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Goat Facilities
Marvin Shurley
American Meat Goat Association

PDF version of this module

Unit Objective

After completion of this module of instruction, the producer should be able to state requirements for containing goats within a fenced area and consider advantages of using certain types of fencing materials over other types. The producer should be able to consider different designs for converting or acquiring feeders that work well on a goat farm and to modify natural watering systems for the maximum consumption by the goat herd. The producer should be able to evaluate the existing facility and to identify the changes that will be necessary to maximize the use of the facility for a profitable and efficient goat operation. The producer should be able to complete all assignments with 100% accuracy and score a minimum of 85% on the module test.

Specific Objectives

After completion of this instructional module the producer should be able to:

  1. State why it is difficult to control goats with fencing.
  2. State one of the most important factors to consider with fence construction.
  3. Identify types of conventional fencing.
  4. Distinguish between corner and stretch braces.
  5. State the appropriate distance for placing stretch braces.
  6. Select the appropriate post spacing for wood or pipe post and for T-post.
  7. Select acceptable spacing for mesh wire fences.
  8. Identify the woven wire classification and identification numbers.
  9. State the purpose of expansion links on net wire.
  10. State the appropriate spacing required for an 8- to 10-strand barbed wire fence.
  11. State the number of feet in a barbed wire roll and a net wire roll.
  12. Identify the least expensive and most portable type of fencing.
  13. State some advantages of using electric fencing.
  14. Identify the number wires needed for an electric fence.
  15. State ways for converting existing cattle fence to a goat containment fence.
  16. Select from list equipment and tools necessary for installing fences.
  17. Identify important feed trough design considerations.
  18. State the amount of linear troughs space needed per goat.
  19. Identify type of facility that is ideal for feed storage.
  20. Identify appropriate design for mineral feeders.
  21. Identify appropriate considerations for goats wind break and shade.
  22. Identify the preferred type of flooring for a barn or shed for housing goats.
  23. Identify the space requirements per square foot per animal to be housed.
  24. State the most important nutrient for livestock.
  25. Identify acceptable and unacceptable water and watering standards for goats.
  26. State the water requirements per day for goats.
  27. Identify the different types of pens needed for a goat operation.
  28. Survey the existing farm and identify the specific changes that will be needed to contain the goat herd and to modify the pens, barns, feed troughs and watering system.

Module Contents

Fencing

When a person has decided to go into the business of raising goats after researching the other factors, which stand to affect the success of their operation, consideration must be given to containing the animals. Goats are one of the more difficult species of livestock to contain. The natural curiosity and inquisitive nature must be considered. An effective fence that will safely and effectively contain goats in their designated area over the long term is an important factor in fence construction.

The costs of construction must be taken into consideration. In most situations the perimeter fences of a property will be of a permanent nature. Division and cross fences lend themselves to adjustable modes of construction. There are many fencing material and construction options available, and some will be mentioned in terms of their effectiveness.

Conventional fencing

 

The conventional fencing for goats is a fence constructed of net, woven, or mesh wire. The work skills required to build a suitable net wire fence are greater than those required for other types; however, the expected service life of a net wire fence is longer than that of other types of fencing. Construction cost, are higher due to the materials needed and the time required for construction.

Variables to be taken into consideration are materials cost, and construction skills of the producer. Consideration may be given to the availability of local fencing contractors and their rates. Conventional fences are generally permanent so extensive planning needs to go into their route and location prior to starting construction.

 

Guidelines and materials for constructing conventional fencing

Wood, steel pipe, or T-posts may be used for the construction of the corner H-braces, line or stretch braces, and for line posts, respectively. Materials, which are available in the producer’s home area at the most economical cost, should be considered. Producers may have access to resources such as timber they might harvest for posts, or possibly pipe available for use as fence posts at salvage rates on their property. Staples for attaching wire to wooden posts, and tie wire or pre-formed clips to attach the net to steel posts are also needed.

Permanent corner braces  should be of the H-brace type of construction. Additional bracing in the form of a “jake leg” or angle brace may be used for greater strength. A minimum post installation depth of 30 inches is recommended in dirt holes, and a 12 inch minimum post hole depth when building fencing in rock is recommended. When building in rocky areas where digging depth is limited the use of concrete to securely anchor the post is recommended.

 
 

Stretch braces will be needed at regular intervals on longer sections of a fence line. A good guideline is to set a brace for each 990’ (3 X 330’ rolls), or at 1320’ (4 X 330’ rolls) maximum. On shorter sections of a fence line, the corner braces will provide sufficient strength. Stretch braces of the “A brace” type of construction can be used. The purpose of a stretch brace is to relieve strain on corner braces on these longer stretches of fencing. As with the corner braces, a minimum post installation depth of 30 inches is recommended in dirt. When building in solid rock, this depth may be reduced to as little as one foot provided the post is securely anchored.

