  Why?  Probably, because I need a better marketer.  That, and I only run when being chased.  My wife should just stand at the backdrop and get in the pictures.  Every picture that she is in, looks better.  And to be critical, me, holding a banner just doesn’t look right.  A can…yeah.  

      There are several breeders that have agreed to a sale price on a goat, then when I get the goat and have time to properly evaluate said animal, I have paid more than what I agreed to.  Go dig through the archives to find how many others will do that?  Likewise, it has been pretty rare when a breeder has said, ” Yeah, he looks shit sorry now.  You don’t owe me for that one.” Rare, yes.  But, it has happened.  

      As a buyer of fine goats, if you get a chance to sell to a good feeder.  Don’t look at the $ signs.  I am being critical, now:  Pull your head out of your donkey and price it fair.  If it is dang sure a good one, they will come back.  If not, be critical and buy better breeding stock so that they will buy next time.  Ask why they didn’t buy and don’t be hurt when they tell you the truth.  Use the term critical as a learning tool.  

      As a breeder, if a good feeder comes by do NOT price it higher.  Figure the least amount you will take and get it in the right hands.  Step back, be critical and then make a decision.  If you know they are going to F it up.  Then jack the price up.  Like Sonny Wagner, if you know they will get it done, then deal with it like this,  “HELL, Kela, you can just have that damn goat as long as your dad doesn’t get credit for buying it.”   I love it.  I can deal with that kind all week long.  

     Likewise, if you have had success, then be critical of who helped with your success.  If you have had help from somebody and had success, asky yourself why?  If you have not had to write that person a check, but yet, you are willing to spend/bid a pile of cash from another breeder, do not expect help from your original helper.  Some would call it burning bridges, some would call it being a dumb ass.  It gets more expensive in the long run.  Why?  Be critical of yourself and the answers lie within.