Goats Present Unique Fencing Challenges
Goats are notorious escape artists, maybe more so than any other farm animal. They are naturally inquisitive and mischievous animals and will try to remove, climb over or get around any obstacle in the way. Their determination to push boundaries makes protecting goats a huge challenge. A secure enclosure is essential in order to keep them safe from themselves as well as from predators.
Goat Fence Selection and Installation
Understanding goat behavior goes a long way to keeping them safe. With proper planning, materials, and installation methods, goats will be well protected. For starters, invest in the best fence you can afford. The initial cost may seem high, but using quality materials will lend to a longer-lasting enclosure and fewer maintenance headaches in the future. The right installation techniques will make a significant impact on the end result, so be sure to take the time to plan and install the fence properly.
Planning your Goat Enclosure
Determine how much space you’ll need to contain your goats. Typically, one acre will be adequate for 6-12 goats, depending on breed, land management goals, and availability of vegetation. In any case, a goat needs room to roam without overcrowding. Goats love to climb, so survey the area to be sure that any opportunity for launching over the fence is eliminated. Look for tree limbs, sheds, and rock piles that could be potential vantage points, and either remove them or build the fence at least six feet away from these temptations.
Selecting the Right Fence
Once you’ve determined the size and location of your enclosure, consider these important facts when selecting the proper fence style.
- Woven wire fencing is the most reliable form of goat fencing because it provides a strong but flexible barrier. Individual knots are tied to the horizontal and vertical wire intersections, creating a mesh that holds tight and won’t slip. The knots create a springy texture, so the fence will flex when challenged, rather than snap the way welded wire can.
- A simple rule of thumb – if a goat can get its head through a fence, his body will follow. Therefore, wire fence spacing should be no more than 4″ high and 4″ wide to keep goats from breaking free. This spacing prevents many predators from entering the enclosure as well.
- Six-inch spacing can be deadly for horned goats, as it is quite possible for their heads to get caught. If this happens, they become easy prey for coyotes or subject to serious injury or suffocation during a struggle to release themselves. Also, keep in mind how tall a goat fence should be. A fence at least four feet tall will deter most goats from jumping to the other side while keeping unwanted animals out.
- Since goats are prone to jumping, climbing, and even crawling, adding a line of electric fencing is an option for the top of the fence line. You could also install one electrified line about 18″ off the ground to prevent climbing on the mesh.
Goat Fence Installation & Post Spacing
After choosing your goat fencing, equip yourself with expert tips and proper tools for the best outcome. A solid foundation will make all the difference in the stability, longevity, and effectiveness of your investment. Here are a few pointers to get you started:
- Install H-braces at each corner of the pen and at gate entrances to bolster their strength. Red Brand provides expert video tips and tricks here.
- Brace and corner posts should be made of 6″to 8″ diameter treated lumber and set in the ground a minimum of 3-1/2 feet to prevent movement. An 8-foot long post would accommodate a 48″ tall Sheep & Goat fence with 6″ at the top for one electrified line wire.
- Line posts hold the fence in place between the corners and gates and are typically wood (4″ treated lumber), steel t-posts, or a combination of these.
- Steel t-posts are a good alternative to wooden posts and make for easier installation. Various weights are available to meet different needs for strength and durability.
- Recommended spacing of line posts is between 8-12 feet, depending on the material that the posts are supporting and the anticipated amount of pressure on the fence.
- To assure stability, line posts should be set at least 2 to 2-1/2 feet deep, and tall enough to accommodate a top-line wire if desired.
- Install posts on the outside of the fence line so that pressure from animals pressing against the material is supported. This will prevent the fence from pulling away from staples or clips.
- The bottom wire of the fence should be as close to the ground as possible. Stake it securely to prevent goats from trying to go under the fence.
- It’s important to keep the crimps intact on the horizontal line wires. This allows the fence to expand and contract during fluctuating weather conditions. Avoid using too much muscle when stretching the fence. A tractor will likely pull the fence too tight, where a come-a-long, designed especially for this task, will provide the proper amount of tension.
- Plan for a gate that is wide enough to allow a tractor or other maintenance vehicle to pass through.
- Goats have been known to open gate latches. Therefore, keep latches on the outside of gates where goats can’t reach them; otherwise use a padlock to keep them in.
- A goat’s natural instinct is to push on the gate if they manage to open the latch, so the gate should be installed to swing into the pasture or yard.
- If the gates are heavy, use concrete to secure the gate posts in the ground.
- Goats watch and learn from your behavior. Always use the gate as you enter or leave the area and avoid climbing over the fence.
Additional Tips to Keep Goats Where They Belong
The best way to keep your goats in their enclosure is to keep them happy, so make sure they have everything they need. Always have plenty of food and water available to avoid the temptation of looking beyond the fence. Provide shelter from heat and moisture by constructing a covered concrete slab. This will give them a place to rest comfortably. Entertain and distract them with structures to climb upon safely within the confinement and build a scratching station to prevent rubbing on the fence.
Assess what’s on the other side of the fence and plan accordingly. Do you have a rambunctious buck in an adjacent pen that needs to be moved? Be aware that grazing horses can unwittingly bend the top of the fence if they can reach in for a tasty snack. And, if the vegetation outside the enclosure is more desirable than the offerings inside, your goats will want it. Finally, routine fence inspection and maintenance is critical in goat farming. Check for any holes or gaps in the fencing and repair them as soon as possible.
Understanding the unique needs of your goat family will help you provide the safest, most effective enclosure possible, and you’ll have peace of mind.