Master Clipping Your Goat for Show
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Clipping a goat for show can be frustrating, confusing, and overwhelming. Learning how to do a good show clip will highlight your animals’ best features.
I will never forget my first dairy showmanship class. The judge commended me on my handling and knowledge but had to place me lower in the class due to an inadequate clipping job. I was thoroughly disappointed, but I am happy to say that I topped all my classes — and clipped my own goats — only a couple of short years later, with compliments on grooming.
Learning how to clip a goat for show properly can be frustrating, confusing, and overwhelming; I know all from experience. It takes trial, error, and some education. Learning how to do a good show clip will highlight your animals’ best features, but it will also leave you feeling empowered and more knowledgeable about your herd.
Before delving into the specifics, remember that all show grooming and clipping highlight your goat’s most important features appropriate to their breed. For example, dairy goat clipping highlights their dairy strength and udder. Then for market goats, it’s about showing off their structure for muscle growth and carcass traits. Essentially, a good clipping allows a judge to see better that animal’s structure, balance, and eye appeal.
The Clipping Fundamentals
Before you even begin clipping your goat, you’ll want to practice a regular grooming habit that keeps the coat and skin healthy and free of dirt. A preliminary washing can help make the coat easier to work with, followed by a post-clipping rinse and scrub to remove any dandruff and excess hair.
If time allows, an informal clip to remove the dense winter coat several weeks or a few months before show season can make a more detailed clipping much more efficient and cleaner. Remember that dirty, mud-caked, and even very oily coats can dull clippers fast and lead to uneven trims. Be sure that your animal is well in advance.
Remember, when scheduling a full body clip, it’s best to do the majority of the job at home a couple of days in advance of the show. (If you are new to clipping, you may want to do this even sooner.) This allows uneven patches and clipper marks to grow and appear less crisp, and it also lessens the stress for yourself and your goat at the show. Remember, you can do touch-ups and fine details around the face, hooves, and tail at the showgrounds.
Clipping your Goat According to Need
If you’ve never clipped a goat before, attending a show and observing a skilled showman clip beforehand can be immensely helpful. In general, goat bodies and fine details are trimmed very short, usually a #10 blade for the body and then something a bit finer for the legs and the face.
For showing market goats, all the emphasis is on the meat cuts. The back, body, and rump should be kept short and clean. Hair from the knees and hocks down is to be kept untrimmed. However, if light-colored hairs are stained, feel free to touch them up with scissors. The head remains unclipped, but you want to transition from the clipped top of the neck and the face as smoothly as possible. Tails also need to be clipped with a neat tuft at the end of the trailhead.
Dairy animals require more delicate detailing to help them maintain a sharp and fine “dairy” profile. Every part of the does body needs to be clipped, with a smooth transition between the body and detailing on the face and legs. You want the udders to be as hair-free as possible. Some people use a very fine #50 trimmer blade for this, but plenty of dairy showmen will simply (and very carefully) use a disposable razor and shaving cream.
When it comes to doing the fine detail work on dairy or market goats, it’s usually best to use a smaller pair of clippers with smaller blades to maneuver easily around ears, hooves, and tails. A cheap human-grade one works very well for this if you don’t want to invest in another livestock set.
Once you’ve finished any touch-ups before a show, don’t forget to brush off any loose hairs for a crisp, clean finish. And of course, always remember to clean hooves, eyes, ears, and under the tail,
Goat grooming is a relatively simple process, and it doesn’t require an entire inventory of expensive products or weeks of hard labor. However, to help your animals put their best hooves forward, you want to take the time and effort to do your clipping job as best as it can be. Like all skills, clipping takes more than a few tries to become a pro, but each animal you work with will teach you more and hone your talent.
Harbour, M. (n.d.). How To Clip Your Goat. Weaver Livestock. Retrieved January 12, 2022, from https://www.thewinnersbrand.com/protips/goats/how-to-clip-a-goat
Kunjappu, M. (2017, August 3). A fitting plan: How to get goats ready to shine in the show ring. Lancaster Farming. Retrieved January 12, 2022, from https://www.lancasterfarming.com/farm_life/fairs_and_shows/a-fitting-plan-how-to-get-goats-ready-to-shine-in-the-show-ring/article_67b3b67f-c350-59bb-af5f-afcab69370e3.html
“Goat Clipping: How to Clip a Goat for Show, Linear Appraisal, Photos and Summer Comfort.” Lone Feather Farm, Lone Feather Farm, 13 Sept. 2020, https://lonefeatherfarm.com/blog/goat-clipping-how-to-clip-a-goat-for-show-linear-appraisal-photos-and-summer-comfort.
SUWANNEE RIVER YOUTH LIVESTOCK SHOW AND SALE. (n.d.). Dairy Goat Handbook Training and Fitting. Florida. https://mysrf.org/pdf/pdf_dairy/goat_handbook/dg7.pdf
Originally published in the July/August 2022 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.