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By: "Gary Pfalzbot"

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    So You're New To Goats? or perhaps you are planning on getting goats (and haven't yet)? Let's talk about some of the immediate things to be aware of - shelter, fencing, health requirements, a breed or breeds to start with, and the ultimate purpose for getting goats (pet, dairy, meat, fiber, brush control, etc.).

    For us, we got goats for one purpose only - to control brush. We had no idea what was going to be involved with raising and caring for goats. In other words, we got the goats first and then did the research. This is not an approach I would recommend to beginners.

    First and foremost (at least in my opinion) is fencing. If you don't have adequate fencing, you will be fighting a losing battle. Your goats will be everywhere except where you want them to be. There are a few different schools of thought on fencing, each a separate topic in its own right. And a prospective goat owner should take note - install your fencing before you get goats. Otherwise you'll find yourself fighting a losing battle.

    First you have electric fencing. Some will say this is cruel - cruel is a neighbor shooting or turning their dogs loose on your "out of control" goats that have just munched down their garden.

    Electric fencing can work, but one needs to really understand the concept of building a tight electric fence, good corners and good materials. In my opinion, the thicker and tighter the electric fence wire, the better. I have seen fences of three strands of wire adequately contain goats of a certain size. If you have a mixed size herd, i.e., Pygmies, Saanens, Nubians, kids, I strongly feel you may need more strands of wire because the smaller goats will go under or over the very bottom wire while the larger and taller goats may be inclined to jump over the middle or uppermost wire.

    The charger itself should be of good quality - many report that solar chargers work well. We personally use a Par-Mac charger that delivers 10kV (10,000 volts) of what is pretty much a "static" electricity shock - pulsating. Also to be included with this type of set-up is a good grounding system that ensures that the fence charger delivers that 10kV at any point in the electric fence line. A poor grounding system will not go very far in detering a goat from going through it.

    An alternative to electric fencing is the use of "cattle" or "hog" panels. These can be used with great success but there are a couple of drawbacks. First, cattle panels come in 16 foot lengths and cost anywhere from $11 to $14 each. The difference between a "cattle" and "hog" panel is the height and the spacing of the squares in the panel. Cattle panels are approximately 5 feet high and each square is approximately 6 inches by 6 inches. Hog panels stand about 3 feet high and while the top squares are 6 by 6, the lower to the ground the hog panel gets, the smaller the squares get.

    Personally I have found cattle panels to be highly useful for larger goats while the hog panels are more suitable for kid goats (who can often squeeze through 6 by 6 squares on the larger cattle panels). Conversely, larger goats can (and often will) jump over the 3 foot high hog panels. The other drawback to both cattle and hog panels is that if you have horned goats, they may be likely to stick their head through the 6 by 6 squares and get stuck in them. On the other hand, cattle and hog panels do offer the ability of being able to move a fence-line or goat pen. They are very durable and besides adding a few corner t-posts for support, all that is needed is a bit of bailing wire or bailing string to lash them together. I have even seen and used myself, the smaller hog panels with an electric wire above the top of the panel to deter jumpers.

    Another fencing alternative is "woven wire". Personally I don't like this method because for one thing, it becomes a permanent fence for the most part and woven wire also has either 4 x 4, 5 x 5, or 6 x 6 inch squares - again, goats can and do get caught in this set-up. Also, it's a real task to get a woven wire fence tight which is a key to building a good goat fence. But some do use woven wire with excellent results.

    Another (and more expensive) alternative is using chain link fencing. This is probably the most secure method there is but then who can afford to fence an acre or more with chain link fencing? This kind of fencing would be ideal for smaller goat pens for breeding, holding, sick or kidding pens.

    Two more types of fencing are widely used with great results - again they are more expensive. Wooden and metal fencing. Both types require that you have fence rails of either material spaced just right so the goats cannot slip through them. Best if fashioned after the cattle and hog panels in heigth of railing. Metal tubing is ideal. Wooden is equally effective - the only drawback being that goats will tend to rub and gnaw at certain types of wood - you may be replacing sections of wooden fence railing more often than you'd like to.

    So now that I've discussed some "basics" of fencing, let's hear what kind of fencing you've come up with. Perhaps you have a few questions about fencing. I'm not the ultimate authority on the subject but I'm sure many of the other members have their own experiences and wisdom to share.

    About the author: Gary Pfalzbot is the webmaster of GoatWorld. He has raised goats over the years, been involved with 4-H (as a young boy) and currently resides near Branson, Missouri where he and his wife Pam raise a few breeds of goats, mainly precipitated for the control of Kudzu vine.

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