Line posts will need to be set at regular intervals in order to support the net wire between the corner braces. They are also needed between the stretch braces on the longer sections of a fence line. Post spacing and the material used for the posts will depend upon the desired strength and purpose of the fence. Wood or pipe line posts set at 60 foot intervals, with T-posts for support set at 15 or 20 foot intervals will be adequate under most conditions.

Woven or mesh wire

The type of woven or mesh wire to be used in construction, whether regular or high tensile, is another consideration. Regular steel woven wire is of sufficient strength under most conditions. The high tensile woven wire now available, in addition to being stronger, has a thicker galvanized coating. High tensile net wire normally comes with a Class III galvanized coating compared to a Class I for regular steel net wire. In high rainfall areas, areas in close proximity to salt water, or where heavy mineralized soils occur, the additional cost of high tensile net wire may be justified due to its durability.

The height of the mesh wire and the spacing of the vertical stay wires are important factors to consider. It is accepted that a fence of 48” in height will contain goats except under extreme circumstances. For horned goats, a 12” vertical stay wire spacing is preferred to a 6” stay wire spacing. The wider spacing allows a goat the opportunity to work its head and free its horns after putting them through the net. The 6” stay wire spacing used in some net wire has the capability catch the horns and trap a goat.

Woven wire classification and identification is simple once a producer understands the numbers present on the tag of a roll of wire. As an example consider a tag with the numbers 11-47-6-9. The first number, “11”, designates the number of horizontal wires on the net. The second number designates the height of the wire in inches; “47” means the wire is 47 inches tall. The third number designates spacing of the vertical or stay wires. In this example, the “6” means six inch spacing between stay wires. The last number on the tag designates the gauge or thickness of the wire. In this instance “9” means the net is constructed of nine gauge wire.

Net wire comes with expansion kinks on each horizontal wire between the vertical wires. Stretching the wire to the point of flattening out of the kinks to approximately 2/3 of their original height provides adequate tension. The purpose of these expansion kinks is to provide for expansion and contraction during periods of cold or hot weather. Tightening of the mesh to the point where these kinks are completely straightened out is not recommended.

 
 

8- to 10-strand barbed wire fence

Another type of non-electric fence, which may appeal to some producers, is an 8 to 10 strand barbed wire fence. This type of fence uses individual strands of barbed wire spaced in a graduated manner with the bottom strands being closer together than the top strands. The bottom strand is placed 3 inches above ground level. The second strand is placed 4 inches above. The third strand is place 4 more inches up with the fourth strand placed 4 inches above the third. The next two strands (fifth and sixth) are set on 5 inch spacing. The seventh strand is set at 6 inches above the sixth with the top two wires (eighth and ninth) set at 8 inch spacing. This provides a nine-strand barbed wire fence with bottom wire spacing close enough to hold in kid goats and the recommended 47 inches in height.

One of the advantages of this type of fence is that barbed wire normally comes in 80-rod rolls whereas net wire comes in 20-rod rolls. One rod equals 16.5 feet meaning the barbed wire rolls are 1320 feet in length and the net wire rolls 330 feet in length. Thus, with barded wire, there are no splices in a quarter mile length. In comparison, three splices will be needed to create a quarter mile (1320’) of net wire. Using barbed wire reduces construction time since some wire splices are eliminated. Wire costs normally run less for the multi-strand barbed wire fence than mesh or net wire, but the need to stretch and tie each individual strand remains. Producers again have the option of using wire constructed of either regular or high tensile steel. The high tensile steel barbed wire provides greater strength, and when properly stretched, needs less work to maintain since it does not loosen up and sag over time as will the softer steel wire.

The same key construction components used for net or woven wire are needed for barbed wire fences, i.e., strong corner braces, stretch braces, line posts, and support posts between the line posts. These may already be in place along with 3 to 5 strands of existing barbed wire if the property had previously been used for livestock production, typically cattle. This existing fence will serve to further reduce construction cost, as 30 to 50% of the wire needed may already be in place. As a caution, if equine animals are to be housed on the same property with goats, the use of this type of fencing is not recommended.

Electric fencing

 

The least expensive and most portable type of fencing used for goats is electric fencing. This type of fencing lends itself particularly well to interior fences. Sturdy corner or stretch braces of similar construction to those used for conventional fencing are essential to bear the tension placed on the wire. Line posts for electric fencing may be placed at longer intervals than other fencing and are often constructed of materials whose cost is considerably less than the T-posts or wood posts used in net wire or multi-strand barbed wire fences. Steel T-posts with insulators or fiberglass rod posts, are the most commonly used line posts. Wooden battens are sometimes used for supporting the wires between the wooden line posts.

