Afraid to get goats because they might escape and run off, due to a lack of proper goat fencing? Or maybe you have goats and it's a constant fight to keep them in the pasture? You're not alone. All of us goat farmers have the same struggle. These little critters seem destined to escape. The solution is to understand the 3 most popular types of goat fencing. Then, you can determine the best way to provide secure fencing for your own goats. Before we jump into the 3 most popular types of goat fencing, one more thing. I want to let you hear from one of our fellow goat farmers, Jamie. Here's her story about goat fences and some things that don't work so well...
"Having goats myself, I have seen the many tricks they conjure up. At one point, I owned a cross-bred billy goat named Sonny. He could escape through every single type of goat fencing we placed around him. The only thing he couldn't escape from was a large dog kennel. Of course, staying in a dog kennel is not a proper life for a rambunctious billy goat. So we eventually had to sell him in order to keep all parties involved safe. It was not in his best interest to roam outside of a fenced-in area. We wouldn't be able to protect him from predators. A vehicle might hit him in the road. Thankfully neither incident ever occurred. But we didn't want to press our luck by continuing to let him have his way. When we had Sonny, I learned valuable lessons about goat fencing. I had my goats in a couple of small 16 x 32 foot pens made out of cattle panels. The cattle panels themselves provided a sufficient enclosure. However, it wasn’t enough to keep Sonny inside.
Don't put a goat shelter too close to a fence. Your goats will learn they can use it to jump over the fence and escape
A shelter along one side of the pen that stood about 3 feed tall aided Sonny’s escape. He would jump on top of the shelter’s roof, jump over the goat fencing and out of the pen. It still seems rather astonishing that a scrawny forty pound mixed-breed horned billy goat could jump onto a 3-foot-tall shelter, over a 4-foot cattle panel and onto the ground without breaking any bones.
Tip: Don't set up any structures near your goat fencing that they can jump from to get over the fence.
I also learned from “Sonny Houdini” that the chances of him straying far from his two does were highly unlikely. Although Sonny was a free-spirited billy goat, he did enjoy the company of his female friends.
Tip: Give your goats something INSIDE of their goat fencing that is more interesting than stuff OUTSIDE of their fence.
I have moved since owning Sonny, and I have new and different goats. My two does are larger than Sonny, making their escape attempts a little harder. But my two wethers are dwarf crosses (smaller). For their goat fencing we used woven wire tacked onto white composite fence post. We selected woven wire that is 4x4 inch squares and we set the fence posts every 10 feet.
Woven wire goat fencing is the best choice for goats. It will flex and slide when they push or stand on it, rather than breaking like a welded wire fence.
There are two gates to this 1.5 acre pasture. One gate sits higher up off the ground and leads to another larger pasture. I owned the larger pasture. So goats escaping under the second gate and into the larger pasture is not a problem. However, the fact that they then escape the larger pasture is a problem. This wouldn't be a problem if only one or two, or even three goats escaped. But when all four escape, the whole herd is out. They tend to gravitate towards the back road I now live on. I tried several things to solve this problem. First, I tried patching a few holes found in the larger pasture’s goat fencing next to the exit gate. I fenced the larger pasture with 5-strand barbed wire with a 1-strand electric fence in front. That worked well for awhile, but then one day I found all four goats out in the garden. I decided that they needed more feed to keep them happy inside their pen. That didn't work either. Finally, I cut a cattle panel to fit under the gate from their pen to the larger pasture. It worked!
Tip: Goats can go UNDER goat fencing just as easily as they can go OVER it.
Another method I've used to solve the problem is to use large guardian dogs or donkeys to guard the goats. My Border Collie/Great Pyrenees-cross guardian dog has been very helpful in securing my goats. She is a very intelligent nocturnal canine that sleeps during the day and patrols during the night. She keeps predators away while keeping my little Houdinis safe. Donkeys are another option as a livestock guardian animal if goats are in a rural setting where predators are prevalent. Goats are easy prey. A guardian dog or donkey could mean the difference between safe goats or a terrible alternative." ~Jamie~ That story from Jamie sounds familiar. It reminds me of goat fencing troubles we had before we learned about the best types of goat fencing. If you're getting started with goats, you'll want to avoid dealing with the same stresses I've had with my goats. I recommend you consider the 3 most popular types of goat fencing for your own goats. To get started, you will need to consider several questions.
