I posted a little while ago about troublesome, jumping goats. We are in the process of trying to think it through and come up with temporary fencing ideas that work. The goats were busy and content little brush eaters until we bought a new goat who is an escape artist and has taught one of the other goats her tricks.
Soooooo.... I'd really love to hear if anyone here is grazing their goats in a rotation through woods (or anywhere for that matter) and what fencing setups seem to work best for you, what you have done for keeping the escape artists in, and how it has fit in together with your overall permacultureplans.
We are new at this, new goat owners and have just moved back to my husband's family property on a wooded 14 acres. This forum has been most helpful!
I thought I might add my two cents as to what has worked for us. After trying pretty much every fence available, we have had the best luck with electric. Even our most clever goats stay in the paddocks. Our paddocks are mostly wooded, seldom flat, and heavily over grown. This time of the year it takes me some time to clear weeds from the fence before moving them into a new area, but I have found keeping the fence clean results in a much more intimidating jolt if they touch it (which they pretty much refuse to do anymore) We use T-posts on corners/curves and step in posts for line posts. Three strands of aluminum wire, bottom is 9" off the ground, middle is 10" above the bottom, and the top another foot or so above that. We use a VERY powerful charger that the animals have learned to respect, they just will not contact it anymore. As fall approaches we move all our bucks to the other end of the property to help them resist the urge to go through the fence to hookup with the ladies (and vice versa).
Hey Kurt. I read your reply with interest. We've got a similar situation. We are trying to clear as much as 30 acres of heavily over-grown north east Texas pine and hard wood forest. I've got a question though. Everything I've read states that goats need a shelter, perhaps a shed or a lean too is sufficient, but still they need a shelter. How do you accomplish this while paddock shifting?
We're thinking about getting some goats; I've got the same questions as you Tiffani. Posting so I can follow the discussion!
"There is nothing, Sir, too little for so little a creature as man. It is by studying little things that we attain the great art of having as little misery and as much happiness as possible." - Samuel Johnson
I already responded to Tiffani's question in her other post, but I wanted to comment on Kurt's comment because that type of electric fencing doesn't keep in Nigerian dwarf goats, which is what Tiffani has. That's enough spacing that they can go under it and through it. If you want to use single strand electric with NDs, you have to have it six inches off the ground and no more than six inches apart.
Woven wire is actually my favorite type of fencing for NDs, however standard breeds of goats can jump it, if it isn't high enough. And then some will try to climb over. Once they've started doing that, you have a problem. Starting with the right fencing system is really important! If you have large goats, you can use wove wire with a strand of electric about a food off the ground and another strand of electric a few inches above the top of the woven wire.
And yes, Michael, goats absolutely need a shelter. You can create a shelter on skids that can be moved by you dragging it or with a tractor, depending upon how big it is, or you can build a shelter in the center of a pasture rotation system so that the goats have access to multiple pasture from that shelter. We have one system like that on our place. It's kind of like a flower -- the shelter is the center of the flower, and the various paddocks are like the petals of the flower. You close off all but one paddock at a time. This is super easy if you can afford permanent fencing because you just have to get the goats into the shelter area, close one gate and open another! It also works with ElectroNet though. You get the goats into the shelter, move the fencing and then open the new gate.
Shelter is another area we have evolved considerably. We had permanent shelter for years (large barn) and constantly fought worm issues (we cleaned often, spread DE in the stalls, etc...), once we started rotating our goats we tried various moveable shelters such as skid shelters and shelters we could pick up with forks on the tractor. These became a problem because then all of our paddocks needed a large gate and needed to be sort of flat to get the tractor in there to move shelters. We are currently are using some lengths of culvert we got for free. The pipes are 3' or so in diameter, 10-ish feet long, and made of thick plastic. They are VERY heavy (300-400 pounds each) so I have put them in the woods in our paddocks, against trees so they can't roll. So far they are working great, the goats can get in them and on top of them and they are literally indestructible by goats. My ultimate goal is to build a more natural shelter (think survival lean-to or wigwam) that way it will eventually begin to fall apart at which time I knock it down and let it become soil, I don't care if the goats eat it or destroy it, and it costs me nothing but time. I plan to start those natural structures next year so I can use the culvert sections as actual culvert where needed. I will post back here once I start building those and let everyone know if they actually work or if they just seemed like a good idea in the strange place that is my head.