 

When fence portability is a consideration, step-in poly posts are commonly used. Ease of installation and removal for moving fences are two main advantages of these posts. A main reason for using a movable fencing system is to more effectively graze selected areas of a property. The ability to set up a strip or cell grazing system is easier with this type of fencing. Other advantages of a movable fence are the ability to defer grazing on certain sections of a property to allow for re-growth of forage, and to control the concentration of animals in brushy areas to reduce vegetation density. Electric fencing does require regular checks with a voltage meter to be sure that adequate current is flowing through the wires. Heavy vegetation growth contacting the hot wires can interfere with voltage transfer along the electric fence rendering it ineffective. Thus, vegetation control along the fence line is more of a consideration with electric fencing than with the net or barbed wire fences.

 
 

Another type of electric fence that serves well in some situations is a “roll-up” type of electric net fencing that comes with posts in one package. It is primarily used is when a high concentration of animals is needed in heavy grazing situations, or as a temporary holding pen for contract grazers. The cost of this pre-packaged fence is considerably higher than most other types of fence. It does, however, fit situations where portability is of more importance than permanence.

Training goats to an electric fence

Animals that have not been exposed to electric fencing will require a training period to become familiar with the consequence of touching the electric fence. Shiny objects attached to the wires arouse a goat’s natural curiosity causing them to investigate the fence. Some producers feed near an electric fence. An additional form of training is moving goats in a slow and gentle manner until they come into contact with the charged wires. In most cases, one or two contacts with an electrified wire will instill respect within the animals and cause future avoidance of this type of fencing.

The number of wires used in most electric fences varies from a 3- to a 7-wire system. A 5-wire system creates a more effective barrier for animals unfamiliar with electric fencing. A 3-wire system could be used with trained animals. Once goats have become familiar with electric fencing a single hot wire fence placed approximately 24 inches off the ground may serve as an effective containment barrier for adult animals.

For trained goats, electric fences are a cheap and effective alternative to the more expensive net or barbed wire fences. Keep in mind though that an electric fence creates more of a psychological than physical barrier. In times of fear, or when heavily pressured, goats may pass through an electrified fence

Converting existing cattle fence to a goat containment fence

 

Many farms or ranches have existing fences that were designed to hold cattle. These may be either 3- or 5-strand barbed wire or electric fence. The adaptation of these existing fences into a fence that will contain goats is a simple procedure. The beauty of this situation is that the necessary corner braces, line posts, and stretch braces are already in place eliminating much of the labor involved in comparison to new fence construction.

 

The simple addition of a few more strands of barbed wire at appropriate spacing will quickly solve the problem at less than one-fourth the cost of constructing a new fence. Another alternative is to use “stand outs” attached to existing fence posts to build a combination conventional/barbed wire and electric fence. Stand outs are “V”-shaped, heavy gauge wire devices with an insulator at the apex or point of the “V”. Stand outs may be attached to either wire or posts, and provide a non-grounded means of supporting a strand of electric fencing wire. A producer may also use this add more strands of wire to adapt an existing electric cattle fence to create a “goat proof” fence.

 
 

Equipment needed for fence installation

The equipment needed for construction, repair and installation of goat fencing is not an extensive list. The purchase or lease of equipment and tools listed below are recommended as necessary for ease of installation. Special tools are often required when working with high tensile wire. These tools may seem non-essential, but they will often make working with high tensile wire easier and much less frustrating.

  1. A powered posthole digger will make digging the holes for corners and brace posts an easier proposition. These holes can be dug by hand but much more sweat equity and time will be required. With a mechanical digger each hole will be the same diameter and depth. A variety of different diameter augers are available making it easy to select one for the size of posts being set. If the fencing is to be constructed in rock, then an air compressor and a rock drill or jackhammer will be needed to excavate the holes. As with the mechanical, auger-type diggers there are differing size bits for rock drills allowing a producer to choose the most appropriate size for the posts to be set.

  2. Important hand tools include a good pair of fencing or linesman pliers to cut and twist tie wire and assist in making splices, a hammer to drive fencing staples into wooden posts, and a commercial or homemade T-post driver. Do not use a sledgehammer to drive T-posts into the ground as it can lead to personal injury.

  3. If using wooden posts a chainsaw or hand saw will be useful in constructing braces. If working with pipe post, a cutting torch, cutoff wheel, and welding machine are needed equipment.

  4. Stretching equipment of some type is needed for net or barbed wire since they do not utilize permanently installed line tensioners. In order to achieve proper wire tension, a stretcher bar of commercial or homemade design is recommended for net wire. A regular two-ton pull “Come-along” will provide sufficient tension for stretches up to 1320’ long. One “Come-along” will work for barbed wire or single strand high tensile electric fence wire. When stretching net wire, it is recommended that one stretcher be attached at the top and one at the bottom to allow for more even tensioning of the wire.

