There are good reasons goats are one of the most popular farm animals around the world. They are small, hardy, and easy to feed. They will eat bushes, weeds, and other plants other animals won’t touch. Their milk is also incredibly easy to digest.
Unfortunately, it can also seem almost impossible to keep goats inside a fence— and they can cause an incredible amount of damage, destroying years worth of landscaping work, in just minutes.
Some of my earliest memories include caring for family milk goats, and over the years I’ve seen almost every type of goat fence. In this article, I’m going to describe the type of fencing materials I prefer to use when creating a goat pasture from scratch. Then I will go over some other options and problems you’re likely to encounter with various types of fences.
Choosing Materials for a New Fence
When my family moved to a new property in 2016, we needed a pasture for our nine goats. We chose to use 48 inch tall “no climb horse fence.” This type of fence has rectangles only two inches wide and four inches tall. If you’re new to the world of goats, that might seem like overkill to keep an animal as big as a goat in. Trust me; it’s not.
We used six-foot tall steel fence posts spaced 12 feet apart. The wire was attached to the fence posts with clips usually included free with the purchase of steel fence posts. (At least they’re free if the guy loading your fencing supplies remembers to give them to you or you remind him.) We used what are called “wire filled gates.”
Since this pasture was going in following an international move– and days after our youngest daughter was born– we hired someone to put up the fence. Someone who apparently had never attempted to keep goats in. The goats were gleefully standing outside of the fence about three minutes after they first walked in. But that was okay.
I actually expected goats to climb on “no-climb” fencing and eventually find a loose spot to slip under in a hilly pasture.
We quickly added a single strand of nylon electric wire around the inside of the entire pasture about six inches off the ground and a second strand about the height of an adult goat’s nose. As soon as the electric wires went up, our herd knew this was one serious fence and it was time to find something else to do— like jump off the small cliff so conveniently provided inside their new pasture.
Other Good Fencing Options
It’s not always necessary to create a new fence for your goats. For instance when my husband and I purchased an acre of land in Boise, Idaho it came with quite a bit of chain link fencing which worked well for the goats.
That property was so much fun because even though it was within city limits, we enjoyed special rural zoning rules. As a result, we were even able to let the goats do the work of a lawnmower in our front yard with the help of portable electric netting.
A solid wooden fence is another option that will work— it’s just a bit more work to build and usually quite a bit more expensive than the wire and electric options mentioned above.
Reasons Some Fences Fail
Goats seem to have boundless energy— and they love to climb and jump up onto everything. If they can, they will wiggle under or jump over fences. If neither of those options pan out, bored goats will spend hours jumping up onto fences and fence posts. In time your woven wire fence will start to sag, and some fence posts might start to lean. Eventually, they can cause chain link fences to not only sag, but connection pieces will also loosen.
The tendency of goats to jump up on fences is why I like no-climb horse fencing. Those sharp little hooves can quickly pop apart strands of wire on the less expensive welded-wire fences. The no-climb fencing has extra wire wrapped around each section making it much stronger.
Goats will often jump on, rub up against, and sometimes chew on wooden fences.
The tendency of goats to wear on most fence types is why I like to make use of electric fencing.
However, experts are quick to point out something that will become apparent if you ever have an electric goat fence fail— it’s merely a psychological barrier. So while I love the convenience of portable electric fences like the one shown above, it’s important to realize that electric fences can fail as well.
Hot, dry weather can cause poorly grounded electric fences to become so weak the goats won’t mind walking through them. On the other hand, good growing conditions can result in grass and weeds growing up around the netting and shorting out the fence. In the winter, snow and frost can quickly render electric netting ineffective.
Electric netting is a fantastic solution in some cases, but you need to keep a close eye on it to make sure it’s continuing to function week after week. I find that single strands of electric wire inside another non-electric fencing option can be easier to keep grounded and in working order.
Fencing Dangers for Goats
I’ll never forget having my dinner interrupted one winter evening by a screaming baby goat. I ran onto our back porch where I saw a day old baby goat with its head trapped in the jaws of a fox. Thankfully the fox decided to abandon its meal when I came flying down the back steps yelling.
The baby goat only had a surface cut and was fine, but I realized that a fence problem that allowed the littlest goats to slip out of the pasture also put them at risk since the herd was no longer able to protect them from predators.
Ranch panels— also sometimes called hog panels or cattle panels— can be a convenient fencing solution. They are strong and easy to put up. In fact, with a few panels and metal fence posts, you can have a decent pen in place within an hour.
However, there are a couple of drawbacks. First of all, baby goats can easily leap through the holes in these panels. Secondly, goats of all ages love to stick their heads in anywhere they can jam them— and if you have a goat with horns, it’s very likely they will get stuck. This becomes a dangerous situation when a goat gets trapped in a fence on a hot, dry day when it needs to drink plenty of water to stay cool.
In fact, if you have any goats with horns, you’ll want to make sure there is no fencing with large spaces between the wires or loose wire that their horns could become tangled in.
If you would like to see some more information about fencing options for goats you can check out this great YouTube video from the OSU Meat Goat channel.
If you have any questions about raising goats or anything else related to homesteading comment below or send an e-mail to our “Reader Submissions” column.
We plan to continue adding information on a regular basis and would love to help solve some your most pressing homesteading challenges.