Fencing is the most critical factor in raising goats on pasture. There is nothing more frustrating than having to constantly chase goats back into the pasture. Once they have been trained to an electric fence, goats can usually be controlled with two to three strands of wire in a cross-fence. Electric netting is also an option for temporary or permanent fencing in management intensive grazing systems; however, several goat producers have lost animals that tangled their horns in the netting.
Permanent fencing applications call for 12.5 gauge, smooth, high-tensile, class 3, galvanized steel wire. Goats can be controlled with four to five strands of high-tensile electrified wire. The wire spacings can vary from 6 to 8 inches near the ground to 8 to 12 inches for the top strands. Perimeter fence height should be at least 42 inches tall. A high wire (electrified), or an offset wire set one foot inside the fence near the top, may be needed if goat jumping is a problem. As a rule, goats will crawl under rather than jump a fence, so the bottom wire should be kept close to the ground. Training animals to respect electric wire fences can be done effectively by forcing animals to stay in a small paddock which encourages them to test the wire. Boundary fences should control all stock at all times. However, interior and cross fences may be made of three to four smooth strands of high-tensile wires, assuming animals are well trained.
Woven wire — 6-by-6 inch, 6-by-9 inch, or 6-by-12 inch openings — is very effective as a permanent fence, but costs at least twice that of a 5 strands of smooth high tensile electric fence. Further, horned goats frequently become caught in the 6-by-6 inches openings or in 6-by-12 inches openings split by a T-post. To address this problem with existing fences, an electric wire offset about 9 inches from the woven wire fence and about 12 to 15 inches from the ground will reduce the number of animals caught in the woven wire fence. However, this practice also reduces control of forage growth on the fence line. Woven wire with a 6-by-9 inch or 6-by-12 inch opening are new and cheaper alternatives than the woven wire with a 6-by-6 inch opening, which do not require an electric offset wire. A new 12.5 gauge high-tensile woven wire that has a 24-inch vertical spacing is now available. It is 36 inches tall and can have either five, seven, nine or eleven horizontal wires. It is generally less expensive than conventional woven wire. Horned goats usually do not get caught in the woven wire fences with vertical spacing greater than 6-inches, or, if caught, they are able to free themselves because of the larger opening. Because goats like to climb, the corners of fences should not have the diagonal bracing for posts or the animals will climb out of the pasture. Corner posts should be driven with a deadman or H-braces. High-tensile electric fences can uses either H-braces or diagonal braces.
Temporary wire applications have a wide variety of types from which to select. Polywire and polytape are unique combinations of braided, UV-stabilized polyethylene plastic interwoven with three to nine stainless steel, copper or aluminum filaments. Polytape is similar in composition to polywire but is flat, five-eighths to 1.5 inches wide and is used because of its excellent visibility. Polytape and polywire fencing can be used very effectively in control grazing situations. Electric netting, a prefabricated fence of electroplastic twines and white push-in insulated plastic posts is a very effective temporary fence for sheep and goats. It has been reported that several goat producers have lost animals that tangled their horns in the netting. Therefore, goats should be trained to electric netting.
Electric fences should be charged at 4,500 to 9,000 volts at all times. Regular checking and testing are necessary, and any problems must be fixed promptly, or goats will escape.
Luginbuhl, J-M. 2006. Pastures for Meat Goats. In: Meat Goat Production Handbook, ed. T.A. Gipson, R.C. Merkel, K. Williams, and T. Sahlu, Langston University, ISBN 1-880667-04-5.