Building the Best Fence for Goats
Tips and Options for Escape-Proof Goat Fencing
Reading Time: 4 minutes
By: Anita B. Stone
Goats love to climb. They love to get on top of things. Their personality overflows with curiosity, stubbornness, and perseverance which will put any type of fence to the test. And your goats will test your fence. So, the best fence for goats is a difficult choice. It depends on the breed age and size, their hooves and heads, and it is inevitable that they will crawl under, jump over, lean, and manage to escape any fence you can devise.
In order to protect your animals, it’s imperative to select the best protective fence within your means, whether you have a small farm, large pasture, or urban home. There are six factors, all equally important, to take into consideration when choosing the best fence for goats. They include: the number of goats you have, the size of the area to be fenced, whether you want an electric fence, should you prefer alternative fencing, where the fence is to be placed, and the amount of money you want to spend.
Goats require specific fencing. The best fence for goats should typically be between four and five feet high. Educating yourself and reading about goats can be of great help in making fencing decisions, especially with goats. Here are some tips in selecting the best fence for goats.
There are two types of fencing, electric and non-electric.
From a goat’s point of view, no one enjoys being “zapped,” but sometimes it is necessary to use electric fencing to keep the goats in line. Most of the cost lies in the purchase of the charger. Goats can be contained with four to five strands of high tensile electrified wire. If jumping is a problem, a high wire set one foot inside the top of the fence can be used. The bottom wire should be kept close to the ground should any goat decide to crawl under the fence. This will keep other critters out, as well. High tensile wire can be used with a three-foot vertical space. If using high tensile wire, put four to five wires across the fence, making the third wire from the top and the bottom wire electrified. Five wires are necessary for goats that jump. Although electric fences are perfectly safe, they provide enough shock to make even the most precocious goat think twice about attempting to jump over, crawl under, or squeeze through. However, a determined goat may decide to tolerate the shock and push through. The fence should be charged at 4500 to 9000 volts (some experts recommend 7,000 to 10,000 volts) at all times. Goats will know if you unplug the fence. Some goats may require both electric and non-electric fencing. In any pasture, maintenance is essential, but for wooded or mountainous area, you will need to walk the area often to check for fallen limbs, invasive grasses and other debris. The area under the electric wire should remain clear so the fence won’t ground out.
Non-electric fencing provides more choices for your goats. The primary considerations are ensuring that your goats cannot get their head or horns caught in the fence and the overall sturdiness of the fence material. The primary consideration for the owner is financial outlay. Careful planning around the first of two issues is necessary. For non-electric fencing, a closely spaced (2″x4″) mesh fence can be used. Mesh wire flexes on impact and is highly durable. Mesh fences are distinguished from one another by the wire material, the wire design, wire construction, and the size of the openings. Mesh panels can be made of welded wire, woven wire, square wire, or galvanized wire.
Welded wire fence is not as expensive as others, but also less sturdy. It has thinner wire with a smaller grid, keeping baby goats safe. With this type of fence, the bottom must be secured to prevent kids and small adult goats from squeezing under. The connecting points in the wire grid are welded and may not hold under stress. An electric wire placed one foot in front of this fence near the top can help. For large enclosures, the fence must be secured at the bottom so kids cannot crawl under, and must be regularly monitored for holes.
“If there’s a hole, your goat will find it,” says farmer Michael Luddy. “They are smart and observant.”
Woven wire is preferred by most goat-owners; however, it is more expensive but most often used for smaller pastures. This fence keeps each opening in place, is sturdy and can withstand pushing, climbing, and general goat rowdiness. The fence needs to be pulled tight or goats may push the fence over and escape. It should be noted that with woven construction, the grid openings are often larger and some goats can get their horns caught. This is usually not a problem with adult goats. In-grid spacing on a woven wire fence should be no larger than four by four inches.
Galvanized wire steel mesh fence has 2″x4″ spacing, making it desirable for baby goats and smaller breeds. In galvanized fence, zinc is bonded to an inner core of carbon steel, keeping moisture out. This fence will not rust. Some fencing wire may be coated with plastic to prevent rust, but the plastic can come off and weaken the entire system. Coated fencing also requires continuous maintenance.
Square wire fence is strong and durable enough for goats. The four-inch squares keep most goats safely controlled. Small goats, though, can get their horns caught or poke their heads through.
Cattle panels make a good goat fence, but they are expensive and frequently used for small pastures or for separating pasture areas.
In choosing the best fence for goats, it is important to select the correct corner posts. Some are not strong enough to keep the wires tight and some, such as diagonal bracing, can provide unwanted footholds for goats to jump over the fence. Support posts provide the strength to keep livestock safe. Terrain is another consideration. If your pasture is in woodland or mountainous terrain, frequent and careful monitoring of any fence is necessary to locate fallen limbs or torn holes. If the soil is consistently hard or dry, an electric fence will not work. Under these circumstances, a low-impedance fence can be used. Fence maintenance must be routinely done with all forms of goat fencing.
So, the best fence and design for goats is the one that meets your criteria. It is the one that protects your goats, not only from escaping but also from outside critters. With proper fencing, awareness and care, your kids, no matter how large or small, young or old, can be safe, secure, and comfortable. And you can reap the enjoyment and benefits of raising goats.
Originally published in the January/February 2020 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.