Raising Goats for Fun and Profit
(Page 3 of 5)
Fencing is a challenge, especially during breeding season, weaning, or when apples or other tasty treats ripen on the other side of the fence. Goats often begin each day by walking the fence line looking for weak spots, even if the pasture has better food than the areas outside.
Most goats can jump a 4-foot fence; Alpines can jump even higher. When I used page wire (sheep fencing), my stubborn goat would jump over it, paw at it until the fence was bent or the staples ripped out of the post, or squirm under it. A friend of mine had a goat who would listen to the ticking sound of the electric fencer. If the ticking stopped, she would bolt through the electric fence, followed by a hundred other goats.
I had the most success with a 4-foot-high page wire fence with two lines of electric fence above the wire and one strand of electric six inches from the ground (held away from the wire with wooden spacers). Other options include high-tensile electric fence with five to seven strands spaced closely together at the bottom.
Tethering is cheaper and easier than fencing, but it can lead to a frustrated, miserable or dead goat. If a goat can find something to climb, it will, and the result might be a strangled goat hanging from a tree. Also, tethered goats can’t escape from dogs.
Goats are social animals. If you tether two close together, you’ll get a mess of tangled goats. If you tether one alone, it will pine for its companion. If you do tether, use a pivoting tether, move it twice daily, ensure the goat has access to shade and water, and check the goat often.
As with other livestock, if you rotate your pastures, you will reduce the problems with internal parasites and increase the productivity of the land.
Goats make excellent walking companions. By taking your goats for walks, you’ll cut down on feed bills, require less fenced land and maintain a healthier flock. The goats can browse along the way, picking and choosing the vegetation they prefer.
Before you start walking your goats, teach them to come when called by providing treats, such as grain or apples. Note that they can kill small trees, even 10-foot-tall trees, within minutes. One goat can lean on it, bringing the top to the ground. After devouring the leaves and small branches, the goats will strip the bark. On my property, the favorite trees were (unfortunately) sugar maples and apples. I found that if I ran (not walked) past these, the goats would run with me and not notice the tasty trees.
Goat walking is only a viable option if you have lots of woodland; it’s not advisable if you are surrounded by neighbors with unfenced gardens.
Tin cans and treats
Goats have a reputation for eating anything when they are, in fact, picky eaters. I think the reputation comes from the goat’s habit of nibbling people’s clothes, and their preference for foods that other animals don’t like (e.g., bark on a fencepost). Goats love many weeds. They will clear a pasture of wild roses and blackberry vines before touching the clover. When pastured together, goats and sheep complement each other. The goats will browse the woodier material while the sheep graze the tender grass and legumes.
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