FENCING FOR PEN AND PASTURE
An undeniable fact about living on a ranch or farm is that fencing is never finished. A corollary to that fact is that fencing of any type is expensive, and therefore must be carefully thought through before material is bought and construction begins.
If you have the luxury of starting from "scratch" and designing your pens and pastures in a manner that makes your work load easier, then take a week or two with paper and pencil in hand and draw several alternative set-ups. I say "luxury" because most of us have to start with someone else's already-put-in-place pens and pastures and try to make them work for our needs by modifying them. Consider several factors: (1) Establishing breeding areas, (2) Creating buck-containment pens or pastures for out-of-breeding season when bucks should be separated from does, (3)Running guard animals effectively amongst pens and pastures, (4) Working pens - for de-worming, vaccinating, hoof trimming, (5) "Sick" pens - for animals who need medical attention and require isolation from the rest of the herd, and (6) The need to be able to rotate pastures.
Goats are the Houdinis of the fence world. If they can't break or stretch the fence wire out of shape to the point that it is unusable, then they will push it over or hang their horns in it! Gates and fences seem to be personal challenges that goats must conquer. Save yourself hundreds of hours of future work and many, many dollars by carefully laying out pens and pastures before you stock them with goats.
Stock panels are by far the best and most affordable pen fencing; heavy-duty chain-link fencing is probably the best, but is too costly except for the most affluent among us. Use 6-gauge, 20-foot long, 48" high stock panels containing 4" x 4" square openings. Stay with these 4" x 4" squares, because larger openings will allow adult animals to hang their horns in them and kids will go in and out.
Use 8" diameter treated wood posts at every corner and at a minimum of 50-foot intervals. Set each wood post in concrete at least three feet deep into the ground. Between the wooden posts, set 6-1/2' steel T-posts every ten (10) feet. Pens built in rolling terrain will require modifications to fit the topography, including the possible need to stack rocks or wire posts horizontally to the bottom of the panels in places where the fencing doesn't meet the ground.
To discourage predators from digging under the fence, install a tight strand of barbed wire at ground level. Use domestic barbed wire; imported barbed wire tends to be less strong and prone to rusting. Complete the pen's fencing by installing two strands of barbed wire above the stock panels. If your goats are "climbers" or "jumpers," it may be necessary to use taller T-posts and more strands of barbed wire.
Pens built of stock panels are not only portable (they are easily disassembled and moved to other sites), but they also achieve your goal of providing pen fencing that does in raging heat and bucks in full rut can assault with only minor damage. Keep in mind that this description of pen construction will probably require adaptation to your particular terrain , but the basic premise presented is sound.
Horse wire (2" x 4" non-climb) and field fencing should not be used for pens. Goats will destroy horse wire with very little effort, and field fencing will not contain the smaller goats and kids.
FACILITIES WITHIN PENS
Build a "catch pen" or "trap" within each pen. Select a convenient corner for working the goats within the pen and install movable stock panels to close it off. Regularly feed the goats in this area; when it is time to de-worm, vaccinate, trim hooves, or otherwise handle them, the goats will naturally go into this area and will be easier to catch.
Create a location where small kids can eat without having to compete with the big goats for feed. Several methods can be used: 1) Set up a series of "kidding" pens and remove the center dividers to provide a pen of at least ten feet in length. These pens are commercially available and constructed of the 4" x 4" squares previously discussed. Wire the gate open and install over that opening a panel of 6" x 8" squares that will allow the kids to crawl through to the inside but will keep older kids and adults out. Attach feeders to the inside of the pens or place them on the ground for the kids to access. 2) Install three (3) steel T-posts in a crescent shape near one side of the pen and wire a 20' stock panel containing 4" x 4" squares around the T-posts and to the side of the pen. At the center-most point of the crescent, cut and remove the horizontal wire closest to the ground between two vertical wires in only one section of the stock panel. Do not cut any other wires. Big goats become surprisingly agile at getting through small spaces when feed is on the other side.