  5. For an electric fence, a good voltmeter ($50 - $60) will be needed to check the voltage and allow for trouble-shooting. Other supplies for an electric fence include, post insulators of some type, and a fence energizer of sufficient strength to maintain adequate current flow. Comparing the output of various energizers on the market is not a simple matter. The key unit for measuring output or “shocking power” is called a joule. The other tools needed for electric fence construction would be similar to those required for any other fence.

Hand-held voltmeter Solar-powered fence charger

Feed Storage and Use

One of the primary considerations in meat goat production is where feed will be stored until it is needed. The feed storage facility needs to be weather proof and rodent proof. Feed that has gotten damp and moldy will not be eaten and may lead to attendant health problems. Feed contaminated by rodent pellets is also unlikely to be consumed and may transfer pathogens. The type and size of feed troughs or feeders needed vary depending on size and type of goat operation.

Troughs

When choosing troughs, one of the most important aspects should be its design. The design should prevent (or at least discourage) goats from climbing, standing, or sleeping in feed troughs to prevent contamination by feces or urine. This contamination is not only unsanitary, it also wastes feed due through the necessity of removing and disposing of “dirty” feed. Feed discarded due to contamination is money out of your pocket and adds up quickly.

Freestanding troughs

There are many commercially designed stand-alone feed troughs available. A common aspect of the more successful designs is the presence of a center bar, approximately 8 – 12” above the edge of the trough, running horizontally down the length of the feed trough. This type of design may be incorporated into homemade feeders. The bar serves the purpose of preventing goats from standing in the trough and provides a convenient handle when moving the trough to another location. Feed trough portability is important because if one feeds in the same location for an extended period of time there will a pawed out wallow around the trough area. A depression will form that holds water, forcing goats to stand in mud while feeding. This unsanitary condition is a prime source of possible bacterial contamination. Regular movement of feed troughs within the enclosure is recommended when feasible.

Most commercial troughs available are made of steel with a “V” bottom design. Producers may construct feeder troughs from larger diameter PVC pipe in the 6 to 8” inner diameter range with a wooden support frame. These round bottom troughs are recommended over flat bottomed troughs due to more efficient draining accumulated moisture. Scrap material of this type is often available from your local municipality at an affordable price following water main construction or replacement. The presence of several small drain holes along the length of the trough, as well as each end is recommended for moisture drainage.

Trough lengths should allow for ease of pickup and movement by a single person. An adequate number of troughs should be available to provide sufficient feeding space per animal. A guideline is to provide at least 12” trough space per adult animal. Observation at feeding time will tell if the producer has provided enough trough space. One dominate animal can control one whole side of a trough.

It is not recommended using buckets or other containers at ground level for feeding. They are frequently used as bedding places for kids, and are susceptible to fecal contamination.

Hanging troughs

In addition to freestanding troughs, others are designed to hang on a gate or fence. These troughs are generally shorter and lighter. They can be easily moved and are useful for smaller herds. They do have a tendency to be knocked off the fence and are prone to wasting feed.

Large capacity feeders

Large capacity feeders, which operate on gravity feed principle, are another possible feeder type. This type of feeder is available in various sizes with bin capacities ranging from 150 to 3,000 pounds. These are normally used when larger numbers of goats are being fed. Feeders of this type specifically designed for goats should be used. Self-feeders on the market that are designed for cattle often have large enough troughs to allow the goats to enter and lie down in, again leading to feed contamination by goat feces and urine. If this type of self-feeder is to be placed in a fixed location for goats, a concrete skirt extending out a minimum of six feet in front of the trough area is recommended. This will prevent the creation of a wallow in front of the troughs as described earlier.

Hay feeders

Hay feeders that suspend the hay off the ground are recommended. Feeding hay on the ground leads to excessive waste due to contamination as well as the increased chance of picking up worm larvae and eggs. A suitable hay feeder can easily be constructed by using 4” × 4” welded wire panels attached to a fence and slanted out at a height appropriate to the size of goats. The panel should be wired solid against the fence across the bottom, with the top laying out further from the fence creating a “V” type of appearance when viewed from the side. The 4” × 4” mesh provides adequate size openings for a goats muzzle while at the same time being small enough to effectively hold loose hay with minimum waste. A set of bolt cutters to cut the panels to the desired length, and a set of pliers to tie the panel to an existing fence with baling wire are the only tools required.