Video Credit: Rebellion Ranch
Answering those questions will clarify which type of goat fencing should be used for your goats and why. Now let's talk about which type of goat fencing are the most popular, and why.
(I'll start with #3 and work our way up to #1)
One popular type of goat fencing you can consider for goats would be electric net fencing.
Electric net goat fencing is a good temporary option for goats. It's inexpensive and easy to install. But it's not durable enough to be a permanent solution to keep goats from escaping.
The greatest benefit for electric net fencing is the ease of installing and moving it, and the fact that it's inexpensive. Electric net fencing should only be used for the perimeter fence for goats if: (1) your goats seem to respect goat fencing, (2) their environment is an in-town type of setting, or (3) the goat fencing is only temporary. This type of goat fencing would work well as an inside-the-pasture dividing fence, where a woven wire or high tensile wire fence is used as the boundary fence, and the electric net is used to divide it into separate pens. This may be beneficial if goats are used for breeding and does and bucks need to be separated or does and kids need to be separated. Electric net fence can be taken down, put up or moved to allow for grazing in different areas with ease. There is no need for heavy equipment or strong laborers with electric net fence.
An electric net fence is inexpensive at an approximate maximum cost of about $1.70 per foot including posts. It is by far the most economical choice. It can be purchased with the fence and the posts connected. If that's the case, the supplies are simply the fence itself. The tools are the charger, ground wire and the ground rod. The posts should be able to be stepped into the ground with your foot in the area that is desired. No digging or hammering is needed. Hook the fence charger up and your temporary fence is ready to go. If you get the solar-powered type, you don't even need to plug it in. It doesn't need to be near any source of electricity.
Electric net fence is a high maintenance fence. It's a temporary type of fence, so spraying herbicide to kill weeds around it would not be appropriate. Instead, you can just move the fence to mow around it. You must check a net fence frequently in case it gets knocked down. Keeping the electrical charge going on a net fence is important in order to keep your goats within its bounds. So be sure to check it daily for proper functioning. When we have used electric net fencing for our goats, we have seen that the goats "test" the fence daily. They seem to know right away when it's not working (such as on a cloudy day when the solar power unit runs down). When our goats figure out that the goat fencing isn't charged, they don't waste any time. They start pushing through it so they can eat any tempting plants on the other side.
If you use electric net fencing, it will be inexpensive and easy to install. But it should only be considered for temporary use, since you have to keep an eye on it constantly.
Another great choice for goat fencing is high tensile wire. High tensile wire can be electrified. It can withstand wear-and-tear and horned goats have less of a chance of getting stuck in it.
In contrast, it has large gaps between the wires where goats might escape and it is not easily movable.
Solar-Powered Electric Goat Fence Charger. The needle in the green zone, and a repetitive clicking sound, tells you it's working properly. The "hot" wire from the red terminal is connected to the fence. The wire from the black terminal is connected to a metal rod inserted into the ground.
High tensile wire makes a great choice if access to an electrical source is available. As an alternative, you can also use a solar power head to charge it. Make sure it's in a spot that gets plenty of sun. By having a fence that is electrified, you can be confident that your goats will be kept safe. Predators will be deterred from getting around the fence. Make sure you get a power unit (aka "charger" or "energizer") that is strong enough to give a decent shock to any animal touching it. Some animals stay away from the goat fencing if the power head delivers about 2 joules of energy. Some larger or stubborn animals require about 5 joules to react.
The specifications for your fence will depend on the size of the area the fence needs to protect. Class 3 galvanized 12 ½ to 14 ½ gauge high tensile wire will take a lot of abuse. It will last for many years. If you have horned goats, there's less chance their heads will get stuck in high tensile wire. However, high tensile wire does have large gaps. You will need to space the wires carefully to keep your goats contained.
Large spaces in High Tensile Wire goat fencing allow goats to escape more easily than with other types of fencing
If the high tensile wire is not kept electrified, then the chances of goats escaping will increase tremendously. Electric goat fencing can short-out or become non-electrified for several reasons. This can be due to dry grounding rods, fallen branches, excessive weeds, wires touching or breaks in the wires.
