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Real-life Experiences with Goat Fencing

 
pollinator
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I've milked a few goats when I was a kid and I've also eaten goat a few times.  That's the sum of my experience with goats.  They seem to be perfect for clearing brush and that's what I've got an acre + of, but all I ever hear about goats is that they are hell on fences and get out of fences seemingly at will.  I'd like to get goats to deal with my brush and to give me meat and (I keep saying I don't want dairy...)milk.  I'll have to put up some sort of fencing through the brush to deliniate my land from the neighbours, and I'll need to keep them away from any bushes that I'd like to keep.  

What kind of fencing do I need to get started with goats?  What will keep them off of select trees or bushes within the paddock?  Also, what do I need to provide for a shelter and main paddock fence for, say, 6-8 goats in the summer/fall and what would I need for a shelter in the Canadian winter?  Also, with 2-3 acres of land, how many goats would a good goater get?
 
pollinator
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This is not what you asked but in the interest of having neighbors.... we lived next door to a family with a few goats and about 3 acres. The ram, though he was as far as he could be from our house, was still fabulously smelly and I remember my parents discussing legal action (which was preposterous, we lived a mile away from a dairy operation, but this is what happens when city people move to the country). Maybe think about prevailing wind direction if you've got difficult neighbors.
 
Timothy Markus
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Very good point, but I'll be the first on the land and I'll have to see if/when they show up.  I hope to use this land as a springboard to a larger piece, so I'll re-evaluate as time goes on.  

Realistically, though, if everyone who bought a plot of the sub-divided land showed up and started living there, the population density would increase 5-10 fold.  Also, it's zoned ag, not that I'd want to be a dick about it.

edited for speeling
 
Tereza Okava
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Oh good. That was what it came down to with my family, the goats were there before we got there, and it was farmland, so it was just a question of either dealing with it or being a jerk. Luckily they chose to not be a jerk, though it seems that is less common of a talent these days!
Hope you have fun (and success) with your goats!
 
Posts: 63
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Electric wire is your friend. The problem with goats is that they're born to climb so anything you put up, they will use for a ladder which over time can destroy nearly anything. My goats stay inside 36" woven wire with an electric line at the top and one near the bottom. The electric wires keep them from leaning over or crawling under the woven wire. When I have tried to use just electric wire, they scooted through too quickly to get shocked. If you want portable, electric netting is pretty cool, though it's not cheap and I wouldn't trust it as a permanent fence. If you don't have an electric option, then something sturdy - wood or livestock panels, maybe, so it doesn't bend when they stand on it. Keeping them off select trees is a tough one since anything you put around the tree they will use for a step stool to reach higher in the tree. I've never come up with anything truly effective. On the other hand, if it's mature enough to have branches out of reach, something solid around the base (pallets? Panels?) to keep them from girdling it, will at least keep it alive if not pretty. My own compromise is that I keep them out of my trees during the winter - during the summer they are happy enough with leaves and weeds, it's in the winter that I notice that they start in on the bark. Probably the most important thing with fencing, is to do it right (or as right as possible) the first time. The worst goats on fencing that I've dealt with are the ones who started out in inadequate fencing so they learned that getting out is possible. They try a lot harder if they think they might succeed.

Dry and well ventilated is important for goats. My own shelter is just a lean-to on the south side of my barn. My climate (Pac NW) is a lot warmer than yours though. But they are pretty cold-tolerant assuming they are locally adapted and well-fed. And dry. They are apparently made of sugar, or something else that melts when it gets wet, judging from the drama that ensues in my field every time it starts to rain... Goats also have comparatively high mineral requirements. If they are only eating brush, probably a block is ok but if they are making babies or milk, you want a loose, goat-specific mineral. They also do not generally have great parasite resistance. Their natural eating habits work well to prevent over-infestation, as long as they have plenty of browse they rarely eat close enough to the ground to pick much up but it's something to be aware of, when you're feeding hay in the winter, for instance.
 
Timothy Markus
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A Philipsen wrote: My climate (Pac NW) is a lot warmer than yours though.



No need to brag  Thanks for the detailed response.  I hope it isn't an abuse of power (it would be my first taste of real power) to award you an apple for a great answer to my question.  I've mostly had experience with cows, so I totally get the need to make sure they respect fencing from the start.  I'd like to give them a small sacrificial paddock with a physical fence and an electric fence with cans to train them to fencing.  What about circling trees with electric netting?  Would that work?  
 