This “V” type design has proven to be effective and is one that a producer can construct. It is economical in terms of material and labor requirements. Another option includes a “V”-type hay holder included as part of a feed trough with a horizontal crossbar running the length of the trough. For this option it would be necessary to cut the 4” × 4” mesh into two pieces the length of the feed trough and then wire the bottom of the cut panels tightly together below the horizontal bar, lay out the tops into the desired “V” shape, and then wire or brace the panels to the cross bar. In this situation all hay that fell out of the holder would remain in the trough and reduce waste.

When feeding large round bales it is also possible to use this same 4” × 4” material or a combination-type wire panel to construct a wraparound barrier/container surrounding the bale to help prevent waste. Holes can be cut strategically in the panel allowing goats to put their heads in to eat. As the goats eat the bale, the mesh can be pulled tighter and tighter to allow continued access to the bale. It is also possible to cut panels in half and wire the ends together to act as a hinge that can be pushed together by the goats as the bale is consumed. If access to the large bales is not restricted, considerable waste will occur that in some instances may reach 50%.

It is better to stand the bale on its end rather than side. This reduces hay bale surface area that is in contact with the ground and the subsequent loss due to moisture absorption and mold growth. Commercially manufactured hay rings of the type used in cattle operations may be used to help prevent waste.

The waste of feed, whether a pellet type of feed or hay, is one of the major obstacles to overcome when feeding goats. Proper trough design and construction of a simple hay feeder as described above can go a long way toward eliminating unnecessary waste and expense.

Mineral feeders

Most mineral supplement mixes available for livestock have 10 to 25% salt included as an intake limiter to prevent over consumption. Salt is corrosive to many materials. When considering suitable mineral feeders, the ability to resist corrosion is of utmost importance. Another important aspect in selecting a mineral supplement container is to recognize that for goats a loose mineral is generally preferred over a block type of mineral supplement. Therefore, a trough or container of some type will be needed. Some of the more useful materials used in mineral feeder construction are rubber, wood, plastic, and stainless steel. All of these materials exhibit excellent resistance to the corrosive effects of salt and are durable.

As with feed trough design, the holding capacity of a mineral feeder should be adequate for the number of animals in each group. The most common mineral feeders used by goat producers are those that can be hung on a wall or fence at an appropriate height. There are several companies that manufacture these out of plastic, so availability is of little concern. A producer may also manufacture mineral feeders out of PVC pipe material by splitting it lengthwise and putting wooden ends on it. Hooks can then be added to the side for hanging on a fence or wall at the correct height. PVC pipe at least 6” in diameter is recommended with larger sizes better if available. Some trial and error may be needed to determine the correct height when hanging feeders on a fence or gate. This design lends itself well to portability.

Another type of mineral feeder that can be constructed out of PVC is one that consists of an upright tube, a Y type or “clean out plug” PVC connection, and one plug and a cap for sealing the top and bottom of the feeder. Four-inch or greater diameter pipe is recommended for this type of mineral feeder to allow the goats enough room for their muzzle. The Y type of connection is plugged at the bottom with a screw type clean out plug with the Y facing up. An upright tube 3 – 4’ in length is glued into the straight run of the connection. This will leave the other opening of the Y jutting out at an angle. When the upright tube is filled with a granular or loose mineral supplement it will gravity feed down into the Y and the goats can access it through the opening. A cap placed over the top of the tube is recommended. Since loose mineral with salt is subject to moisture absorption, mineral feeders of a trough type design need to be covered when possible with a small overhang or roof. Most commercial mineral feeders available will provide adequate protection from the elements by merit of their design.

Shelter

In times of inclement weather goats will seek out shelter of their liking for protection from the elements. The weather may be too hot, too wet, or too windy for their comfort. Livestock producers have the responsibility to provide humane living conditions for their livestock and this includes appropriate shelter. Shelter should meet the needs of the goats and not the perceived needs of the owner. Although adult goats do not like to be wet, it does little harm to them unless the temperature is cold as well. Newborns and young kids need additional protection from the elements. Shade in hot weather is useful for goats.

Shade

One of the most often overlooked aspects of pen design is provision of a shade, wind break, or shed for the ability to stay warm and dry. When pens or corrals are used only for short-term confinement of livestock prior to working or sorting them, shelter is not a primary consideration. However, when goats are confined to pens for extended periods of time, shade of some type should be provided to allow goats the ability to utilize it when needed. Trees provide the most economical form of shade and must be located where they provide the needed shade at appropriate times of the day. Those located along a fence line may not provide any shade in the pen during the morning hours or in the afternoon or evening hours. Shade trees located within a pen are most ideal. These trees will need their trunks protected by some type of covering to prevent goats from stripping the lower bark leading to subsequent death of the tree.