A helpful tool with electric goat fencing is a “fence alert warning light”. It is an inexpensive tool that hangs on one strand of the electrified fence. This should be placed on the strand that is most important with goats, which is one of the lower strands. When the fence is not electrified, or the voltage is low, the light will blink. This warns that something needs to be fixed to prevent a goat from breaking free.
The fact that high tensile wire is a permanent fence can be viewed as a "pro" (if you need a fence to last for a long time). It can also be a "con" (if you're really needing more of a cheap, temporary portable fence. High tensile wire is not a good choice for a separation fence (to keep bucks and does apart).But it's a very good choice for a boundary fence (to keep predators out and keep goats in).
A 12 ½ gauge, class 3 galvanized high tensile wire costs about $0.125 per foot for 5 strands and $0.15 per foot for 6 strands. For the cost of metal posts, add $6.25 to every 12-15 feet and $12 for wooden posts. Add the cost of the electrical charger and all of the supplies as well as labor cost involved. Of course, these estimates can vary depending on your geographic location.
Compared to woven wire it is easier, but compared to electric net fence it's harder. So, I grade high tensile wire as a medium difficulty level of installation.
An electric goat fence can be mounted on metal T-posts using snap-on plastic insulators
Supplies needed for high tensile wire are: the proper gauge of high tensile wire, posts, insulators, larger corner posts and brace posts. You can use either metal or wooden posts. Either type of post will require an insulator due to the conductivity of the electric fence. The types of insulators differ depending on which posts you use. For wooden posts you will need to nail the insulator to the post, but for a metal T-post you can simply wrap and snap the insulator. It's important to keep in mind that a special type of insulator will need to be used at the corner posts.
The tools needed for high tensile wire are similar to woven wire. As long as corner posts are involved, a hand-held post hole digger, gas-powered auger post hole digger or a front-end loader will need to be utilized for any wooden post involved.
A gas-powered auger post hole digger is a MUST when you want to install a lot of wooden posts for permanent goat fencing.
A post driver will be needed for metal posts. Other tools and supplies needed include a good hammer, fence pliers, a high tensile wire "Spinning Jenny" (this could mean the difference in a taunt fence or a loose fence), a good pair of working gloves, a fence charger, a ground stake, smaller gauge wire to create a connection with the ground and an electrical source (if solar panel charger is not used).
Proper installation of high tensile wire goat fencing begins with the posts being set. Once line posts, corner posts and brace posts are set you can begin stretching the wire. The spinning jenny will become a life saver during this process. It will create a beautiful taut fence with less effort. You should place the fence so as to create a good physical barrier as well as psychological barrier with the use of the electricity. A good placement of the fence wires for goats would be 5 wires from bottom-to-top. Place the first wire 6 inches from the ground, then next wire at 8 inches from there, next 8 inches, next 10 inches and next 10 inches, with a total of 42 inches from ground to top wire. The bottom 2-3 wires should always be hot (in case an animal tries to go under). There should be a ground at the #3 and #4 wires, and the top 1-2 wires should be hot as well (in case an animal tries to climb over the top).
Electrified high tensile wire must be fed through a special plastic insulator. This can be nailed to a wooden post with a metal staple. The insulator prevents the electric fence from "grounding out" against the wooden post which would stop the fence from working.
Once you stretch the wires, preferably one at a time, begin placing insulators at the same height on every post. Place the wire inside the insulator. It is important that you install corner wire correctly to eliminate a shortage problem. Run each wire through a special insulator. Then, wrap the insulator-covered wire around the post and tie the wire back to itself. Only the insulator should be touching the post, not the wire. Once all of the wires are in place, it is time for the fence charger installation.
If the fence charger isn't solar-powered, place it in a barn or shed close by where electric service is available. If solar-powered, it should be facing the South and placed on a post outside of the pen.
A wire coming from the red terminal on the charger is connected to the fence wire, which applies the electrical charge to the fence. A special tool is used to "crimp" (smash) a special clamp on the end of the charger wire which secures it to the fence wire.
