Monday, May 21, 2012

the goat dance

When it comes to goats, fences are everything. The same fence that can keep back a team of Percherons, a flock of sheep, and hundred alpaca (alpaci?) is nothing but scoff-fodder for your average goats. Goats climb, tear down, and crawl under wire field fencing. They laugh at t-posts. If your wire isn't hot, even for a few hours, they will know and clamber over it like drunk hunting horses out after a fox. This is the goat dance. The escape, capture, and evading that makes up the reality of adding caprines to your life.

The only way I have found to keep a goat in a pen is to either use panels (read solid) made for sheep and goats with well-spaced metal or wooden fence posts, or electric netting or wire. At my own farm I learned this the hard way. My first goat, Finn, was not happy as the lone goat amongst a flock of sheep and would not stay inside the woven wire fences. He got out and into the road, into poisonous plants, and all other sorts of trouble and made sure the sheep got out too. I didn't have the pen I have now (originally built for a horse!) to contain goats, and so he went to live on another farm.

Now my set up is goat-proof. Inside the barn are large 1x8 inch boards strong and sturdy, three high with about 12 inches between each board. They have woven wire stapled to them in case little Francis wanted to crawl though. Outside a large metal horsegate (also reinforced with woven wire to prevent crawl-throughs) is strong enough to handle any goat arms. And, the fencing all around the outside area is electric. So my goat pen is more of a goat jail, but that's what it takes in small spaces. If I had a 7-acre field it would be a different story, they could roam a little more and be as interested in escaping (at first!), but here at Cold Antler goats have to be smartly contained.

My advice to anyone considering goats, go for it. But consider your fences and barn first. Get an experienced goat farmer, homesteader or Extension agent to check your set up or help you prepare. As someone who learned the hard way, I can not stress enough how much having people with goat experience in my life with Bonita and Francis has improved things. Goats are dear friends and treasures here now, not a hassle. Not something all farmers can say and it took some hard lessons to get there. But you got to start somewhere, right?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post! We just finished our fortified (previously used for a pony, then left to rot for 20 years) goat pen: 5 foot high, heavy gauge, no-climb horse fencing with concrete-set pressure-treated 4x4 corner posts. The goats know there's no way they're getting through the fence itself, so instead they watch the gate like hawks and bum-rush as soon as it's open even an inch! There are parts of their pen they still have never explored, and yet all they can think about is getting out that gate!

May 21, 2012 at 2:14 PM  
Blogger David Shearer said...

Goats, like people, believe the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence! In our experience with goats, pygmies no less, it took six foot "no climb" horse fencing hung on six inch round treated posts every eight feet with top and bottom hot wires. And still they managed the occasional midnight escape! However, they were sweet grain junkies and would follow us to hell and back just for a handful of the stuff, so catching them was never a problem.

May 21, 2012 at 2:49 PM  
Blogger Meredith A said...

that answered my question!

now that the goats have taken over Jaspers pen, where do you keep him?

May 21, 2012 at 3:12 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

To the list of animals who happily "dance outside the fence" please add mini-donkeys. My gal LolaVee and her buddy LeRoy were dental marvels at chomping their way through even 2 x 6 fence boards so alas I had to create a paddock prison by wrapping new rails in no-climb dog wire. Safe at last and bored to death while we await driving lessons, I now notice they are eating the barn....sigh.

May 21, 2012 at 3:37 PM  
Blogger Goat Song said...

I guess I'm lucky... I use a two-strand electric fence that stays off pretty much all the time. I run all ages and all sizes with that fence and have never had a problem of escapees. If a goat is hungry and/or nutrient deficient (such as if she is in a pasture that is eaten down) then of course she will head to better pastures. But as long as they have good grass, mine are content to stay.

But again, maybe I'm lucky... ;)

May 21, 2012 at 3:38 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Every single person that comes to our farm asks 'Do you have any goats?' and when I say No, they ask 'When are you going to get goats?' I respond that my fencing system is not goat proof. The llamas and sheep are completely content with a permanently fenced in smaller run, a three string electric pasture, and a two string electric movable pasture that we rotate around the yard. A goat, I feel, would laugh with abandon at our fence and be in the next county by the end of each day. Good job on your goat jail. Everything I hear about goats is that they live for fence demolition. ;)

May 21, 2012 at 3:49 PM  
Blogger KiwiGirl said...

