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Goats: ‘Don’t Fence Me In’

JEFFERSON CITY – Goats are curious animals and their gregarious social skills and healthy appetites know no boundaries, or fences.
However, new types of fences make it easier for goat owners to dissuade their “don’t fence me in”bleating, according to Charlotte Clifford-Rathert, small-ruminant specialist at Lincoln University Cooperative Extension and Research in Jefferson City.
Clifford-Rathert will speak at the MU Extension workshop “Pearls of Production: Women in Agriculture”Nov. 8-9 in Columbia and on Nov. 1 at the 2013 National Small Farm Trade Show and Conference, also in Columbia. She will be among the featured presenters at the Missouri Livestock Symposium, Dec. 6-7 in Kirksville. The annual event is organized by MU Extension and numerous sponsors.
Cost and flexibility are key considerations for choosing what type of fence to use, she said. Ease of construction and intensity of rotational grazing also are factors.
There are two types of conventional fencing: woven and barbed wire. Woven wire is effective, but expensive and inflexible, she said. To minimize horned goats from getting tangled in the wire, she recommends using 6 x 12-inch mesh wire spaced 24-36 inches apart.
Electric fencing is the least expensive type of fence and is durable, easy to install and flexible, she said. Goats are highly intelligent and learn quickly to respect electric fencing. For perimeter fence, she recommends using six to eight wires at least 48 inches high, with a bottom wire 6-8 inches from the ground, alternating hot and ground wires.
Sheep and goats can be controlled with five or more strands of 12 1/2-gauge galvanized high-tensile smooth electric wire. A minimum of 110,000 psi is recommended, with 170,000 psi preferred by most operators.
Two types of temporary fencing provide flexibility and ease for herd owners, Clifford-Rathert said. Electric netting or commercial portable electric fencing is lightweight and easy for one person to install for rotational grazing, immunizations, hoof trimming, training or predator control.
One type of portable interior electric fence system operates like a pullout clothesline, with four strands of wire unwinding simultaneously. Corner posts and braces anchor the wires. In brushy areas, Clifford-Rathert prefers this to netting, which sometimes tangles and breaks, causing shorts in the electrical system. Consider distance and access to water when choosing portable systems.
Reliable chargers are necessary for electric fences, with backup provisions for lightning, surge protectionand electrical outages. The charger or energizer should be low impedance with a minimum 5,000-volt output of 35 to 65 pulses per minute. Solar chargers are good options in many areas.
Proper installation of the charger is essential for reliability.
Galvanized ground rods are readily available and should be used with galvanized clips on the energizer. You can use copper rods with copper clips on the energizer, but this can cause corrosion, she said. Regardless of what type of ground rod used, it should match the metal on the energizer clip. Manufacturer warranties require lightning protection, which should be installed properly to protect your fencing investment.
For more information on the Pearls of Production workshop, go to muconf.missouri.edu/womenandagriculture.
More information about the Missouri Livestock Symposium is available at www.missouri livestock.com, from Garry Mathes at 660-341-6625 or the Adair County Extension Center at 660-665-9866.

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