There are two prongs on a fence charger. You should wire the black one to a small metal fence post or grounding rod that is placed in moist soil, and the red one is hot and should be placed on a wire of the fence that should be hot. From that one hot-wire the other wires that should be hot can be connected with wire between them so the electrical charge can move through all of the "hot" wires.
You can maintain high tensile wire goat fencing either by mowing, weed-eating or spraying herbicide, whichever you prefer. Although high tensile wire goat fencing is good, it's not considered the "best" for goats. That leads us to the most popular goat fencing option of all.
The benefits of woven wire is the fact that it is a permanent fence, it is a great boundary fence, it provides adequate security and is low maintenance.
Woven Wire gets its name from the fact that wires are "woven" (wrapped) around each other, rather than being welded together. When a goat butts the fence or stands against it, the woven wires will slide and flex without breaking, unlike a welded wire fence.
Woven wire should not be confused with "welded wire" goat fencing. With woven wire, the wires are "woven" together so they slide and flex if a goat stands up against the fence with its front hooves. "Welded wire" fencing, on the other hand, has inflexible welded joints which tend to break when a goat stands up against the fence. So woven wire is the best choice for goats; NOT welded wire. Woven wire is a great perimeter fence that is most likely to keep predators out. This would work well in the country, if there will be a large herd of goats, or if the goats will be used for breeding and kids in the herd are a possibility in the future. Smaller spaces in woven wire are more effective to keep small kids from pushing through, compared to high tensile wire.
Woven wire is permanent goat fencing that will provide you with peace of mind, knowing that your goat herd will stay inside and predators will stay outside. Woven wire is a low maintenance type of goat fencing as long as weeds are sprayed and trees are trimmed to keep fences clear from brush and debris that could fall onto it.
Some negative aspects of woven wire are the fact that horned goats can get their heads stuck, it is permanent, and standard height of 4 feet may not be tall enough. To get around the potential issue of horns getting stuck, make sure that the square spaces in the woven wire you choose are no larger than 4 x 4 inches at the bottom of the fence.
You should tack up woven wire goat fencing with metal T-posts or wooden fence posts, thereby making it a permanent fence. The process of putting up woven wire with either type of post will take more time than for a temporary electric net fence, so making sure you place the fence correctly the first time will be helpful in the future.
Woven Wire goat fencing with large spaces like this can cause a goat's horns to get stuck easily. To avoid this, use woven wire with spaces no larger than 4 inches by 4 inches.
One disadvantage of woven wire goat fencing is the standard height of 4 feet, which is too easy for some goats to jump over. You can remedy this with one or two strands of barbed wire, or electrified high tensile wire, at the top of the woven wire to successfully contain your lively little goats.
The cost of woven wire varies depending on the type and brand used. The best insurance with woven wire is to not buy cheap brands. Stick to Red Brand or Gaucho, ensure the squares are smaller, the height is at least 4 foot, and the gauge of wire to be 14 ½ or greater. Remember, the smaller number the gauge, the larger the wire (12 gauge is larger wire than 14 gauge). Red Brand woven wire at a height of 47 inches with smaller squares at the bottom will cost $0.45 per foot. (That is not factoring in the cost of post, labor or other supplies, but fence only.)
Installation difficulty is an essential factor in deciding between different types of goat fencing
Woven wire installation is the hardest, but it provides the best physical barriers for the goats. For woven wire you will need supplies like woven wire fencing, posts, clips or staples, and large corner and brace posts. Once you have decided that woven wire is the goat fencing that meets your needs, then you must decide which type of post to use. Choose between wooden fence posts or metal T-posts and the types of clips or staples you will need for each. For goats, the question to ask for the post selection is...how much money is available? Metal T-posts will be less expensive, but wooden posts will be sturdier and more permanent if you can afford the added cost.
Bendable wire T-post clips are used to connect a wire fence to a metal T-post using a pair of pliers.
