If you're bringing goats into your life, prepare for interesting experiences. Part of setting up your farm for caprines includes figuring out how to prevent goats from escaping and indulging in general mischief. You need to protect your goats from predators and arrange access to basic shelter. You must also ensure that your herd always has fresh, clean water available.
For best results, rotate the pastures your goats graze on to avoid overuse and the overgrowth of less desirable forage. If that's not a possibility, consider multispecies grazing, as the plants favored by one form of livestock aren't preferred by another. According to Extension, an online resource of state university cooperative extension services, "Most studies indicate greater production, and better pasture utilization are achieved, when sheep and cattle or sheep, cattle and goats are grazed together as opposed to grazing only one specie at a time." Since goats are browsers, you can erect temporary fencing in woodlots for them to clean out brush.
Most goats just need a simple shelter to protect them from rain and snow. A run-in shed or similar structure fills the bill. Kids are the exception, whether you hand-raise them or allow them to nurse from their mothers. Except in mild climates, does and kids should have four-sided, draft-free shelters. If your winters are quite harsh, you should provide a four-sided barn or shed for the goats in cold weather.
The adage "good fences make good neighbors" might have been coined for someone keeping goats. Goats are natural-born Houdinis. You must install fencing that keeps your caprines safely in your pastures and out of your neighbor's yard or gardens. Woven wire topped with board and electric fencing keep goats in and predators out, but they're also expensive. If you keep horses in the same pasture as your goats, you'll need this kind of fencing. Less expensive but effective fencing includes barbed wire, but use it just for goats or cattle, not equines. If you rotate your goats to different browse areas, set up portable electric fencing with strong energizers. Goats plow through electric fencing with weak shocks.
Your goats are in danger from both domestic and wild predators. The former consist of dogs, maybe even your own. The latter include coyotes, bobcats and other large carnivores, depending on region. While fencing is your first line of defense, you might want to add a guard animal for protection. Certain dog breeds, such as the Great Pyrenees or the Komondor, naturally guard livestock if brought up with them as puppies. Donkeys hate canines, so adding one to your herd can provide protection from wild ones but might also attack your friendly, non-predatory dog. Llamas also offer some protection against predators.
- Extension: Goat Pasture Management
- Langston University: Types of Fencing for Goats
- University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences: Pasture Management for Grazing Goats
- University of Illinois Extension: Planning Sheep and Goat Fencing
- University of Florida Extension: Controlling Predation on Goats – Some Ideas
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.