I would love to have a pasture system that you mention - the flower idea. Maybe one day... when the woods are cleaned up and more of a silvopasture. For now we have a permanent fence up next to our garage made of stock panels. We also have a shelter we built for them out of plywood panels, 2x6 skids, a 2x2 frame and metal sheeting for a roof. It was an easy build - my teenage son built it, and seems to work fine for them. Ideally (when our temporary fencing is working) they go out to the woods after milking and come in at evening milking. Unless we are gone or it's a rainy day that is our standard plan. The sheep are always in temp fencing and so their shed (same as the goats) is on a platform with wheels and gets moved daily. Sheep are so easy with fencing. We have them in the poultry net also and it isn't even electrified anymore. They have never tested it again after the first few days.
Free shelter sounds great! I'm sure the goats love climbing the culverts. Natural shelters sound great too. I'll be eager to see what you come up with. One thing that is nice about having wooded property is that wood is plentiful... we just need a portable bandsaw.
I wouldn't say that sheep are easier to fence in. Years ago, we had our entire flock of Shetlands go through an electric fence and go about 1/2 mile away in the woods. What a nightmare getting them back!
It's really a bad idea to use electric netting without being energized. Once they realize it's not hot, they will take advantage of it, then you will have a big problem.
Yikes! That does sound like a nightmare! Thanks for the heads up. We may need to make another purchase (the chickens took the sheep energizer). We've been using solar energizers from Premier. Do you have any recommendations on energizers?
Just my quick 2-cents. Buy the most powerful charger you can afford. We have a couple of solar chargers (0.1 joules) and some goats will just take the tingle and walk it down if they really want out. Our aluminum wire fences (aluminum is about 4x a better conductor than galvanized wire) have a charger that is 6+ joules. Even I am very careful about not touching it, it is not enjoyable. It is so potent it actually took some coaxing to get the goats to walk through the gate in the new paddocks after installing that charger, they dislike it that much...
From what I've read and tried, what kind of energizer you have is not as important as a good grounding, and minimizing the things that touch the fence. It is also very much advised, like Deborah mentioned, to keep fence hot at all times when animals are around it. Dogs are much less likely to touch it a second time, but goats are not like that. An electric netting it's not a physical barrier to any livestock, it is psychological, and if goats are hungry or scared, they would run through it or jump it. We have our goats inside electric netting from Premier1, hooked on different kinds of energizers, solar in the summer, battery powered in winter. Moved often, and if somehow they run out of browsing and I can't move them for a day or two, I give them plenty of hay.
Good tips from Kurt and Livia. When I need a new charger, I called Premier and tell them what I need, and after asking me a few questions (like where I live, rainfall, terrain, etc) they make a recommendation. And the good news is that it's never been a super expensive charger, and they've always worked great.
I should have clarified, yes grounding is equally important to the joule rating. Electric fencing calls for at least three grounds 10 feet apart. We use more than that by using non-energized fence or a single non energized wire as a ground then we drive a ground rod every couple hundred feet. So electrically we have dozens of ground rods, all connected back to the energizer ground. The perimeter of our farm is field fence with a single hot wire to keep the goats from bending it all out of shape by scratching on it and we use the field fence as a ground too. Any animal unlucky enough to touch the hot wire and the field fence at the same time gets near the full force of the charger, and they remember it. The interior of our fencing paddocks is 3 wire electric only with a ground in the middle, again if they touch 2 of those wires, they get near full power form the charger, it hurts.
Maybe we are just lucky, or maybe our fence is more memorable but we have few escapes. Last time we chased a goat, I left a paddock gate unlatched.