Where there are no existing trees to provide shade, a commercially available fabric type of shade material is available from nursery supply houses. This material must be placed out of reach of goats. The frame constructed for support of this fabric will need to be strong enough to withstand local winds. In terms of cost, trees or other natural shade is the cheapest. The fabric type of shade would rank second.

It is possible to build a small roof-only shed inside a pen to provide needed shade for your animals. This type of shade will lack portability. Further, the site for its placement should be carefully considered in order to prevent interference with animal movement through the corral system. A roofed shed will provide protection not only from the sun but from rain as well, except in strong wind. This being the case, a permanent, roofed shed is superior to either the natural shade provided by trees or even the protection offered by the fabric type of material.

Portable skid, or wheel mounted sheds are another consideration when movement to other pastures or areas of a property may be required. Old flat bed or cotton trailers can easily be adapted for use as portable shelters.

Windbreaks

The natural hair covering of goats will, in most cases, provide enough protection from the wind except during the coldest times of winter. There are major geographic differences in the extent to which cold is a major challenge. Windbreaks need not be elaborate in their construction as the only goal is to block the wind. They also do not need to be any higher than the goats. It is recommended that windbreaks be located on the north or northwest sides of the pen. It is also suggested that the windbreaks be constructed of some type of material that will not be destroyed by the animals.

To prevent the goats from damaging your windbreaks, placement along the outside of the pens fence line is a wise choice. If feasible, the build up of a small pad higher than the surrounding terrain along the downwind side of the windbreak inside the pen is recommended. Goats, before they bed down, will often paw out a bed and if a raised area is not built up there will soon be depressions running the length of your windbreak area rendering it unsuitable for use should rainfall accompany the wind. Goats will not bed down in a mud puddle rendering the windbreak useless.

Innovation, creative thinking, and use of materials already on hand, can reduce the cost of windbreak construction. Materials for consideration in construction of a wind break range from plywood, sheets of metal roofing, or even old round bales of hay placed lengthwise along the suggested north fence line. Metal of some variety would be first choice. Plywood would be a good second choice but it must be placed where it is inaccessible to goats otherwise it will get eaten. The use of round bales placed along the outside of the fence line is effective if they are on hand. The use of poly tarps tied along a fence line is not recommended for windbreaks. Goats will chew the poly tarps and ingest some material leading to possible rumen impaction and subsequent death. Regardless of what material you chose to use in constructing a windbreak, keep in mind that it does not need to exceed four feet in height. An example of a low cost windbreak is one constructed out of the metal siding off of an old mobile home.

Barns and sheds

If you should wish to construct more elaborate housing for your goats due to particularly wet or cold conditions, then a modest barn or enclosed shed may be in order. The protection offered by a barn or shed will surpass that provided by either shade or windbreaks.

Shed design

When producers are building a new barn or shed specifically to house goats, a common mistake is building a structure with too high a roof. In order for a “goat shed” to be the most effective and efficient, the roof need not be higher than four feet or less in the rear, and six feet or less in the front. The low ceiling allows the goat’s body heat to accumulate and warm the air to a higher temperature than would occur with a higher roof. Entering or cleaning a shed of this height will not be convenient for the producer, but this height is ideal for goats. Commonly, producers make their sheds portable so when manure accumulates the shed can be pulled or carried to a different location. If the shed is to be permanent, then a higher roof should be considered for convenience of the owner. The biggest drawback when working in a properly designed goat shed is the low height and head clearance.

An existing barn may be converted into housing for goats by place a supporting a framework and plywood ceiling at the ideal four-foot height. With adequate support, this “new” rooftop may also be used for storage of feed and water buckets keeping them handy when needed. This may not look pretty, but functionality should be of greater consideration.

An ideal goat shed is long, has a low roof, and is shallow. The shed does not need to be any deeper than eight feet as animals are more prone to pile on top of each other in deeper sheds. This creates the danger of suffocating kids or the weaker animals in the herd because they are often on the bottom of the pile. This shallower depth also allows for good ventilation which is important since, along with manure, urine will be deposited under the sheds. Inadequate ventilation can lead to high ammonia concentrations in the shed that can create respiratory problems, especially in young kids whose lungs have not fully developed.

There is debate as to the type of floor most suited for goat barns. A compacted dirt floor with sand, wood shavings, or other bedding material is recommended for the main barn area. A cement floor can be used in the work area and wash rack if desired. The sand or shavings will absorb most fluids and will be easy to clean out and replace periodically as well as providing surer footing for both producer and goats. Concrete floor barns can become slick when wet and if too rough a finish is used the floors will be difficult to clean satisfactorily.

