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Goat Gossip by Fred Vandermartin

When my dear darling Wife and I first bought our place about 2 miles east of beautiful downtown Dew in Freestone County, getting some goats was just a pregnant idea. After building our home I started to take a look around and saw that a good 30 acres of the place was dense woods that was in desperate need of clearing. We first started out by building pens made of field fence with 2 strings of barbed wire on top. This type of fence is fine for larger goats but smaller ones tend to get their head stuck when they try to get to that delicious, succulent grass or leaves that are always on the other side. You can use net wire fence with smaller mesh like goat fence (4x4) or horse fence (2x4), but these are an expensive alternative. The solution that we came up with was to run an electric hot wire at 6 and 12 inches high. This keeps the small goats from sticking their heads through and keeps the big goats from pushing and rubbing the fence.

When we bought the rancho we also inherited a great herd of Brahma cross cows that were owned by the sage cow man Mr. Lee Denney. We continued to lease to Mr. Lee until that fateful day that he decided to get out of the cow business and we bought the herd. The perimeter fence around our place was fine for the cows that were raised here, but goats would go through like water through a sieve. Over the last few years we have bulldozed the fence lines and rebuilt the fences. What I would do was have the fence crew in and have them build a 6 wire cow fence, using four point wire, then come back after they were done and add four point wire to make it a 10 wire fence. The bottom 4 or 5 wires are spaced at 4 to 6 inches and the top wires spaced at 8 to 12 inches. One added benefit is that coyotes and feral pigs donít like this fence and I havenít had a hog rooted hay pasture since I built the fence. I have seen people use a regular 6 wire fence with some electric hot wires added between the bottom 3 or 4 wires with no problems.

As we replaced the perimeter fence, we would section off areas with electric fence. Electric fence is by my estimation the best and easiest way to section off a property for cross fencing (and here comes the big if), if your animals are trained to the hot wire. When we bring in new goats or have newborn kids we put them in a pen that has a hot wire cross fence so they can learn all about it the hard way! It only takes about a week or so to learn the lesson. With big goats you can get by with 4 wires spaced at 8 inches. With young kids we put them in sections with 5 wires with the bottom 3 wires spaced at 6 inches and the fourth wire at 8 inches and the top at 8 or 10 inches. This makes a 36 inch fence which will keep goats or cows in unless you have some great leapers. If you decide to use electric fence the best advice I can give is to buy the most powerful fencer that you can afford. I use a 100 mile fencer rated at 6 joules but if and when I get a new one it will be a more powerful one! Goats need a more powerful fence charger than cattle or horses. A disadvantage to electric fence is that poor soil moisture and weeds and grass growing into it can cause it to work less effectively. During dry weather I run a soaker hose around the ground rods and this seems to help. Mowing under the wire or spraying an herbicide to kill the vegetation works. In sandy soil you may have to use more ground rods and a ground wire on the fence but in the clay soils like my place I use four ground rods and no extra ground wire.

If youíve ever chased a frantic goat that has realized that she canít be with her herd mates because she went through a fence or couldnít get a hard headed kid goat weaned because it kept worming its way through the field fence to get a drink you will appreciate the need to take the time to build good fences. It took 6 years to get things right around my place and I feel that if you take your time and research and stick to your good plans that youíll have an easy way of it. Visit some established ranches to get some ideas and remember that the only stupid question is the one you didnít ask.

As an economic and health tip, with the dry weather weíve been having, if you have any trees that your tired of mowing around or your tired of knocking your head on that low limb then cut it down for your goats. Goats are browsers and they will eat most type of trees and will gobble up the leaves of your pruning. I have been cutting down a few ellum trees for my goats and they love them. Some trees such as chinaberry I have heard should not be fed to goats so check with your vet or extension agent to see if its o.k... Itís been said that tree leaves are good protein but are high in tannins but they shouldnít hurt your goats.

Bye, for now.


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