Comprehensive Guide to Setting Up Fencing and Pens for Goats
Creating a well-designed and functional infrastructure is crucial for successful goat management. The setup of fencing and pens plays a pivotal role in ensuring the safety, health, and efficiency of your goat operation. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore considerations for setting up various types of pens, including breeding pens, pasture enclosures, kidding pens, catch pens, and feeding pens. We’ll also delve into key aspects like pasture setup and the strategic placement of gates to optimize the workflow on your goat farm.
Fencing is one of the most time consuming, never ending and expensive parts of owning a farm and animals. Make a plan before making permanent structures and fencing on your property. Or better yet, use the area and set it up using a very low cost option like pallets to make sure the setup really makes sense. If you own a very large area, using pallets would probably too much to do but for smaller areas and pens, it works perfectly as you figure out what really will work best on your property.
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1. Barn and Structures:
- Goats do not do well in adverse weather where they get wet, wet and cold and are in wind. They need protection from the elements.
- In many areas, predators are a real concern. Being able to lock up goats at night to protect them is crucial.
- The size of the barn or structures will depend on how many goats you plan to raise. Plan to have individual stalls in a barn setup. If using smaller, movable housing or little sheds meant for 2-4 goats, plan accordingly and either buy or build enough to house all of the goats comfortably.
c. Location and Setup:
- It’s best to face the doorways away from the prevailing wind. In our area, we usually get winds from the west, so our barn doors are facing away from the west. The smaller houses we use during breeding season have their doors facing the south. This prevents the west winds from entering as easily but also when we do get those east winds occasionally, it will block that as well.
2. Catch Pens:
- Set up catch pens for routine health checks, vaccinations, and hoof trimming.
- Ensure easy access for goat catchers and veterinary professionals.
b. Handling Facilities:
- Incorporate chutes or handling facilities for efficient goat handling.
- Use materials that are safe and comfortable for goats.
- Maintain good visibility to observe goat behavior during handling.
- Minimize stress by designing catch pens with gradual curves instead of sharp corners.
3. Breeding Pens:
- Choose a quiet and secluded area to minimize stress on breeding goats.
- Ensure adequate space for each breeding pair to prevent aggression.
- Opt for sturdy fencing to contain bucks and does securely.
- Separate breeding pens to avoid accidental mating.
- Having 6-8 feet between breeding pens will prevent fighting between bucks and will also prevent a doe from “choosing” the buck across the fence instead of the one you want her bred to. Bucks also have a tendency to try to woo the does across the fence. A run between breeding pens can safe your fence from ruination and can also be used for livestock guardian dogs to walk through as they patrol the goat area.
- Provide shelters or shade to protect goats from extreme weather conditions.
- Ensure proper ventilation to prevent respiratory issues.
4. Buck Pens:
- When breeding season is over, bucks will need a home for the rest of the year. It’s best to keep the bucks separated from the herd to prevent accidental breedings or breeding when kidding will fall during the time of year that is most difficult.
- The buck pen fencing will need adequate and very secure to keep them exactly where you want them.
- The bucks will also need a shelter and shade provided to protect them from the elements as well. Your bucks are an important part of your program and need to be provided with ample room in the shelter, clean water, hay and minerals.
5. Kidding Pens:
- Place kidding pens in close proximity to the main barn for easy monitoring.
- Ensure easy access for veterinary assistance if needed.
- Provide adequate space for the doe and her newborns to move comfortably.
- Design pens with secure walls to prevent kids from escaping.
- Design kidding pens to allow for isolation in case a doe needs privacy.
- Provide proper bedding for comfort and hygiene.
6. Kid Pens:
- Allowing kids to have an area that they can get away from the adult goats is a great idea. This can be a corner of the pen or a separate stall with fencing low enough for the adult goats to not be able to sneak under but high enough for the kids to go under. When food is available, even if it is on the other side of a fence like this, bigger goats will do anything to get to it. Make sure that the opening won’t allow for that.
- The primary purpose is to give the kids a feeder where they can eat and get their fill of food without competition. Place a feeder in the corner that will keep the feed off the ground but is small enough for them to reach in and eat.
- Goats are the most wasteful animal when they are fed hay. A good feeder to limit waste will be beneficial for you and your pocketbook. If left to their own devices, goats will wallow through the hay to get the best morsels all the while standing on, pooping, peeing and sleeping on anything that is on the ground.
