Goat Pens, Barns, and Fences

18 September, 2015rodster385Comments (0)

The nature of goats must be considered when designing facilities and working with them. Goats exhibit "flocking" behavior and will follow each other. They also are very active and like to climb, so take care to keep fence lines clear of rocks, stumps and timber. Generally, goats move away from buildings, alleys and other dark areas. This must be considered when constructing working chutes and pens. The value of working pens cannot be underestimated when it comes to handling these small, agile, unpredictable animals for procedures such as deworming, identification and foot trimming.

Pens should be sturdy, preferably solid-sided and at least 4 feet tall. The working chute should extend from a crowding pen on one side of the main pen. Ideally, the working chute should be curved. It also needs to be solid-sided, about 10 feet long, 4 feet high, and 12 inches wide with sliding gates dividing it into sections. For horned goats, the chute should be tapered, with the top nearly twice as wide as the bottom. Canvas flaps suspended along the chute may keep the goats' heads down and prevent riding.

Goats do require some shelter from inclement weather, especially during kidding as young goats are vulnerable to respiratory infection and hypothermia. A sturdy shed that is dry and opens to the south usually provides adequate protection. The structure should provide a minimum of 5 square feet (ideally 8 to 10) of floor space per goat, be closed on 2 or 3 sides, and be roofed low to the ground to trap body heat. Rear eave heights of 4 feet to 6 feet and front eave heights of 6 feet to 8 feet are adequate.

Effective goat fences are ones which keep the goats in and aid in keeping predators out. Topography, economics and predation pressure determine what type of fencing is most suitable. Currently, one of the most common and conventional fences used is woven wire combined with barbed wire. Also called "wire net" or "hog wire," this wire mesh is usually 47 inches in height. It is generally topped by 1 or 2 strands of barbed wire and has 1 strand just above ground level. Problems arising from this and most other fencing are that horizontal strands or stays encourage climbing.

Manufacturers now sell a special "goat net" containing vertical stays 12 inches apart rather than the common 6 inches. These wider rectangles allow horned goats to back out more easily, eliminating entrapment. Barbed wire can also be used to confine goats, but many strands are needed. Some ranchers have had success with 8 or more strands of closely spaced 15 1/2 gauge barbed wire.

Electric fencing also shows promise. If properly constructed, these can be effective and relatively inexpensive. For perimeter fences, five or more wires alternating hot and ground can be constructed for approximately one-third the cost of woven wire. Electric fencing can also be used to cross-fence or temporarily divide pastures. The addition of wooden staves or twisted wire stays between permanent posts helps tighten the wire and make it more goat-proof.

Besides keeping the goats in, fences are important for keeping out predators such as bobcats, coyotes and dogs. Woven wire is the most effective, especially if an electric trip-wire is run 8 inches high and 6 to10 inches outside the fence. Other methods of predator control include night penning, kidding in protected pastures and the use of guard animals. Trapping, hunting and other lethal methods of predator control can also be used with care. Donkeys and llamas are used as guard animals, but the most common animals used are dogs. Many breeds have been used as guard dogs, ranging from mixed breeds to traditional guard breeds such as Great Pyrennes, Kommondor, and Anatolian Shepherd. Three traits are essential for a good guard animal: it must bond with the animals it is protecting, it must be courageous in the face of a predator, and it must accept the responsibility of its job. To bond with the goats, the dogs should be introduced to them as puppies when 8 to 12 weeks.