Why nothing gets Olivia King's goat
The pygmy goat section may run smoothly under Olivia King’s stewardship, but things aren’t so straightforward when it comes to keeping 11 of these comic creatures whose Houdini tendencies can get them into trouble
How long has your family owned goats?
Ten years. We started with two, Buffy and Willow, who we purchased from Crealy Great Adventure Parks.
Pygmy goats make you smile every day. There’s always something new happening and they all have very distinct and fun personalities.
What prompted your first purchases?
We bought some land that hadn’t had animals grazing on it for many years, so it was a little out of control. We went to the Royal Bath and West Show, walked into the Pygmy goat tent, said: “Aww, how cute”, asked the owner what they ate and when he said nettles and brambles we knew they were the right animals for us.
What he didn’t tell us was that every pygmy goat is genetically related to Houdini and that they eat trees as well. By the time we found that out, we were already addicted to them.
How many do you have now?
Eleven. Willow, her son Panda, Beauty, Nina (Buffy’s daughter), Lassie, Rose and her twins Dai and Opal, Victoria and her son Teddy and Hedd — which is the Welsh name for peace, except he’s not very peaceful. When Dai was born (by Caesarean) a friend spent 25 minutes rubbing his chest and giving him mouth to mouth before he took his first breath.
What kind of antics do they get up to?
Buffy used to escape during the day by jumping out of the enclosure and then jumping back in before we got home. We only discovered this because our neighbour told us. The first time we went to a show everybody else’s goats behaved beautifully, but ours kept jumping out of their pens. We needed extra hurdles to keep them in. At one show, during a demonstration, one of our goats ate half the script. We taught Nina to jump on people’s backs whenever they kneel down. Several people have had quite a surprise.
What do you do with them?
We show them and also do demonstrations, giving talks on the history of pygmys, goat keeping and generally telling funny stories. Charity events are quite similar and people can even meet, greet, feed and walk them.
What has been your greatest show success?
Funnily enough, winning Best In Show at Frome Show.
When did you begin organising the pygmy section at Frome Show?
I took over from Pam Germany in 2014, when we organised the section together, so last year was my first time by myself. I did ring her a couple times just to make sure I was doing the right thing.
What does the job involve?
I start by distributing the schedules to potential exhibitors and then I compile entries into the catalogue once I receive completed entry forms. I also organise my own stewards. The day before the show I visit the site and meet with Sue and Brian Head chief stewards of the dairy goat section, who kindly put up pens inside the pygmy tent for me. I then label them all, organise a ‘tea room’ in a corner of the tent, remembering to include lots of cake. I collect the rosettes, prize-money and cards from the show office, do lots of admin and greet any exhibitors. I then set up a bed in the back of my car and go to sleep so that I can wake up early on show day. On the day itself I organise the judge’s table in the ring, set up a bowl of soapy water for their hand washing, greet the exhibitors and generally make sure everyone is having a happy time.
How many entries do you receive?
What do you love about organising the section?
A sense of pride when it all comes together. I also love the community feel of the pygmy goat section at the show.
Why should goat owners bring their pygmies to Frome show?
It’s a friendly show. It isn’t overly formal and so there isn’t a great deal of pressure. It’s the community feel that makes it special, with everybody working together and helping each other and generally just having fun. Don’t get me wrong, it still retains the formality of a more competitive show, but being one of the last of the season it also provides a good opportunity to catch up with fellow exhibitors before everyone hibernates for six months.
What plans do you have for the pygmy section this year?
To repeat the success of the last two years, hope that everything goes smoothly and ensure that I remember to book a judge. I’m joking.
Besides looking after goats, what else do you do?
I attend Weston College, where I’m studying level 3 animal management, and I work part time as a customer service assistant at a Co-Op store.