Goats are climbing animals by nature. In the wild, they spend their days balanced on impossible ledges and vertical mountain cliffs. It takes incredible strength and well trained footing to live in a goat’s natural habitat. Because of this natural ability, a weak farmyard fence is child’s play to a goat.
Unlike a cow, sheep or horse if you fence in a goat, they will have no problem getting up on the fence, and depending on the construction, they may attempt to climb over. For smaller goats fencing isn’t quite as difficult. But we raise 200 pound Nubians and they can wreak havoc on any fence. While fencing may not be the first thing new owners raising goats may be concerned with, it should definitely be a priority if you want to make your life easier.
Goats are also incredibly curious and persistent. If they want something bad enough…the grain can, your raspberry patch, a female in heat…there’s little that can stand in their way. They will use every last bit of plowing strength to get to the desired object. They will also try over and over again. They rarely give up once they have an idea in their head.
Goats are also amazing problem solvers. They will quickly figure out a simply latched door, unlock it with their mouth and let the whole herd out. Sliding latches, hook and eye designs …they easily learn how to undo them. Our goats even learned that they could stick their head through the gate, lift up and take their gate door right off the hinges.
They also know how to work together to solve a problem. If they find a weak spot in the fence, they will all get up on that part until the fence comes crashing down. When we first got goats, we fenced them in with wire garden fencing. They quickly learned that if they worked as a team that with their combined weight, they could pull sections of the fence down, bend the wire and hop over.
If you plan on keeping a buck you will need even more structural support. During most of the year, a buck is much like a doe or a wether. Our buck Sulley is generally a sweet natured goat. But when the rut season comes, our sweet boy turns into a holy terror. He likes to show off by ramming into everything he can smash his head into. He rubs his horns and scent glands on every surface he can find and will do anything he can to get to our females.
All goats need sturdy well built fencing. But there are a few things that will make your attempts easier when fencing goats.
The number of goats, size, breed and sex.
We have 9 goats. Our largest herd was 18 a few years ago. We’ve since re-evaluated the direction we want to go with our farm and cut our herd down by half. I feel like for our needs, 9 is a good number. 6 would be ideal, but I’m so attached to them that I can’t imagine parting with anyone at this point.
The more goats you have, the more destructive they are. As I said above, they work as a team. They also play rough…bashing into things, being bossy and rough housing. Even with 9, caring for goats isn't easy, so if you want your fencing to last, keep your herd numbers down.
Providing ample pasture will also help keep your fences in good shape. As the saying goes…the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. If your goats are well fed, and content with a good amount of grazing area, the likeliness to bust through to greener grass declines.
The size of your goats will also play a large role on how long your fences will last. A smaller, 30 pound Nigerian Dwarf will not put as much strain on a fence as a 200 pound Alpine. (Though tiny goats are notorious fence climbers). Larger goats need more reinforcement on a fence line.
Breed and Temperament
Some breeds are more willful than others. In our own experience our Alpine and Angora goats are much less persistent and pushy than our Nubians. Each goat has its own personality, but some breeds are known for being more uppity. Nubians in general are very vocal and have energy to spare. Smaller goat breeds also have a reputation for being climbers and escape artists. So when designing your fence, tailor it to your goat breed’s needs.
Bucks, Does and Wethers
…in that order place the most to least amount of strain on your fencing. I’m not going to lie, Bucks can be difficult to keep. Make sure you know what you’re in for if you decide to keep a resident buck on your property. Be willing to build a heavy duty enclosure to keep bucks where they’re supposed to be.
Does can also put strain on a fence. Especially if they’re in heat.
Wethers, (a castrated male) in general are the easiest goats to keep. The hormones that drive other goats to be naughty have been removed and they usually have nice docile temperaments.
We have a stellar combination when it comes to problem goats. We have a fair number of large, uppity goats and we keep two bucks on our farm. So if this system works for us, it should work for quite a few of you as well.
Here’s our system:
We used 48” tall sheep and goat fencing from Red Brand. This is a 4” x 4” pattern with a wrapped wire design instead of the cheaper and thinner gauged wire that is electrically welded and breaks apart very easily.
The corner posts are 4” square treated wood sunk into the ground 3’ – 4’ and are considered a tension wire design. This makes them strong enough for a high tension fence, but we are using sheep and goat fencing since the high tension wires would allow our animals to creep between the wires and possibly get stuck.
Each corner consists of five wooden posts. There is a vertical post in the corner, and a second and third 5’ down each direction of the fence. Connecting each of these are wooden posts that are cut to length after the first three posts are into position.
These two posts are horizontal and 3-1/2’ up from the ground. They are attached by drilling through the side of each vertical post and then into the end grain of the horizontal post. We used a long, 1\2” drill bit to make the hole. Then we drove a 1\2” round metal rod through the hole.
A high strength wire is wrapped from the bottom of the corner to the top of the post that is in the direction of pull. This wire is then tightened to pull all the posts together with an in-line ratcheting fence strainer.
In between the corners are 6’ heavy T-posts spaced every 4’ and sunk at least 2’ into the ground. Each T-post has a heavy wire wrapped tightly around it and the fence pulling them together to resist the pressure of curious and persistent goats.
So far this system has lasted a year with no escapes and no damage to the fence. This is more than I can say for other fences that we’ve had.
But while this fence is working for now, goats have nothing but time on their hands to try and figure things out.
Jennifer Sartell is the primary care taker of all animals on her and her husband’s farm in Fenton, MI. With a passion for living a simple life, Jennifer enjoys creating art, taking in nature, raising animals and has developed a deep appreciation for homesteading.
Jennifer and her husband, Zach, currently raise goats and poultry. Her vast amount of experience on the farm includes, but is not limited to: milking, shearing, hoof trimming, vaccine administration, assisting in animal births, dehorning, egg collecting, chick and turkey hatching, feeding, watering, etc.
She can also cook a mean farm-to-table meal and when the day is done has documented and photographed their day on the farm.