Mixing Breeds to Contain Meat Goats
Study Compares Containing Spanish vs. Boer Goats in a Barbed and Electric Fence System
by Caly Bornsen
Goats are a one-of-a-kind species with their own personalities. Many people believe that goats are similar to sheep, but this is not necessarily true. The nutrient requirements of goats more closely resemble those of cattle, which is why producers prefer to graze them together. Major advantages to grazing goats and cattle together include increasing animal production per land area, reducing internal parasites of the goats, and improving the efficiency of vegetation use. Goats typically will eat the plants that cattle deem unpalatable and vice versa. The major disadvantage to this system is goat containment. Goats are notorious for their fence crawling behavior. Farmers sometimes say, “If you throw a pail of water at the fence and the water gets through, so can the goat.” This is why a study was done to measure the effects of using electric wire or barbed wire on various breeds of goats.
In this study, Boer and Spanish does were used to study the grouping behavior when exposed to various fencing strategies. The most common fencing method is to use barbed wire and add an electric wire. Using barbed wire alone may contain the cattle but will not hold the goats. This study used two different breeds to determine if one particular breed had a higher fence crawling tendency then another breed. The goats were placed into a pen with five strands of barbed wire along with one strand of electric wire. The goats were preconditioned to the hot wire so they knew that it was electric. Typically, animals not accustomed to electric fences will go through them so preconditioning the goats to the wire was an important part of the study. The number of times the goats successfully exited the pen was recorded with shock and without shock data. There were two parts to the experiment. The major difference was that part two included animal age. Younger goats were used in the second part of the experiment and were encouraged to exit the fences. The second part of the experiment showed that younger goats do not behave in a similar manner as older goats with regards to fencing.
The results of this study showed that grouping adult goats of different breeds together can decrease breed differences in behavior for fence crawling. This means that various breeds in an operation can indicate an easier management for producers. Using multiple breeds can limit the time spent chasing goats in and fixing the fence. The study also showed that Spanish goats were more likely to exit the pen than the Boer goats. By combining breeds in a pen, producers can better manage the goats.
Different fencing methods was also demonstrated in this experiment. The fence treatment for the experiment included: one strand low to the ground, one strand high to the ground and one strand low to the ground, one strand medium height and one strand at a high height. The higher the wire was placed, the easier it was for the goats to escape. Additionally, the double wire had better containment than the single wire. The electric wire had a voltage of 6 kV and was not changed in this experiment. Ideally, a higher voltage may deter more goats away from the fence. Additional studies might support this idea.
Multispecies grazing is important not only for producers but also for the land itself. Goats and cattle can be grazed together to better utilize pastures. Goats can be used for weed control, bug control, and better plant utilization. Goats eat weeds such as yellow starthistle, leafy spurge, and knapweed. Cattle typically do not eat these types of forages, which is why it is beneficial to use the goats. Goats can also be used to control bugs by eating the plants that the bugs typically consume. Goats can access areas of land where equipment cannot, which is why they are more beneficial than using herbicides.
Overall, goats can be of significant benefit to a cattle producer if they can be properly contained. Using multiple breeds compared to only one breed is better when fencing is involved. Multispecies grazing can benefit both species if they can be contained within the pen. The study concluded that mixing breeds of goats will better contain the goats. Also, younger goats are more likely to escape the pen compared to the older ones.
Thomas, Heather Smith. (16 Dec. 2011). “Multi-Species Grazing of Cattle and Goats Makes Sense.” Beef Magazine, Retrieved 3/11/19 from www.beefmagazine.com/mag/multi-species-grazing-goats-cattle-0801.
Tsukahara, Puchala, Hayes, Gipson, Sahlu, & Goetsch. (2016). Technical Note: Behavior effects of mixing different breeds to evaluate electric fence strand additions to barbed wire fence to contain mature and growing meat goats. The Professional Animal Scientist, 32(6), 854-860.
Caly grew up around Webster, South Dakota, where her family raises cattle, sheep, and a few mini donkeys. She is currently a junior at South Dakota State University, where she is studying pre-veterinary medicine. She hopes to attend vet school in Iowa or Minnesota starting in 2020, where she can emphasize on sheep and goats. She started off in the goat industry with two twin bottle goats and has increased her herd to around 30 Boer goats.
Originally published in the July/August 2019 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.