Fencing for Dairy Goats

Constructing proper goat fencing is essential for keeping your goats from wandering into unwanted areas, and keeping them safe from predators.

| December 2017

  • Stock panels are made of 1/4 inch welded steel rods, which make them sturdy and ideal for goat pens. The standard length is 16 feet; the 52 inch-high ones with narrower bottom openings work well for goats. A recent improvement features panels with 4 inch spaces, which eliminates the problem of horned goats getting their heads stuck in the fence.
    Photo by essphotographer/iStockphoto.com
  • Woven-wire fencing is relatively inexpensive, but goats can easily ruin it by standing on and leaning against it. It can be constructed with wood or metal posts.
    Photo by My Lit’l Eye/Alamy Stock Photo
  • Chain-link fencing is ideal for goats, but it’s expensive.
    Photo by mackoflower/123RF
  • An electric fence carries a pulsating (not steady) current provided by a fence charger, which can operate on household current or a battery. Solar-powered models are available. There are two types of fencer: a low-voltage zapper that is less expensive but easily shorted out by weeds, and a low-impedance charger that can cost a couple of hundred dollars but has enough voltage to carry through most weeds and fallen branches over long distances with a good sting.
    Photo by Philip Game/Alamy Stock Photo
  • “Storey’s Guide to Raising Dairy Goats”, by Jerry Belanger and Sara Thomson Bredesen, acts as a comprehensive guide for those looking to start raising goats, and is beneficial for established goat owners as well. The book covers an array topics including breed selection, feeding, fencing, health care dairying, and marketing products that come from goats.
    Cover courtesy Storey Publishing

Everything you need to know to raise dairy goats including housing, fencing, feeding, disease diagnosis and treatment, breeding, milking, dairying, and cheese making is all included in Storey’s Guide to Raising Dairy Goats (Storey Publishing, 2017). Authors Jerry Belanger and Sara Thomson Bredesen see dairy goats as a great choice for the small or backyard dairy farmer. Goats require a smaller investment than cows and produce milk that is great for making delicious fresh yogurt and cheese.

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Storey’s Guide to Raising Dairy Goats

Fencing

Fencing is probably more important — and more difficult — with goats than with any other domestic animal. One professional fence builder said his way of testing a fence for goats is to throw a bucket of water at it. If the water can go through, so can a goat. Goats will jump over, crawl under, squeeze through, stand on, lean against, and circumvent any boundary that is not strictly goatproof. Even if it is goatproof, they’ll spend time trying to figure out how to make it fail. Fencing is important not only to keep goats in, but also to keep stray dogs and other predators out.

How Much Is Necessary?

With goats, a little fencing goes a long way. In most cases, if you have only a couple of goats, you won’t want to think in terms of “pasturing” to any great extent. Goats won’t make good use of the usual pasture plants, grasses, and clovers. They prefer browse: trees, shrubs, and brush. Goats that are fed at the barn will probably ignore even the finest pasture, although they’d be delighted to get at your prize roses, specimen evergreens, and fruit trees. For many people, protecting valuable plants like these is the main reason for good fences! Goats also like to jump on cars and other machinery, so make sure vehicles and goats are kept apart.



We’ll talk more about pastures and pasture fencing later. For now, let’s focus on the exercise yard. A small, dry, sunny yard adjacent to the barn is all you need, ordinarily, and you’ll probably want one of these even if you pasture your animals. The exercise yard fence will take more punishment than the average pasture fence, because the goat confined to the smaller space will have more time and opportunity to investigate and beat on it. The cost per running foot will be higher in the yard, but the amount of fencing used is much less.

What Kind of Fence?

Good fencing is obviously a necessity for goats. And while fences do require an investment, the newer types make it much easier and more economical to allow goats access to larger yards or pastures. First, we’ll discuss the fences to avoid, followed by the ideal types and some practical alternatives.






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