- Feeders that are kept off the ground are best. It prevents them from picking up parasites from eating on the ground. And if the feeder catches the hay they won’t eat, it can be repurposed to a horse or pig pen to be eaten there.
- If feeding round bales, it’s best to construct a wire panel fending around the bales. Using a 20 foot, 4″x4″ panel and wiring the ends together around the bale allows for the goats to have access to the hay but doesn’t allow them to jump on it or pack it down at the base.
8. Pasture Enclosures:
- Design pastures with sufficient space for rotational grazing.
- Implement natural features like hills and rocks for mental stimulation.
- Choose fencing based on the specific needs of your herd (e.g., woven wire, electric, or goat panels).
- If a goat can get its head through (even a barbed wire fence), their whole bodies can go through it.
- Electric fence may work in some situations, but it won’t contain kids. And can be harmful to goats if they get caught up in it.
- Goat wire or field fencing, has holes that are large enough for the goats to stick their heads through and goats with horns may be stuck. It is also not completely predator proof. But it is the most cost effective and will work in most circumstances. When installing, the fencing will need to be pulled really tight with fence stretchers.
- The height of the fence will be based on how agile and wild your goats are and what kind of predators you have around your property. Even the common dog running around in a pack can devastate a herd. But as you’re planning and building the fencing keep all this in mind so you’re goats can be as safe as possible!
- Regularly inspect and maintain fencing to prevent escapes.
c. Water Sources:
- Ensure easy access to clean water in various locations within the pasture.
- Consider water troughs or automatic waterers for convenience.
8. Pasture Setup:
- Implement rotational grazing to prevent overgrazing and promote pasture health.
- Divide pastures into manageable sections for controlled grazing.
- Prevents parasite infestation.
b. Forage Variety:
- Incorporate a variety of forages to ensure a balanced diet.
- Monitor pasture health and reseed as needed.
c. Terrain Considerations:
- Account for natural features like slopes and water sources when planning pasture layout.
- Use proper drainage to prevent water logging.
9. Feeding Pens:
- Design feeding pens to prevent competition during feeding.
- Ensure adequate space for all goats to access feed simultaneously.
- Choose appropriate feeders to minimize waste and ensure efficient feeding.
- Consider elevated feeders to prevent contamination.
- Keep feeding pens clean to prevent the spread of diseases.
- Regularly disinfect feeders and water troughs.
10. Sick Pens:
- You’ll always want a separate and secluded pen to put a sick goat. You don’t want to spread disease!
- This area will need shelter, secure fencing, and the ability to doctor the goat.
11. Working Pens:
- You will want to make the regular, necessary and sometimes harder to do things like deworming, vaccinating, hoof trimming as easy as possible.
- As you plan out your set up think about how it would make it the easiest for you and the goats to get things done. You can join this area with the milking barn or utilize the same milking stand that you’ll use to milk the goats on. Depending on the size of your
12. Milking Barn:
- If you plan to be milking, this is another area that you don’t want to make difficult. Milking is a very cool chore but it is one that can’t be forgotten. Set it up in a way that is easy to get to and is easy to get the goats in and out of.
- The milking barn can be pared and used with the dual purpose of being able to milk and medicate or trim hooves.
- It will need a milking stand, shelving and some grain bins.
13. Location of Gates:
- Place gates strategically for easy access to different areas of the farm.
- Consider main traffic patterns and design gate locations accordingly.
b. Emergency Access:
- Ensure emergency access to all pens and pastures.
- Install gates wide enough for equipment to enter if needed.
c. Safety Considerations:
- Design gates with safety latches to prevent accidental openings.
- Place gates away from high-traffic areas to avoid congestion.
14. Guard Dog Access:
Setting up fencing and pens for your goat farm requires a thoughtful approach that considers the specific needs of your herd and the functionality of the overall operation. Whether you are establishing breeding pens, pasture enclosures, kidding pens, catch pens, or feeding pens, attention to detail and a focus on safety are paramount. By strategically planning the layout, selecting appropriate fencing, and considering the placement of gates, you can create a well-organized and efficient environment that ensures the health and happiness of your goats while streamlining your daily management tasks. Regular maintenance and a commitment to observing goat behavior will contribute to the long-term success of your goat farming operation.
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