The shed should face southwest to effectively utilize the winter sun as a source of heat. This also allows the back of the shed to shield animals from cold north winds. A water supply should be near or inside the barn. Having a convenient water source to fill water buckets or wash something is of great benefit. If possible, installation of an on-demand hot water heater is a nice addition as well. If designing or building a new structure, be sure to plumb adequate water pipes and drains. Wire electricity into the barn for lighting and electrical outlets.

Size

A good guideline for floor space requirements for goats is to allow ten square feet per adult animal with five square feet being a minimum requirement. A shed 30’ long, by 8’ deep, by 4’ tall providing 240 sq. ft. floor space would shelter twenty to twenty five adult animals using the ten square feet guideline. More space per animal is better but smaller sheds can be used. Particularly in winter the close proximity of goats to each other helps them stay warmer from body heat alone. If kids are present in the group be sure to include five square feet of space for each set of kids. As with feeding space, observation on the dynamics of individuals in the herd will determine if adequate space has been provided.

The producer may also wish to build stalls to house individual animals for various reasons such as a doe that does not want her kids. Placing the doe and kids in a small stall for a period of time allows dam and kids to bond, increasing kid survival. A stall or jug for bonding does to their kids should be approximately 5’ × 5’ allowing plenty of room for feed and water buckets as well as the goats. Stalls are also easily heated with heat lamps during extreme low temperatures such as those seen in more northern climates. If building (housing) sheds or stalls inside an existing barn the roof sections can be made removable for ease of cleaning.

Water and Water Quality

The single most important nutrient for support of plant or animal life is water. Water, along with its availability, accessibility, and quality is a number one priority yet less consideration is given to it compared to many other aspects of a goat operation.

Source and quality

If a natural water source is available, be it a pond, spring, or stream, goats will utilize it as their first choice, as long as the water is not stagnant. Goats should have easy access to these natural watering holes. A firm bank leading to the water will encourage greater use of the resource than a soft bank. A load of crushed rock or gravel to make an all-weather trail is one way to provide a firm, all-weather access trail. Preventing the loss of one goat from inadequate water intake or from becoming mired in mud while trying to get a drink will help pay for the materials used.

When the naturally occurring water source is a spring, developing the spring and piping the water to a trough or pond is recommended. Allowing livestock to trample the immediate area surrounding the spring will lead to creation of a mud hole at the minimum, and can damage the spring outlet lessening or ceasing its flow. The best course of action is to fence off the area around the spring and invest in some PVC pipe to transport the water, even if only a short distance away, into a suitable watering container.

When natural sources of water are not available, water must be provided through a well or county water source. In these situations, some form of watering system is required. The two most popular forms of water containers for goat operations are troughs or buckets. Both require more constant monitoring than do natural watering sources. Buckets are fine for small operations but for larger herds and for those in more remote locations, a trough is preferred. Where a constant inflow of water is maintained through a pipeline or hose, a float controlled, flow-regulating valve to maintain the correct water level in the trough can be used. If the troughs are in a location where they can be easily monitored daily, the expense of a float valve system can be avoided and the troughs filled as needed with a water hose.

Do not let automatic watering devices prevent regular checks of water cleanliness. Whether buckets or troughs are used for watering, regular cleaning to ensure constant availability of fresh, clear water will encourage sufficient intake. If the water is not clean enough for human consumption, the troughs need to be cleaned.

Water requirements

A goat requires one to three gallons of water per day depending on diet, intake, and environmental conditions. Water depth in troughs should not exceed 12 to 14” to allow access by kids and to prevent kids from falling in and drowning. Kids can easily climb out of shallow troughs. Existing water troughs designed for cattle or horses that may be two feet in height can be adapted for use by goats through a ramp or step placed beside the trough allowing younger, smaller animals to drink. Cinder blocks or rocks can be put in these troughs to reduce water depth and prevent accidental drowning.

Water consumption rate will remain fairly constant throughout the year regardless of the temperature; therefore, keep the supply constant. If bucket, or trough heaters of some type are not used in the colder climates, daily checks to remove surface ice and allow the animal access to water will be necessary.

Working Facilities

In any goat operation regardless of size, there exists the need for a set of corrals to assist in working and managing the herd. One single large pen or pasture will not allow effective herd management.

At some time it will become necessary to “work” your animals, whether for inspection, de-worming, sorting, or other reasons. A catch pen or corral is preferred to a large pasture for performing these operations. The size of corral and number of pens needed are dependent primarily upon herd size. When working animals, crowding is preferred to an oversized pen. Pens will need strong construction as animals will be crowded and under pressure. A central location with easy access to the corrals from all areas of the property is the ideal site. Select a well-drained site, if available, for corral construction. A producer should visit other goat operations and view their corral setups prior to beginning construction of a corral system.