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Timothy Markus wrote:What kind of fencing do I need to get started with goats?


Goats like to put their front hooves onto fences, putting some weight on them, so the fencing either needs to be very strong, or have electric wires on the top, and fence posts need to be spaced quite closely.

Here for goats 8/90/30 or 8/90/15 fencing is recommended (90cm (3') high, with 8 strands of horizontal wire in this and 15cm (6") spacing in between vertical wires - this fencing is designed so that the goats can't escape in or get their horns tangled), one or two lines of electric or barbed wire need to be above this to bring the fence height to at least 115cm (3.7 feet) high, so that the goats can't leap over the top, several strands of wire can be used instead (one book I read recommended seven strands), but this is more labour intensive to install, and if one of these lines slackens slightly, the goat can often find a way out in between them or get their horns tangled.

What will keep them off of select trees or bushes within the paddock?


I'd probably use 4 pallets, or quite a wide circle of fencing around these trees. The goats will be able to get their hooves on top of the pallets and eat some of the leaves, but they won't be able to damage the trunk. With a circle of fencing you can make it wide enough so that they can't reach any of it. If you haven't planted trees already, a good strategy would be to design it so that the trees are in rows that can then be easily fenced in as a strip together.

Also, what do I need to provide for a shelter and main paddock fence for, say, 6-8 goats in the summer/fall and what would I need for a shelter in the Canadian winter?


I'd allow a minimum 1 square metre (11 square feet) for every goat (keeping in mind that you'll need to provide space for the kids/meat goats as well as the full-time breeding herd), plus a bit extra so that none of them get bullied out of it by mean goats. A 3 sided shelter, positioned so that it's out of the prevailing wind direction will be fine for most of the year. I don't know much about Canadian winters, but goats can generally tolerate the cold, they just really need to be kept out of the rain and wind, so draught-proofing the shelter will be important, as well as making sure that wind and snow isn't going to blow in there. There will need to be some ventilation in the shelter if it's going to be shut in cold weather, usually vents high up on the walls are a good idea for this.

Also, with 2-3 acres of land, how many goats would a good goater get?


Good question! I would just start small, and if you want them to eat specific areas down then I'd rotate them more intensely in these areas. Some figures I've read say that you need 1/4 acre to feed each goat, but so much depends on what food is available, rainfall, growing season, and whether you're bringing in winter feed for them that I'm sceptical of a specific answer like this one and would just start small, with two or three of them, observe their impact on the land and their food needs, and grow the herd if it looks like the land will provide for them. Alternatively, you could get a lot of goats to begin with, let them gobble up the areas you most want cleared, harvesting their meat as you go, and reduce the herd size this way to what your land will sustain in the long-term.
 
Timothy Markus
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Thanks, Kate.  Would they respect 42" (1.06mish) electric poultry netting if properly trained to it?

Also, would they be able to get by in winter on good quality hay, or would I need to figure out a way to bring in browse?
 
Kate Downham
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I've tried that kind of poultry netting on my goats. The pure Saanens respected it, but the Toggenburgs quickly figured out how to leap over it. They were all happier in it when there was a buck with them, and the escapes got really bad as soon as he left!

It's hard to stop it from sagging in places, and with lots of scrub, there is often some leaves that end up touching it and making it less effective. I had two different fences and came to dread "goat moving day" as it would take a very long time to set it up properly on undulating land filled with 8' high scrub and all kinds of variations! But for many people with flat land, and more space in between bits of scrub, it can work really well. You could also get away with tethering the goats or putting them in a barn when you're moving the fence rather than having to own two different electronets. It can be worth trying with goats to see if it works for you, especially if you plan to use the fence with chickens later on.

Goats will do fine on good hay through the winter, you can also make 'tree hay' for them as a supplement by cutting branches when they're in leaf and storing them for the winter.
 
Timothy Markus
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Great advice.  It's pretty flat land, but I think I'll just have to see how it goes.  I do like the tethering idea but I'm worried that they'll wind themselves up like a dog.  If I can fence in a decent sized area with lots of bush, I'd think they're less likely to want out.  I'm hoping to get kikos, but we'll see.  

I may even be able to get the neighbours to pay me to take out the bushes from their land.   I'll try to be a mini-Dale.
 
