Fencing for goats
Goats are difficult to corral because they love to jump and climb. One fencing option that is convenient, flexible, and cost effective is electric fence. At Rumbleway Farm near Conowingo, Maryland, Mark and Robin Way use a semi-permanent electric fence of four to five strands of smooth wire to graze their Boer goats. "This gives us the flexibility to move the fence closer to the overgrown hedgerow," says Mark. "The goats graze young saplings and weeds, and we supplement with a small amount of sweet feed." Fiberglass posts spaced every 20 feet support the wires, which are attached with metal clips.
The Ways use both solar-powered and plug-in chargers to electrify the wires. "Solar fencers gives us flexibility, and the plug-in models give us a more consistent source of electricity," says Mark. When goats get out, it's because an electric fence is "a psychological barrier and not a physical barrier," he says. If goats are excited or frightened, they can run right through an electric fence. To reduce the chance of this, the Ways provide the animals with a movable shelter. "They know that their house is where they are supposed to be," says Mark.
Use multiple strands
Susan Schoenian also favors an electric fence made from multiple wires to confine goats on her small farm near Clear Spring, Maryland. (Schoenian is a sheep and goat specialist at the Western Maryland Research and Edu-cation Center.) She recommends five or six strands of high-tensile wire, particularly for a boundary fence. "The purpose of a boundary fence is not only to keep goats in, but also to keep predators out," she says. The safest practice is to keep all the wires "hot," with the first wire placed about 6 inches from the ground. From the bottom wire up, wires should be spaced at intervals of 5 inches, 5 inches, 8 inches, and 10 inches.
Keep it hot
"Keeping the bottom wire hot is particularly important because goats are fence-line grazers," says Schoenian. "The way they are most likely to learn to respect an electric fence is to be hit by the current on the bottom wire." Especially watch bucks, because they always test the fence. Interior cross fences within the boundary fence should be three stands of polywire, supported by step-in plastic posts. White polywire creates more of a visual barrier.
While more costly, 4-foot-high polywire netting can be very effective. The squares are small enough to discourage young goats from sticking their noses through. The fence is designed so the bottom wire can rest on the ground without shorting out the electric current running throughout the netting.
"Electric netting works great if you don't have to move it a lot, because it can be difficult to move," says Schoenian. "One way to move it is to fold it in sections one on top of the other."
When goats are first turned out to electric fence, train them to the wire. Entice them to touch it with their noses. They should respect it after that. Also, keep the bottom wires free from debris so plants don't short out the current. Finally, make sure goats have plenty to eat, so they have less cause to test the fence.
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