Goat showing is becoming increasingly popular following the revival of a Northland club. Reporter Jenny Ling visits the farming couple who are bringing goats back to the show ring and discovers they're not kidding around.
If there's one thing that worries Royce Broome it's seeing a lone goat tethered to a rope on the roadside.
Though quietly spoken, the retired shepherd isn't shy about spreading some animal welfare knowledge he's learned over his lifetime.
He and his wife Stephanie will often seek out the owners and offer them a bit of friendly advice.
"Every time I look at an animal tied up anywhere, I automatically think, have they got water and shelter, are they too close to cars...
"A lot is just ignorance on their part. We'll give them a few more clues on shelter or ask them to secure the bucket of water so it doesn't get tipped over. It's all about their safety. If people are buying a goat, there are so many things to consider."
There are also many things to consider when visiting this Northland couple who have dedicated their retirement years to a tribe of goats.
Number one: Don't put your hand through an electric fence to pat the cute baby goats.
Number two: Don't be surprised when they jump up to greet you as a dog would.
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Number three: Don't wear good clothes because goats like to nibble on shirts, skirts and handbags.
The Broomes live and breathe goats.
They have 50 of them grazing on their 7ha farm called Broomehill Goats in Whananaki. Most are dairy goats and their kids, and there are several males which are used for breeding.
The couple are at their modest milking shed every morning, milking and feeding the does, checking on the bucks, and bottle feeding the kids who afterwards merrily vault over logs, planks and tractor tyres set up in their paddock like a playground.
Later the couple will get stuck into some paperwork which includes organising events for the Far North Goat Club they recently revived after it lay dormant for a decade.
With 10 members in the Whangarei and surrounding areas, and members in Kaikohe and Waipu, the club is going great guns.
Royce and Stephanie helped bring goat showing back to the Whangarei A & P show, where 50 entries turned out in December.
The aim of the club is "to support people with goats" along with improving their animal welfare through educational social events.
"There's a lot of pet goats out there, the club is as interested in pet goats as pure breed registered stock," Royce, who is president, said.
"A lot of people don't know how to trim their hooves or how to drench for worms. Or how to help them overcome bad habits or contain them with fencing or how much food they get."
The Broomes moved to Northland in 1996; first Otaika then Whananaki to a property covered in pine trees, gorse and blackberry bushes.
They began goat farming six years ago by rescuing 12 goats from a farm that went bust in Wellsford.
Among them, a 9-year-old doe called Queen Bee, the "sweetest, most adorable, snugly goat ever".
The gorse and blackberry bushes soon disappeared, and secure fencing was installed to contain the notorious escape artists.
"This paddock had gorse in it as high as Royce," Stephanie said.
"Now all that's left is a pile of sticks."
The Broomes gradually added to their herd of Toggenburg and Nubians and began to breed them seriously.
With Royce's background as a shepherd who worked in the King Country, Rotorua, Taupō and Northland all his life, taking care of goats came as second nature.
"We thought, if we're going to play with goats, let's play with pedigree goats," Stephanie said.
Now all their goats are Toggenburgs and "Tog crosses", a dairy goat originally from the Toggenburg Valley of Switzerland.
The smallest of dairy breeds, they are known for producing quality A2 homogenised milk and cheese, and in New Zealand are on the rare breed list, according to the Rare Breeds Conservation Society of New Zealand.
All the Broome's goats have distinct personalities, and each one has a name.
There's Sarah, who's "sweet, cuddly and personable", Little Millie who's "extra gentle", and Acorn who "hates being away from people".
Sisi is the "class clown", Xyla is the "trouble child" and Jenny "always tests the boundaries".
As for Sharon, "when it's her turn for milking she's very enthusiastic."
All are dubbed "pocket goats" due to the close bonds they form with their owners.
"They love lots of cuddles," Stephanie said.
"They're extremely entertaining and mischievous. They're like big puppy dogs.
"Most farmers have to drive their animals around the paddock, but these will follow you around.
"They want to be so close to you all the time, not like sheep and cattle who are off doing their own thing. Goats are more in your pocket, they love attention."
The Broome's goats are registered with the New Zealand Dairy Goat Breeders Association, of which they are also members.
Before goats came along, they bred and showed English springer spaniels and Maltese dogs for 20 years while living in Taupō. They have also shown miniature and Welsh ponies.
But now they have dozens of ribbons from showing their goats all over Northland and north Auckland.
At Whangarei they won champion buck with Highview Panorama, along with champion AR [associate registry] doe, best AR doe, best udder, reserve champion buck and reserve champion AR young stock.
What makes their goats special is they're so tame; the does are milked once a day and that's hand-fed back to their babies, which ensures even distribution while making them easy to handle.
This makes them perfect for children wanting kids for calf club which is on the increase following the outbreak of Mycoplasma bovis.
The Broome's 13-year-old grandson Kodi Finlayson has been showing kid goats for three years now, using animals from his grandparent's farm.
Kodi, who attends Matarau School, has won at least 10 ribbons.
In 2018 he won champion goat with Victor and he is currently teamed up with Zena.
Whananaki South resident Rachael Gibbins is also mad about goats.
The 18-year-old has been showing them for eight years after her sister kicked off a trend by bringing one home for calf club.
Now the whole family is involved, her sister has three, her brother has one and her mum has a dozen alpine goats.
Rachael has now started breeding them and has over a dozen Toggenburgs and Sables.
She and Foldedhills Prince Caspian won a slew of ribbons at the Whangarei A & P Show including grand champion buck and champion challenge buck and best male in show.
She's had her prize goat since he was 2-weeks-old.
"Now he's five and is really cuddly," she said.
"I get a really good bond with them and I just enjoy showing them. I'm quite good friends with my goats."
Dairy goat ring co-ordinator chief steward Teresa Atkins breeds Nubian dairy goats from her Waipu lifestyle block where she also makes goat milk soap.
There is increasing interest in goat showing, and the animals are popular with lifestyle block owners, she said.
About 80 per cent of Royal A & P Society shows in New Zealand have goat categories, and there are loads of club level ribbon days as well, she said.
"It is becoming more popular," Atkins said.
"Because of their size, manner and character, they're a fun animal to have. They're very charismatic. The capacity of the milk, that a goat gives, and the versatility; you can make goat cheese and soap, and the milk is very low in lactose."
The Broomes and other Far North Goat Club members will be showing their goats at Paparoa A&P Show on February 1.
The next open day will be held in Waipu in March and will cover milking, cheese and soap making and udder health.
Retirement was never meant to be this busy for the Broomes, but they wouldn't have it any other way.
"It's always full on and there's always another job that needs doing," Royce said.
"By the same token it's totally enjoyable and we get a lot of satisfaction out of it. The goats are a typical animal; they give all the time and don't expect anything in return. It's unconditional love."
The Broome's top goat care tips:
• Good fencing: Needs to be better than average; electric fencing helps.
• Entertainment: Provide goats with things to climb on; planks, logs, tractor tyres, old car canopies and big rocks.
• Varied diet: They prefer long grass and like a range of foods including privet, hay, gorse, silage and carrot weed.
• Hoof care: Is paramount as they're prone to problems.
• Drenching: The more goats you have the more often you need to drench.
• Company: Goats are gregarious animals.