If you choose metal T-posts, then you will need to use metal T-post clips to tack the woven wire to the posts. Wooden posts require staples and it is critical to purchase the correct staples. I know this factor seems insignificant, but in reality it is huge. Staples should have double barbs on the ends to ensure that they do not come out of the post over time. One great brand of staple for this is Centaur. You will need large wooden corner posts 6-8 inches in diameter to stabilize the goat fencing. You can place the corner posts in a figure “H” or with a brace at a 45 degree angle to create a secure fence for your goats.
To install woven wire you will need the following: at least two laborers, a hand-held post hole digger, auger driven post hole digger, or a front-end loader (you will need to choose one of those three for the wooden posts and for the corner posts), a T-post driver (only if metal post are chosen), hammer, fence pliers and a good set of leather gloves.
Metal U-shaped galvanized fence staples can be used to nail a woven wire fence to a wooden post.
To install woven wire, put the posts into the ground, making sure each is level while also taking into consideration the hills and valleys of the land. You should buy posts that are a length of 5 feet (60 inches), and make sure you bury at least 1 foot (12 inches) under the ground (this leaves 48 inches above ground for fence placement). You should place them approximately 12-15 feet apart. Once all line posts, corner posts and brace posts are in place, it's time to begin stretching the woven wire. You should place woven wire far enough off the ground to ensure it will not rot, but low enough to keep your goats within its perimeter. This is where two people are truly needed. One person should stretch and stabilize while the other person staples or ties the clip to the post.
Tip: Place the wire on the inside of the goat fencing to decrease the chances of the goats pushing the fence off the post.
You should stretch the goat fencing from one corner post to the next and then cut and restart. This will ensure that, if a hole or other damage to the fence occurs, then you may only need to replace one side of the goat fencing. It also ensures a more taut fence as you will only have to stretch one side at a time. Difficulty of maintenance of each fence varies. Woven wire will require spraying the ground with herbicide, as mowing or weed eating is not possible due to the lack of ground clearance. Now that we've covered the 3 most popular goat fencing types, let's talk about some other related, important things you need to know.
This video demonstrates why you should use "woven" wire fencing with goats, NOT "welded" wire.
Video Credit: Chikin Town
As we discussed above, you can install goat fencing using either metal T-posts or wooden fence posts. So let's discuss how you should determine which to use. If electric net goat fencing is the best option for you, then neither one of these posts are needed. Electric net goat fencing usually comes with its own plastic posts built in. However, if woven wire or high tensile wire is one of your choices then you must decide which type of post you will use to hold your fence up - metal T-posts or wooden posts.
A spring-loaded T-Post Driver tool with handles on it is ideal for pounding metal T-posts into the ground. It's a lot quicker and easier than other methods.
Metal T-posts are less expensive than wooden posts, making them the obvious first choice if money is a priority. If money is not an issue, wooden fence posts would be the best choice due to better durability and permanence. Wooden fence posts provide sturdy goat fencing with the most eye appeal. Installation difficulty is also an important consideration. Metal t-posts are easier to install as they only require moist ground, a T-post driver and a strong laborer. Wooden fence posts require a large piece of equipment to install. It may be a tractor with a front-end loader or a backhoe to push the wooden post into the ground. Another option would be a tractor with an auger-driven post hole digger. The most labor-intensive option for wooden post installation is a hand-driven post hole digger. I would not recommend a hand driven post hole driver for a larger pen.
Important Tip: Even if you choose metal T-posts, larger (6-8” in diameter) wooden posts still need to be used for the corner posts and 5-inch-diameter brace posts.
Regardless of which post type you choose, the height of each post should be no shorter than 5 feet for line posts. The cost of metal posts will add $6.25 to every 12-15 feet ($6.80 for wooden posts). The cost for corner posts is about $15.00 per post (each corner needs three 8” posts and two 4-6” posts).
Troubleshooting your newly built goat fencing may not be a problem at first, but eventually something is going to go wrong. For woven wire, troubleshooting is simple - find the hole and patch it. If your problem is the goats jumping over, take away their crutch for jumping over (nearby objects) or place 1-2 strands of barbed wire or electric wire at the top of the woven wire. You can also utilize combinations of 1-2 strands of electric wire in front of woven wire. For troubleshooting electric goat fencing that has quit working, it is a matter of process of elimination. The easiest way to determine a problem with electric goat fencing is to start at the fence charger itself. Make sure the fence charger is running properly. To do this use a fence tester and place it on the red prong of the fence charger. If that is working, then check the ground rod.
