KINGFISHER — Carson Lough is an early riser. And that's a good thing, considering he has five hungry mouths to feed every morning.
Carson, 17, is active in Hennessey High School's agriculture program and raises goats. He and his brother, Garrett, 11, will show the fruits of their labor during the Kingfisher Junior Livestock Show this weekend.
The family doesn't live on a farm, so Carson gets up every morning before school and drives to the property where the goats are kept. His father, Luke Lough, checks on them at noon, and Garrett handles the evening meals.
On weekend mornings, Dad lets his sons sleep in, and he checks on the animals himself.
Agriculture is a strong part of Hennessey High School's culture. Luke Lough was active in agriculture when he was growing up.
“There aren't as many farms as there once was, and kids today have a lot of choices as far as sports and other things that they didn't have when I was their age,” he said.
The goats are a family effort.
The boys' mother, Kathy Lough, helps take care of them and is their biggest cheerleader at shows.
“There is a real value that comes from taking care of the animals,” Kathy Lough said. “You want your kids to be responsible. There is also the recognition and the sense of accomplishment they get from doing well.”
It's also fairly competitive. While there aren't traditional rivalries between schools as in sports, there are agriculture programs that stand out for the quality of their stock. When the boys get in the show barn they are there to win.
“As far as competing, it's a lot like basketball,” Carson said. “You're competing against other people. There aren't a lot of rivalries, but there are certain people that you know will have good goats and bring their A game.”
The goats are judged much like a horse would be at a horse show or a dog at Westminster. Appearance is critical.
The Loughs show Boer goats, which are native to Africa but common in the United States today.
“A good goat will carry a lot of muscle and have good width in his chest,” Luke Lough said. “There are a bunch of traits they are looking for.”
The family started out raising hogs but switched to goats for the sake of economy. The goats eat feed made by Purina that comes in pellet form. The hogs ate a lot more.
“It costs so much to feed a hog,” Luke Lough said. “They can eat their weight in feed in a few days. They eat four times what a goat does. Beyond that, every year there is a different criteria for judging of the hogs at shows. Goats are more steady and easier to predict.”
Not that goat behavior is easy to predict.
“They all have different personalities,” Carson said. “Some of them can be bums to train. They won't do anything you want them to.”
But even with the occasional cantankerous personality, the family can get attached to them.
Not every goat gets a name, but a few have. This year there is a male named Oscar. Last year there were females the family dubbed Dolly and Reba.
“A lot of it depends on how cooperative they are whether you like them or not,” Carson said. “But most of the time they do what they're supposed to do. You can get attached because you are spending a lot of time with them.”
Looking for a repeat
Carson won reserve grand champion at the Oklahoma Youth Expo in Oklahoma City last March.
He's going for a repeat next month.
“You want them to succeed and do well,” Kathy Lough said. “At the show, the longer they are in the ring the better, and it just gets more nerve-wracking as the time goes on. You just have your fingers crossed the whole time.”
This will be the last Kingfisher Junior Livestock Show for Carson. He's set to graduate this spring and will then be off to Oklahoma State University to study engineering.
“It's something that will be tough to give up,” he said. “I know I'll miss it for awhile, but at some point you have to move on to something else.”
IF YOU GO
82nd annual Kingfisher Junior Livestock Show
• When: Saturday through Monday.
• Where: MAC Center at Kingfisher County Fairgrounds, 300 S 13th in Kingfisher.