Perhaps the best method of fencing for goats is Chain Link fencing. With chain link fencing, you can be almost 100% certain that your goats will never get out. While this may indeed be the best method, there is one distinct disadvantage to this type of fencing - the overall cost. Persons desiring to fence in a large area for their goats to roam and browse could literally spend thousands of dollars on this type of fencing and for the most part, once constructed, it remains permanent. In my opinion, a chain link fence system would be best utilized for small pens leading into larger pastures, fenced using another method.
Hog Wire fencing is perhaps the next best method of fencing and rivals electric fencing. (Quite often, hog wire fencing and electric fencing are used in combination). Hog wire is a term used for the type of fence that has several 4" to 6" squares (see picture). While this type of fencing is also very effective, there are a couple of disadvantages to it's overall use. The opening of the squares often allow for a goat to stick it's entire head through the fence to the otherside. If your goats are horned, quite often the goat can become stuck in place on the fence. Young kids often can wiggle through this type of fencing as well. Hog Wire fencing requires 3 basic components; the fence, t-posts and clips. Hog Wire fencing generally requires tightening as well.
Electric Fencing is perhaps the fencing alternative most widely used by not only goat ranchers, but by ranchers of other animals as well. As mentioned with Hog Wire fencing, these two types of fencing are often combined whereas an Electric Fence wire may be run at any height along the span of Hog Wire fencing to deter "fence climbing" by the goats. Electric Fencing requires a few more components; t-posts, insulators, in-line fence tighteners, 14 or 17 gauge galvanized wire, bracing (optional but recommended), ground rods (at least two (2) are recommended), lightning arrestor/divertor (optional but recommended), and a high quality electric fence charger. Since Electric Fencing It is the type of fencing with which I have the most experience with, this is the type of fencing I will discuss in further detail later within this article.
Electric Fencing 101
There are two things that I highly recommend you do before you begin building your Electric Fence system; 1) get a piece of paper and sketch the perimeter of the area to be fenced (including sub pens and where you may want to have gates), 2) clear the area of where the fencing will be erected. This can be as simple as mowing a path a few feet on both sides so you can work easily within that area. The first steps of any project are materials planning and workspace and safety. I cannot stress the importance of these two factors enough.
Now that you have your plan on paper, it's time to "measure" and get the first part of your materials - the t-posts. Using a 25 foot tape measure or better, measure the length of each fence span (presuming that it will have four distinct corners. Add up the entire length of the area to be fenced in this manner. When you have accomplished this, you will need to determine what size t-post to use. It should be noted that there is a "cheaper" variety of t-posts available that in my opinion are not as durable. Be sure to get solid construction t-posts instead of the thinner type of posts. You want your fence to be strong. These solid type of posts come in a two basic sizes; 6 foot and 5 - 1/2 foot. I prefer to use the 5 1/2 foot posts simply because they are a little cheaper, and when you are buying 200 posts at a time, .25 or .35 cents a piece can add up. 6 foots posts can be used with the same results and may be better suited to goats that are prone to jumping.
Let's say you have decided upon using 6 foot t-posts and you have a calculated fence length of 300 feet. The general rule of thumb is that you should space each post the same as the length of the posts you are using; 6 foot. Every 6 foot you will have a post. My rule of thumb differs from this slightly. I generally space each post 10 to 12 feet apart. I have had no apparent problems doing it this way although that I must say that shorter the distance between posts, the more solid your fence will ultimately be. Using the one post per every 6 foot rule, simply divide total fence length (300) by the spacing (6) and arrive at the number of posts you will need. Always get a few extra as well because you may run into unforesen obstacles such as extremely hard ground. This said, there are two other items you will need - a pole driver as seen in the picture and a length of nylon twine equivalent or greater than the total length of your fence.
Now that you have the t-posts and the t-post driver and twine, it's time to get to work. Locate the first corner of your fence and drive a t-post into the ground. The direction the t-post ridges are facing is somewhat important as well. I prefer to have my Electric Fence wire run on the inside of the goat pen. For all intents and purposes, this means that you will need to drive all the t-posts with the like side of the t-post facing you. The insulators I use come in many varieties and configurations, therefore it is not important. However, I prefer to drive the t-posts with the ridged (bumped) side facing away from the goat pen. Drive this first corner t-post only as far as so that the top of the spade is just below the surface of the ground.
With your first corner post in place*, locate the second corner and proceed in the same manner as you used for the first t-post. Follow this same procedure for each corner until all four corners are finished. Now, that twine you purchased, tie one end of it on the first t-post and stretch it to the corner t-post of the first span of fence. Tie it to this corner and stretch another piece of twine to the next corner and so on until you have the entire are to be fenced, outlined with the twine. This will be your guide mark for a straight fence.
* Alternate Bracing System
The two t-posts that are on either side of the corners are very important spacing wise if you plan to use a "bracing" system (recommended). If you plan to use a bracing system, you will need to orient the face of each post in such a way that will allow you to slip a t-post brace receptacle on the t-posts perpendicular to the ground, and, hold a t-post (with spade knocked free) parallel to the ground between the first two t-posts. This type of system is recommended if you plan to use in-line fence tighteners, and will strengthen the end t-post which would otherwise be prone to bending as the fence is being tightened. This may also be accomplished by securing the corner t-post(s) to an existing structure such as a tree, house, barn etc. Anything that will allow you to brace the end of the fence when tightened.
Another alternative (and more preferred method) to using t-posts for the corner posts is a solid log such as a railroad tie that is anchored in concrete. It is crucial to remember that the corners must be the strongest point of the fence as they will be taking the strain from tightening your fence wires. If your corners are weak (and t-posts not properly braced will bend), the rest of your fence will often need retightening. In most cases, you will never get the fence wires tight enough to do enough good. The tighter a fence is, the less likely goats are to breach its boundary.
With you twine in place, it is now time to begin driving t-posts every 6 feet. I want to take a moment to stress the importance of driving in all the t-posts before beginning wiring. It is a very big temptation to drive in a span of t-posts and begin wiring. Resist the urge.
To Be Continued...