Feeding pens containing large numbers of goats require the usage of round bales. Haying goats presents a special challenge, as they are wasteful eaters who seem to enjoy walking on and tearing up their food, not to mention urinating and defecating on it. Wire a 20-foot, 4" x 4" stock panel into a circle and slip it over a round bale which has been set on end. Cut and pull all baling twine and completely remove all twine from the pen the keep them from eating it. Ingesting baling twine usually results in a twisted gut and the death of the goat. To protect the hay from rain, sleet, or snow, construct a lid frame of tubular hollow metal and fasten sheets of corrugated metal to it. If possible, have the lid extend about 15" outside the ring for overhang so that goats can eat in bad weather. Wire the top to the ring with baling wire. Even better . . . feed round bales under either a temporary, movable shelter or a permanent shelter.
Ordinary five- and six-strand barbed wire won't contain goats. "Head through fence" equals going through it to a goat!
Field fencing (often called "goat wire") is cost effective and works best in most pasture applications. Buy the 330-foot rolls of 12-1/2 gauge wire that is 47" high. It costs $85-$95 per roll. Use the same wooden post/steel T-post configuration cited for pens and pull the wire very tightly. A fence stretcher will probably be required to get the wire tight enough. Be sure to let the concrete around the posts dry sufficiently before installing the fencing, or the fence will be loose because the posts will be flexing. Use cross-bracing and tension wiring at all corners.
Additional posts may be necessary, depending upon soil and terrain conditions . Most field fencing has 6" x 8" openings that become smaller towards the bottom. It is not predator-proof and kids can come and go through it, but field fencing is usually the most practical and affordable fencing to use. Electric fencing is unsuitable for use with goats. It does not contain young kids and it can kill adult goats and kids whose neurological systems have developed enough that they can feel its effect. These statements come from this author's personal experience with electric fencing.
Fence height depends to some extent upon the type of goats being raised and the predator situation in your area. Coyotes, foxes, cougars, and the like may not be in your area, but abandoned dogs that run in packs to find food will kill your goats as quickly as any other carnivore. Sometimes packs of dogs kill just for the sport of it. While less sturdy fencing may suffice for docile dairy goats, Spanish meat goats tend to be wild and agile . . . requiring stronger, higher fences.
If your operation requires the use of breeding pens, set them up away from all other pens. Build 6-foot to 8-foot wide "runs" between the breeding pens. Breeding bucks will fight each other through common divider fences. They always want the other bucks' does in addition to the ones that you've given them to breed. These "runs "will keep them apart, save your fence, and insure that you know who bred whom. The "runs" can also be used for patrolling guard animals.
Study your property and determine the ideal way to establish your pens. Every property demands its own particular pen and pasture configuration.
A word about gates: don't waste your money on aluminum-panel gates. Goats of either sex will destroy them quickly. Use metal-framed gates with heavy 4-gauge, 4" x 4" stock panels cut to fit the frame and welded into place. They can be purchased in stock sizes or can be made to fit special applications at reasonable cost. These gates are lightweight, sturdy, and relatively "goat-proof."
Important! Please Read This Notice!
All information provided in these articles is based either on personal experience or information provided by others whose treatments and practices have been discussed fully with a vet for accuracy and effectiveness before passing them on to readers.
In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Suzanne Gasparotto is not a veterinarian.Neither tennesseemeatgoats.com nor any of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.
The author, Suzanne Gasparotto, hereby grants to local goat publications and club newsletters, permission to reprint articles published on the Onion Creek Ranch website under these conditions: THE ARTICLE MUST BE REPRODUCED IN ITS ENTIRETY AND THE AUTHOR'S NAME, ADDRESS, AND CONTACT INFORMATION MUST BE INCLUDED AT THE BEGINNING OF THE REPRINT. We would appreciate notification from any clubs or publications when the articles are used. (A copy of the newsletter or publication would also be a welcome addition to our growing library of goat related information!)
All information and photos copyright © Onion Creek Ranch and may not be used without express written permission of Onion Creek Ranch. TENNESSEE MEAT GOAT ™ and TEXMASTER™ are Trademarks of Onion Creek Ranch . All artwork and graphics © DTP, Ink and Onion Creek Ranch.