Thanks for all the great info!! I was reading articles about grounding and started feel rather foolish in my complete electrical ignorance. We only have one ground rod that came with each of our solar chargers. I'm glad to know Premier was helpful, Deborah! I think I will call them... I've been wishing there was some kind of electric fence store (like mattress or furniture stores) where you walk in and tell them what you want and they tell you what to buy. I just haven't a clue when it comes to this stuff!!! It's good to know they didn't try to sell you on their most expensive model.
As a side note... we have the Intellishock PRS-I 50 on the goat pen and once I cleared the weeds I was getting between 6,000 -8,000 (whatever it measures - volts, joules, jolts? - see I am electrically challenged, lol). That seemed good to me as it had been down at 2,000 - 3,000 before clearing the weeds.
Hi Tiffani, I just looked up your charger, it is a .5 joule which is decent for a solar charger. We recently replaced all of ours with a single parmak Mark 8, it is around 13,500 volts and 5-ish joules. The advantage to a stronger charger is I don't need to clear weeds often (unless its like a tree limb) A small weed will literally turn yellow and fall off, in fact if you look down the fence line it looks like it has been sprayed with weed killer. We have kids out to the farm and boys often dare each other to touch the electric fence. NOBODY wants to touch the fence with the big charger, it is just very unpleasant.
When we are using electro-net for concentrated clearing, we use a battery or solar charger. I can touch those without any worry. i HATE touching the wire with the big charger. it just makes me feel funny
Also, here is a pic of our current goat shelters I had mentioned earlier:
I just noticed you are in Indiana, we are just south of Bloomington. If you ever get this way stop by and my wife and I would be happy to show you how we are doing things
Not sure if this will display, as I have not posted pics before. This is how we do shelter in the day areas we moved our goats to: old horse trailer with tarp on top. Inside we have minerals feeder built from wood, and on both sides above the tires on the exterior, we have hay feeders for rainy days - our goats think they will melt if they go out in the rain to browse...
Yeah, I could go on and on about what NOT to do, in terms of soiling them. I have one that I'm afraid it won't drink any water during the day if I don't give her the warm water she is used to after milking each morning >
Thanks Kurt! We are up by Warsaw. If we ever are down that way we will look you up - it's VERY encouraging to see how people are doing things and even just to know that they are being successful. We have a friend or two wanting to grow food, lots of friends who can and garden, but no permaculture friends who are really trying to turn their property into a productive food producing plot of land. So we are the crazies right now, lol! I also have to say that doing this with my husband and kids has been very satisfying and joyful. We expected milking dairy animals to be drudgery, but it has become such a favorite part of what we are doing.
Thanks of the pictures, Kurt and Livia! It's nice to know that perfectly painted red and white barns aren't a necessity for shelter. I can relate to the "melting in the rain" comments. It cracks me up how the goats hate the rain and the sheep love to graze in the drizzle. The goats will peek their heads out to see what we are doing if they hear us... wondering if it has something to do with food and if it's worth coming out for. Their personalities are pretty funny.
My goat fencing solution is four foot of electric with a strand every foot. I use t posts and insulators, but I’ve also used bamboo garden stakes with the insulators meant for the fiberglass poles (at $2.50 for six poles, it’s the cheapest way to put up fencing). As far as I’m concerned, goats have 24/7 to figure out how to get out- if it doesn’t hurt to experiment, they will find a way out. However, some goats are just fence breakers, and the only cure is to never pay more for a goat than they are worth in your freezer. I’ve got a goat who can absolutely jump some of my fences, but she is good and I just never let her in that paddock unless I can vaguely supervise, and she never jumps out unless I’m feeding another goat on the other side. She’s worth keeping. I’ve had other goats which would run straight through electric because they wanted out and I either sold them quick or are them. The biggest thing is to never, ever buy a goat that is hard to catch or wary. Loose goats suck, but having to tackle half-wild loose goats is the worst. I’ve never tried to keep a buck away from the does with electric- they’ll break through my barn, I doubt a shock would phase them in the slightest.