Working pens

A single pen of enough size to accommodate the entire herd to be worked, with a series of smaller pens feeding off of it is preferred. The animals can then be funneled into progressively smaller pen areas. Pen dimensions needed are undefined as there is no one size fits all, (see above statement regarding herd size). The biggest factor for consideration in overall pen size is; in how large of a pen do you want to chase goats? This is where labor availability and the producer’s physical condition becomes a consideration. If a producer has adequate labor, can rope well, or likes to run, a 100’ × 100’ pen will work fine for a five goat herd. Ideally, the smallest pen or working area will be small enough to easily grab a goat from practically any location in it, or about 10’ × 10’ maximum size.

In a single pasture situation, placement of corrals in a corner will make pen construction simpler. Two side fences will already be in place as well as a fence line to use as a wing to assist herding the animals into the enclosure. Gate placement for animal entry and exit is an important consideration with corners of pens preferred to a gate located in the center.

A narrow chute leading off of or integrated into a pen compound is a valuable asset for administering medicines or loading animals for transport. Most livestock trailers are six feet in width and a maximum width of six feet should be considered for a combination loading/working chute. This size allows room for both producer and goats inside the chute, yet is not so oversized as to prevent easily catching animals. Orienting the chute on an east-west axis will reduce shadows that can cause goats to balk at entering a working, sorting, or loading chute.

There are several companies that manufacture and sell component style corral systems. These systems lend themselves well to new, as well as smaller, operations due to their portability and the capability to add on various system components as needed. Component systems are more flexible in that they can be easily reconfigured as compared to permanent corral pens. This allows a producer to experiment with various size designs and configurations while searching for an ideal pen setup. An additional advantage of component systems is that the system or individual components can be sold should a producer decide to construct corrals of a permanent nature, or discover they have purchased components not needed in their operation. The one disadvantage of these systems is their initial high cost. However, when this initial high purchase price is compared to the cost of building permanent pens that don’t funnel animals effectively or that are not “producer friendly,” component systems may be a bargain.

Breeding pen

In many of today’s goat operations, controlled mating is an important consideration. Construction of a mating or breeding pen can assist a producer in breeding management. A mating pen should provide enough space for animals to move about freely. A 150’ × 150’ pen will comfortably serve 30 up to 50 head of goats in a breeding scenario. Confinement breeding can decrease the length of the kidding season leading to a more uniform set of kids at market time. Confinement breeding also allows for the use of a single buck to breed a large number of does. Pen mating is a recognized short-term confinement situation, and these pen dimensions should not be considered adequate for long-term animal confinement. A breeding pen should have adequate room for water containers, mineral feeders, shelter, and feed troughs as well as the goats.

Kidding pen

For producers of high value stock, or for smaller producers, dedicating a pen not needed for day-to-day operations as a kidding pen can improve kid survival rates. A kidding pen is not a necessity but is an option for more intensively managed operations. Placing pregnant does in the pen one week prior to kidding and holding the doe and kid(s) in the pen for a week or so post- parturition can significantly increase kid survival. This is due largely to closer observation of doe and kid, but also by reduced predation losses as well.

Another tool that can aid kid survival is placement of a “jump board” approximately 14” in height across the pen’s gate. This allows does to exit the pens and graze if they desire while containing smaller kids safely inside the enclosure. Once the kids have reached sufficient size to climb over this board, they are usually large enough to follow their dams out into a pasture and return safely.

Weaning pen

A pen for confining kid goats upon weaning is another important aspect to be considered. Kid goats need to be weaned and separated from their dams in order to allow the does to dry up and regain body condition in preparation for their next breeding. It is especially important to house buck kids separately at weaning to prevent unwanted matings as the buck kids enter puberty. A weaning pen also allows a producer to feed kids a more nutritious diet to increase growth rate. As with any pen designed for long confinement periods, mineral feeders, water containers, shelter, and feed troughs must be provided.

Quarantine pen

A quarantine pen for newly acquired animals should be constructed. When animals are acquired from any source it is a good idea to keep them separated from the main herd for a quarantine period of a minimum of 2 weeks and usually for 30 days or longer. Quarantining newly acquired animals allows producers to observe and test animals for diseases before co-mingling them with animals already on the farm. This will help avoid introducing new diseases, or parasites, into the established herd. The quarantine pen needs to be a dedicated quarantine area that is used every time new animals are brought onto the premises. Since most acquisitions are small in nature, such as a single buck or small number of does, the pen need not be large in size but maintaining it as your dedicated quarantine area is important. If possible an easily cleaned or disinfected flooring surface is recommended for the quarantine area.

 

Suggested Assignment

The following assignment will assist in evaluating current facilities and future needs. Completion of the assignment is optional and is not needed to complete this module.

  Assignment - Evaluate Existing Goat Facilities

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