WORKING PEN CONSTRUCTION – Sorting animals is much easier if you have proper working pens, either permanent or portable. A drafting chute is very useful in separating a large herd into various groups: such as white and black before shearing; kids and dams at weaning time; bucks from does at the end of breeding season; or sale goats from non-sale goats when a buyer comes around. The very same chute can also be used to confine groups of animals when it’s time to vaccinate or worm.
Drafting chute designs are illustrated in Figure 1. The idea is to run a large group of animals down a narrow passageway which ends in a set of gates which can be used to direct some goats in one direction and others in another directions. It is possible to draft three ways if the proper design is used.
Permanent pens should be centrally located with at least one large pen and several smaller pens connected to the drafting area. Animals pushed out of the large pen and down the alley way can be drafted or separated into the smaller pens according to the type of selection desired. When drafting kids, it is best to try to put them into the most central pen so they have a harder time seeing the exit taken by their mothers. This reduces the desire to escape.
Portable working areas can be constructed in much the same way by using panels that have been constructed of wood, hog panels or pipe. Be sure to secure the ends and bottoms to prevent escape.
The drafting chute needs to be low enough so the operator can reach over the sides to move animals along or prevent them from moving too fast. A side gate can serve to draft off animals or a divider at the end can funnel goats into the selected pen. Normally, the longer the alley is, the better it will work as animals tend to string out in single file the further they have to move.
FENCE CONSTRUCTION – The main concerns that need to be addressed before constructing a goat fence are type of fence desired. location of the fence and the expense of construction. Cost may very well be the controlling factor of the type selected and the location of the fence may also determine type as some types do not work well in some locations. There are four basic types of goat fence: electric, sheep fence, modified cattle fence and field fence.
Electric Fences – Electric fences can be installed permanently or set up temporarily. The main concern is wire tension and the presence of a proper ground wire. Typically, there is one well grounded “ground” wire to every four strands of “hot” wires. The lowest wire is hot with the second one up is the ground, followed by three additional hot wires. When a goat tries to push through, they will either contact the ground itself and complete the circuit or they will contact the ground wire and get shocked. Problems with electric fences stem from improper insulation of hot wires, improper grounding of the ground wire and consistent power supply to either 110V or battery power. Batteries do run down and electric power can be knocked out by electrical storms, allowing the goats to escape before the power is restored. Permanent fences are typically high tensile, anchored securely to constructed H-post ends and midpoint stretch posts. Portable electric fences are most easily constructed using spools of twisted, orange plastic/wire combination wire. Spools hold up to half a mile of wire and can be easily wound and unwound from the mounted spool. Multiple spools can be mounted on solid end posts and stretched to the next corner. Fiber glass insulating rods support the strands at frequent intervals.
Field Fence – Field fence is the most costly to construct, but it requires the least amount of maintenance after construction. It is 32″ high and it has 12″ spacing between the vertical stays. Two stands of barbed, smooth or electric wire can be added on the top to add height and make the fence suitable for holding cattle, horses or llamas. In some high snows all areas, wooden stays are needed to support the fence under heavy snow loads.
Modified cattle fence – Well constructed three or four strand barb wire fences can be converted to goat fencing by adding an electric wire below and between the existing barb wire strands. These electric wires can be mounted close to the fence posts, but at times it is best to offset at least one strand 4 – 12″ on the inside of the fence to discourage goats from testing the fence itself. If existing fences are in place, this can be the most economical method.
Sheep Fence – Sheep fence can be constructed around yard areas but it can cause problems in open areas as the undehorned goats will insist on grazing that greener grass on the other side. Animals so trapped are susceptible to predation and may die from exposure. Typically, it has 4 or 6″ squares and it is this close vertical and horizontal spacing that prevents horned goats from escaping once they have pushed their heads through the square.
When constructing a fence, it is best to place the brace posts outside the fence if possible. Goats are adept at walking up the diagonal bracing and jumping out. Remember that goats will challenge a fence first at the bottom third, trying to escape. it is also important to make sure the bottom of the fence is close to the ground when traversing valleys, irrigation ditches or depressions.
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