One of the most important aspects of goat farming is to have fences that will hold all the goats all the time. If the fences can be broached, then breeding programmes become meaningless and weaning is a waste of time.
And where a property borders native bush, any escapes by goats will be used by environmentalists, and possibly Forest Service, to limit the opportunities for the industry to expand.
There can be no argument either over the fact that a number of shelter belts and conservation plantings have been damaged by goats that were not properly controlled.
The attitude of Forest Service to goat farming may well have a significant impact on the industry’s development in the near future and for this reason the subject is covered in the supplementary chapter “Forest Service View”. Electric fencing is almost universally accepted as the answer to effective control of goats.
Where new fences are being established, they may be permanent electric fences, but it is more usual for sheep fences to be already in existence. Such fences should be checked to ensure wires are strained up, especially the two bottom wires, as goats will push their way through if given the chance.
Even a good sheep fence is not goat-proof, however, and should be augmented with a hot wire on outriggers, 20-30cm out from the conventional fence and about the same height above ground level.
In some instances a hot wire is run along the top of a conventional fence to stop goats jumping over. The addition is of questionable value, since most `escapist’ goats will push through or under a fence, rather than jump it, and a hot wire on top is not very effective in stopping a determined animal.
On a number of farms, feral goats are to be found beyond the boundary fence, and billies that jump the fence to get at does on the farm are a problem. A hot wire on top, or an outrigger wire on the outside is justified in such cases.
It is necessary to train goats to the electric fences, and for this purpose a small ‘training’ paddock is usually established fairly close to the homestead or yards.
New goats are put into this paddock when they arrive on the farm, and held there for ten days to 2 weeks, during which time they can be hand-fed to tame them, but at a level which will ensure that they attempt to get through the fence to find extra feed, whereupon they quickly learn the role of an electric fence.
When kids are weaned, they are also brought into the training paddock, in case they have not learned about hot wires while with their dams.
The fences in the training paddock can be either electric or conventional fences with a hot wire on outriggers, depending on the type of fencing they will face under normal circumstances on the farm.
Mains power is necessary, as battery-powered fences do not provide sufficient shock for more than a few hundred metres of fence.
If a conventional fence includes internal sloping stays, a goat will climb them to escape, but rather than go to the trouble of altering such an arrangement, a hot wire can be run off the outrigger wire down the stay to prevent climbing.
Netting is not advisable as goats will get their horns caught and become inextricably trapped, with the result that unless rescued they will quickly die from stress and starvation. If netting fences already exist — for instance on a deer farm — a hot outrigger wire is essential to keep stock off the netting. However a special goat netting has recently come onto the market, available in 18 wire x 50in. and 16 wire x 41in. sizes, the mesh being such that goats cannot get their heads through.
In the case of electric fences, the number of wires tends to be a matter of personal preference and experience. Some farmers seem to be able to get away with as few as four, while others will not risk less than seven. A number of alternatives are illustrated.
One of the problems with having a hot wire on outriggers low enough to ensure that even kids cannot squeeze under it, is the risk of shorting.
Spraying a clear strip is not economic on an extensive farm, but if a new fence is being erected, especially on hill country, bulldozing a level strip eliminates the shorting problem for some years at least, and also eliminates dips into which a goat might squeeze. The job of fencing and getting materials onto the line is also much simplified.
When siting fences — especially sub-divisional fences — attention should be paid to the provision of ‘aspect shelter’. That is to say, each paddock should as far as possible include faces providing shelter from prevailing winds. In the face of a bitter southerly, goats should be able to move round to a north-facing slope.
However, it should be noted that because goats tend to browse previously undesirable weeds and pasture seedheads, and to promote quality pasture, and graze an area so uniformly, they do not require as much subdivision as sheep would on the same area. If a race is required to facilitate moving large numbers from back paddocks to the yards, sharp corners should be avoided.