There's a milking goat farm (probably 20 hectares+) down the road from me. Their goats are free-ranging in paddocks there, right next to the road. I bet their eletric fencing is extra-heavy duty stuff.

May 21, 2012 at 3:53 PM  
Blogger Dancing shepherdess said...

Will you be allowing the goats out of the dry lot at any time? Perhaps if they were allowed to graze, as comes naturally to them, they would be less apt to escape. I grew up with goats and we didn't have problems containing them.

May 21, 2012 at 4:30 PM  
Blogger Kris said...

I have had many a gaot escape. Sometimes I have no idea how, other than flying over. And one of them did just that. I have electric fence out back and half the time it doesn't work because of things growing on it. So I have to go and clean it off every few weeks and make sure all the wires are all hooked up. And these goats know when the fence it working too. They won't go near it. When I see one with her head underneath I know to go check it.

My only buck kid just left for his new home today. I will miss him, but now I get more milk. And I have kefir now!! Drinking a glass with honey for dinner. So good! And I had a smoothie this morning with kefir.

May 21, 2012 at 4:46 PM  
Blogger singinggardengirl said...

That's my fear about keeping goats, especially since we are a stone's throw away from an orchard, not to mention my own fruit trees and gardens. It's good to know that it is possible to keep them penned.

May 21, 2012 at 5:43 PM  
Blogger The Village Queen said...

You know now that you said your place is goat proof, Murphy will work to prove you wrong! Good thing all that great milk is a trade off for the stuff you have to go through to have them! Have you given them some stumps or things to climb on? Paddock toys keep all kinds of 4 foots happy!

May 21, 2012 at 6:20 PM  
Blogger Meredith A said...

Old picnic tables and large spools work well too. A quick google search brought this up, goat and all.

May 21, 2012 at 6:48 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

We went to a goat care presentation this Saturday and entered the raffle for a goat and won!!! Our property isn't fenced at all and we are building a fence this weekend! Thanks for the post!

May 21, 2012 at 7:26 PM  
Blogger Sewing Machine Girl said...

one of the better comments I've heard about fencing goats "build something that a Ninja cannot cross, and then you've got a 50/50 chance of containing the goat."

May 21, 2012 at 8:51 PM  
Anonymous Marcie said...

We had a 'ring leader' in our goat herd - she would find vulnerable spots, make a hole, and lead all the does through. In the spring, when there were kids about, they would leave behind one doe - usually my Nubian, Grace - to babysit. It was quite the sight. Goats can be challenging, but they are such characters.

May 21, 2012 at 10:55 PM  
Blogger pawsfurme said...

I guess I'm lucky, too. My Nigerians haven't (yet) tried escaping. Unless you count the occasional forgetting to lock the boys' gate and having all 4 run into the milking/food room and all jump on the milk stand at once while there is a poor doe locked in the head gate. They know where the grain is given out! :)
Seriously, though...
I have a couple in a 16x32 dirt pen (nursery with an adult babysitter) double fenced because new Nigerian kids can squeeze through 4inch holes till they're a few weeks old, a roughly 30X30 "pasture" for the boys...if you can consider wild violets and japanese stilt grass pasture,
and another group in a 30X70 pasture. No one has ever climbed or dug. We do let the girls and kids out sometimes in the dog yard to mow our lawn. Now they expect it every night at 6:00. Oops. :-P
Keep them occupied with hay or things to climb on and they should be pretty content.

May 21, 2012 at 11:07 PM  
Blogger katiegirl said...

If you have a solid fence, goats won't escape. If it's loose and not well attached to posts, they'll find the weak spots and escape. I've not had any issues with goats escaping, and my fence is a 4' field fence with 1 hot wire on the inside. In fact, when I use the temporary electric tape, the goats respect it better than the sheep (because their wool insulates them from getting shocked). A single strand of electric tape will contain my goats.

May 22, 2012 at 8:37 AM  
Blogger Cassie said...

Goats are definately close relatives of deer. I did not realize this fact until I had indeed become the owner of two. We jokingly called the goat pen the tiger cage because we ended up having to use 6ft tall fencing with a cover because our nigerian dwarf could fly. In retrospect I would have just used two strands of hot; one low one high. Live and learn.

May 26, 2012 at 12:01 AM  

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