A wire from the black terminal of the fence charger is connected to a series of several "Ground Rods" nailed into the ground. A good connection to the ground is important for an electric fence to work properly.
Confirm that the ground rod has moist soil around it and be sure to insert it deep enough into the ground (in dry areas or during times of drought it may be necessary to pour water at the bottom of the ground rod). The next step is to trace the wires from the charger. Make sure the wires from the hot prong on the fence charger are hooked up to the proper wires or net fence. If so, continue to follow the wires or fence with the fence tester to find an area where it goes from a good voltage to an area where voltage is lost. Check the perimeter of the goat fencing for grass, weeds, brush, limbs or trees touching the fence. Make sure the goat fencing is free of debris to ensure it is at a proper functionality. After a storm, be sure to walk around the perimeter of the goat fencing to check for any limbs, trees or other debris that might have fallen onto the fence. As mentioned before, a great investment for an electric goat fencing is an alert light that will blink when the goat fencing is no longer electrified.
Deciding the type and size of gate is the last step to building a pen for your goats. The gates, much like the goat fencing choices, must be goat-proof. Gates vary from common metal pipe gates to mesh filled gates. They can vary in lengths of 4 foot to 16 foot, and heights of most commonly about 4 feet. Some metal pipe gates have smaller spacing at the bottom than at the top which will deter your goats from getting their head stuck through them.
A long gate for your goat pasture, covered with woven wire, is a good choice. It allows you enough room to bring in a truck, trailer or tractor when hauling in equipment or large hay bales, or when loading up goats to be taken to a show or other destination.
The most important factor in a gate is the length. If you plan on feeding round bales of hay, it is necessary to have at least a 12-foot gate to allow a tractor or truck through to set the bales out. If you plan on feeding square bales and/or grain, a smaller gate will be adequate enough for your needs.
Find a way to entice your goats to stay within their pen, or it will be more difficult to keep them there. A few things that can help them stay content are feed, good hay, good grass, supplements, toys and shelter. Evaluate your grass situation. Do this by identifying quantity and quality of grass available in the pen and taking soil samples. You may need to fertilize, spray or seed annually or biannually to keep grass quality at an adequate level. If grass quality is an issue, ensure that good quality hay and/or grain is being supplemented. If you use temporary goat fencing, consider moving it frequently to discourage over-grazing of one area. Supplemental mineral blocks or loose minerals are also vital, not only for health reasons, but also to keep your goats happy within their pens. If they are deficient in a mineral they may escape to try and find it elsewhere. Always keep a shelter for your goats so they can escape the weather and extreme temperature, and so they feel secure within their pen.
Goats love to climb on plastic playground equipment. It keeps them entertained so they aren't so focused on trying to escape through the goat fencing around their pasture.
The last tip to keep your goats from escaping is to keep them entertained. Give them toys. Goats are fun-loving animals that love to run, jump and play even as adults. Place large balls, barrels or blocks in their pen to keep your goats happy and yourself entertained.
Unfortunately, there are times when all you can do is never enough for that Houdini goat. Once all options are completely exhausted, including triangular neck collars (which train a stubborn animal to stop escaping through fencing), it may be time to make the decision to sell a troublesome goat. A troublesome goat not only causes issues for you, but can lead your whole herd into danger by showing them how to escape as well.
In review, choose the fence that best suits your needs. Ask yourself important questions like...
Woven wire (the #1 most popular type of goat fencing) and high tensile electric wire (#2) are great choices for the large herd in a rural setting, especially if breeding goats is in the plan. A good confinement for an in-town setting, backyard pets or temporary situations is electric net goat fencing (#3). Cost, installation difficulty and maintenance are all factors you should consider in selecting your goat fencing. Whether you're building new goat fencing, replacing old goat fencing or enhancing existing goat fencing, I hope this article has given you plenty of tips on how to keep your goats safely inside their enclosure.
If you are just getting started with goats you will want to check out the other critical tips about raising goats which are broken down in detail in our article "9-Step Essential Beginners Guide to Raising Goats."