On a goat farm, there always seems to be room for improvement in fences and facilities. Needs change according to management practices and groupings of goats. Here on our small farm in Nebraska, we take the time in the winter months to tighten things up and move pens around. We raise Nigerian Dwarf and LaMancha dairy goats, and look at ways to fix up things for a variety of reasons. First, we need to be on the lookout for predators, especially coyotes, and we like to tighten and strengthen our perimeter fences. Second, we are in the process of moving the dry lot pens for winter housing to new ground and rearranging our herd for the winter season. Each year we try to move the goats to new ground to help reduce the need for treating parasites. We rest the soil previously used to break the cycle of worms and coccidia, which reduced our need for medications to worm and treat our animals. We also rotate pastures to facilitate more even grazing and browsing throughout the grazing season, again breaking the cycle of worms in the pasture as well.
Plastic floor matting and welded wire stock panels contains some of the does.
Stock trailers, plastic dog crates, old calf hutches and the top of a grain bin are just some of the recycled housing available.
Auctions and farm sales are great places to find used fencing and gates that will work for goats.
Goats need strong fencing to keep them in and to keep them safe from predators. With multiple pens needed to separate different ages of goats, or weaning kids from their dams, or having isolation pens for sick or new animals, we may have several pens at once around the farm. Often that translates into quite a bit of fencing being used and a big monetary investment. Since we want to keep costs down in order to make my herd more self-supporting, we often use recycled items to build fences.
Most of the fencing we use for the goats, poultry, and livestock guardian dogs started out its life in another use. We find much of it at auctions, both farm and estate auctions, local sales from those who no longer need it, and from businesses and friends. The main thing we look for is something that will be strong, have a long useful life and not have too large of a monetary investment. We are always looking for new ideas to ease our management of both time and money.
Our current doe pen for winter housing consists of portable pipe horse panels lined with a combination of welded wire stock panels and plastic panels that were originally used in a big business for floor matting. The bucks are housed in pens made of either old metal corncrib panels, or more horse panels lined with used chain-link dog kennel panels and the same plastic panels used in the doe pens. Corncrib panels are strong, well made panels that have close enough spacing that no kid can climb through, no matter how small. We like them because no goat can climb over or knock them down and they can take the rough handling the big bucks give, with little wear. These corncrib panels seem to be a regional item. We live in corn country, and it used to be common for farms to build welded wire corncribs to store and dry corn still on the cob. With the advent of more mechanical combining and storing corn off the cob, its pretty common to find these old corn cribs at auctions or sales for reasonable prices.
We are sure in other areas of the country there are other similar items that could be used for fencing that we don’t see here. We have some old free-standing portable hog fencing that we use for smaller pens. We often line them with wire fencing, welded wire stock panels or our ever-useful plastic panels. We have woven netting that is electrified for pasture fence, which we traded goats and poultry for (so no cash outlay!). We use this netting as part of our rotating pasture system during the grazing season.
To secure fencing in place we use T-posts, many of which are recycled, bought from auctions and farm sales. We have some old telephone poles that the electric company gave us for free, since we allowed them to place the old ones they were replacing on our property. We are going to use them for corner bracing in the permanent perimeter fencing. The spools we have in the pens for the goats to jump and lay around on, also came through our local electric and telephone companies. Many companies will give them away when they are done with them, or sell them for a nominal fee. That makes them easy to come by and cheap to replace as they wear out.
Welded wire from corn cribs, hog fencing and cattle panels keep even the smallest kids in the pasture.
One of our electric fence chargers also came from an auction and one was actually bought new (but on sale) at a nice discount. The dog kennel panels came from a business closeout. The chain-link fencing we are using for perimeter fencing was once in a baseball field that was torn down. We did use, for several years, the wooden panels from farm trucks, stacked in two layers secured to posts for an exercise yard for the does in front of one of our barns.
We are always looking for new fencing ideas, and recently acquired some new containers from the local co-op that we are incorporating into our overall management scheme. The plastic inner containers will become new buck sheds and pasture sheds, and the aluminum protective outer part will be a combination fence hay feeder and fencing.
We use recycled sheds as well, having used plastic dog crates and dog houses, old calf hutches, a used top ring of a grain bin, three-sided sheds from horses, the stock trailer has doubled as a goat shed a time or two, old metal tanks on their side and blocked, with a door cut in, and our newest doe shed is the box from an old mail truck.
We have learned from others more ideas to try out here in the future, to recycle or make our farm more affordable, things like using the old pickup toppers turned into goat sheds either by stacking them on bales of straw for temporary sheds or built onto wooden sides for a permanent shed, and building a simple A-frame shed using an old saw horse and wooden pallets.
For actual fencing, using electric wire strands in 5-6-strand fencing is an idea we want to try for pasture next year. We won’t use barbed wire because of the chance of serious damage to goats who challenge it. And goats do challenge their fencing until they learn that they can’t go over or under or through it.
The main thing we have found over the years with our goats, is to look for fencing that is strong, that can be made tight enough to keep the smallest kids in and the largest adult goats from tearing down or going over the top. Keep it in good repair and the goats will be safe and happy in it, no matter how fancy or plain and serviceable it is.