Kate Downham
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You're right in fencing off a bigger area. The bigger the area, the less pressure they put on the fence, and if they're happy with plenty to eat, they're less likely to imagine the grass being greener on the other side.
 
A Philipsen
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My second apple, yay 😁

You said, “What about circling trees with electric netting?  Would that work?”

Yes, probably, for a while. Personally, I would use netting only as temporary fencing, preferring plain wire for anything that will be there for a while. I think it’s sturdier. Training them to it first is a great idea.

Also, someone mentioned tethering. A lot of goat people disapprove of it, for good reasons. It’s the main way I keep the outsides of my fence clean though. Important things are - tame goats that are ok being walked on a lead (and untangled on occasion), regular supervision, no trees within range (or you’ll be untangling constantly, and a swivel clip at both ends of the rope.
 
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So what is a good way to train the goats to electric netting?   Mine already respect hot wire at base of woven wire in their permanent corral.   I tried putting up 5 lines hot wire as temporary fence but it sagged and they jumped over.
 
Timothy Markus
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The best way to train any animal to electric fencing is to have a physical fence they can't get through and then place the electric fencing inside it.  That way, when they get zapped, they can't push through.  If you have wire or polybraid, it can help to thread pop cans on it so that the animals are attracted to it and get zapped when they touch it.

Electric wire fencing needs to be tight so they can't bully their way through.  If they've found they can get through, you'll have to re-train them with a solid fence, like the woven wire.  You don't need a big area to train them, just a small paddock that can act as a holding pen or even hospital pen at other times.  It can also be an area around their shelter.  With electric wire fencing, you'll also want to be there to make sure they don't get caught in it.  Also, very good grounding is important as you want to get their attention the first time so that they don't test it in the field where you'll likely have draw-down on your fencing.
 
Becky Carver
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I guess my specific question is what to bait the fence with.  Are goats attracted to pop cans?  
 
Timothy Markus
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Pop cans are easier to see and move around, so most animals will check them out.  Not sure if peanut butter is OK for goats, but you can smear a little of that or something else on them to attract them.
 
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Goats are rather curious creatures.
Fencing, should be nothing they can stick their heads through. If they can, the will. Electric and training are essential for keeping them in their pasture. We also provide enrichment stuff. Like homemade puzzle feeders. Things to jump on. Goats are easier to train then sheep in our experience.

As far as tree  fencing goes. We had solid white 6' tall fencing all around their shade trees. The goats would walk up the fence with their front legs and reach for any low hanging branches. Goats have all day to scheme. A fence should not encourage climbing, as a hoof, horn or head could become stuck. Hindsight we should have moved the fencing further out allowing the tree to canopy more.
Such great tips on this post. Just had to throw in some of our experience.
 
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I have used 48” electro net fencing for my two alpine wethers, and they just jumped right over it. But they were bottle fed and very attached to me personally (i.e., if I let them free roam they literally hang out on my back deck until I come out to play with them).

I am considering getting more goats and hoping that a larger herd will make the two boys less dependent on me. We really need more consistent brush clearing. Right now with only 2 goats on several acres, they can’t keep up and they also only eat the good stuff.

I guess there’s no definitive answer on this, but if folks on this forum would kindly give me a “yeah, you definitely need more goats” thumbs up, then I’ll feel justified in this experiment.

What do you all think?
 
Becky Carver
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The goats are such a riot.  Sorry to hear your two are not keeping it cleared.  I was hoping the three Nigerian dwarfs I got could cleanup my 26 acres.😬
 
Kate Downham
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Irma Mitton wrote:I have used 48” electro net fencing for my two alpine wethers, and they just jumped right over it. But they were bottle fed and very attached to me personally (i.e., if I let them free roam they literally hang out on my back deck until I come out to play with them).

I am considering getting more goats and hoping that a larger herd will make the two boys less dependent on me. We really need more consistent brush clearing. Right now with only 2 goats on several acres, they can’t keep up and they also only eat the good stuff.

I guess there’s no definitive answer on this, but if folks on this forum would kindly give me a “yeah, you definitely need more goats” thumbs up, then I’ll feel justified in this experiment.

What do you all think?



Your experiment with more goats definitely gets a thumbs up from me.

I hope you'll keep us updated, it would be interesting to see how your boys change once you introduce more goats, and if you find any secret formula of the right number of goats for brush clearing!
 
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