Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Failure to contain

When Mike over at The Halpern Homestead saw this photo on my blog recently...:

He asked me: "Do the goats just follow you around with no fencing or leashes? Won't they run off? Silly goats!"

Well, yes, Mike, on our almost-a-mile walks to the mailbox and back, these silly goats leave their fencing behind and follow me around with no leashes on. Well, in all honesty, they follow me, run ahead of me, jump up on me, wiggle around next to me, and run after Roxy, my farm pup, with no leashes or containment. This has never been a problem. They come to me when I call them (or when I crinkle my carrot-coin baggie).

Keeping them within my property's fencing when we're not on a walk, however, has become an entirely different story. And I'm about to tell you why.

See all that "debris" under the bottom strand of my electric fence?:

That's not really debris. Its intention is to act as a deterrent:

and to prevent this from happening: a llama alone in the middle pasture without her goats:

Where are her goats, you ask? Well, for some reason, they are over in the next pasture, outside the chicken coop, being naughty:

The "debris" deterrent isn't even remotely working. Which means, when I see they've escaped, I have to go running down there before they get into some kind of trouble. Of course, when I get down there, the goat boys act all excited to see me:

"Look what we did, Mom!"

Now, a little over month ago, these goats wouldn't leave Kai llama's side for anything. They were happy to just be with her and follow her around all day long. Then, suddenly, one day, they happened to catch sight of me on the other side, paying attention to the chickens and they decided they neeeeeeeeded to be on the other side of that fence with me and slid under. Now, weeks later, it's a flat-out free-for-all, as evidenced in the picture below. I was in THEIR PASTURE WITH THEM and they still tore off and scooted under that fence so fast, I didn't even have time to focus my camera:

By the time I got to the fence line, Pete had noticed that the door to the chicken run was wide open. He, of course, believed this was an open invitation for him to go in and check things out:

Reggie, though, couldn't quite wrap his brain around how Pete got in there, so he just hung around outside:

...until he figured it out and joined his goat brother. Anybody who says goats aren't persistent just doesn't know goats:

As if I wasn't grouchy enough over this whole thing, Pete then came back and decided to show me how he had gone under the fence the first time:

Goofy goats that they are, now that I'm up against the fence, they desperately want to be on the other side again:

No amount of obstruction is going to prevent them from coming back through, either:

Apparently, my fence's zap doesn't faze a goat. Whoops, there he goes:

The stinker:

And, of course, where Pete goes, Reggie follows:

Stinker x2:

Dang. Any thoughts? My entire property is fenced with 7-strand New Zealand electric fencing. Cost is, of course, an issue and it just isn't feasible to replace any portion of an existing fencing like this with special goat fencing. This current kink renders me unable to pasture the goats without me being outside with them at all times, which just doesn't work.

Kai, the goat-less llama, and I will appreciate any advice you can give:


  1. I have NO idea if this would work... depends how high the bottom strand of your fence is from the ground, but what if you secure it down with metal tent pegs? Get the extra long ones and hammer them in good and far... of course, if your soil is at all sandy, the pegs aren't likely to hold, but if it's firm it just may work. At least, when I go camping, I know it's a complete bugger to get them out of the ground! ;)

  2. Um. I'm trying to come up with something witty. Or nice. But I'm afraid you are in deeper doo doo than usual.

  3. I'd wanna do a thorough assessment of your electric fence. With those moist soils, a good fencer should stop a rhino. Even in the winter with frozen, dry soils ours works well enough to let you know it's on.

  4. I ran extra lines of wire between the posts where my goats were escaping. A step in post with clips holds the extra lines in place, near the ground and a jumper wire electrifies the new wire. I have seen my goats time the pulse of the electric charger; the added wires makes it harder for them to go through without a zap.
    I have also had to walk my fence, removing debris that drains the power of the charger.

  5. LOL, oh goats, nothing will really stand in their way if they want something... sorry. They are so intelligent, more than non-goat people give them credit for :D

    OK advice well that electric fence needs to have a lower wire. They only need to hit it once, rarely twice, and if it is not switched on all the time, you need to randomly turn it on, as goats will learn the hum of when it is on or off. Sounds awful I know, but really it is the only way they learn.
    LiBBiE in Oz

  6. Jenny in MN (now in AZ)February 9, 2011 at 4:50 AM

    Oh my! I would say start looking for auctions in your area that may have have fence materials. Or farm ads online, etc. and then get the different type of fencing for them that way. We had a goat shed and pasture on our property when we bought it and they had the fence around the pasture that had the 4" squared openings and it was very strong wire. Didn't bend easily at all. I guess that is 'goat' fencing?

    Are you sure your fence is actually zapping? Maybe a stronger current?

    Good luck with this one! Hope everyone stays safe and out of trouble...even though it is really cute to see the misbehavior. :)

  7. Now, I know you don't want to hear this, but you really need the 4X4 or "concrete wire" goat fencing. MAYBE you can find some used, etc. Around here, we use http://www.golsn.com. I don't know if it's all that good in your community. Furthermore, that "debris" is actually making things worse. It's going to short out your fence and make the fence pointless. You need something inert, like a concrete block, or rock, or something. You MIGHT be able to use a pile of dirt, and if the pile of dirt works, go around the fence line making a little inside-out ditch. (If my electrical "advice is wrong...oops...sorry...I'm not good with electricity) We don't keep goats, but my husband wants to. I tell him no b/c our fencing isn't set up for goats. I shall show him this post as evidence "MWHA HA HA HAAAA!" Thank you for this post.

  8. Gosh I'm sorry to hear of your fencing difficulties with your goats. I'm afraid I'm of no help because we are just now in the planning stages of getting two goat boys ourselves this spring. I will be anxious to see what the fix is. Love your blog btw! :)

  9. Hi Danni.
    Maybe you could try a stronger charger? Is this the only spot that the goats are going out? What about some style of poultry netting?

  10. When we first got our two Nigerians a year ago we were lucky enough to be able to plan and build just for them. We took the advice of a local goat rescue mom to put in a 5 foot, 4x4 mesh with hot wires at the top and bottom both inside and out. Even so we, too, have "debris" at open spaces where the fence is a little too high off the ground. They found those spaces within seconds of arriving. So far, so good. But we are keeping our fingers crossed for when the babies arrive this spring. I wish I had advice for you - Nigerians are so smart and curious but you are lucky yours are so friendly and will come when called. Love your blog!

  11. This reminds me of my first rabbit, who would do anything to get on the other side of something, including chewing through a screen door. Little rascals, how can you not love 'em. I notice the girls in the coop all high tailed it except for the new one...if I'm not mistaken? Sorry, I haven't got all their names down, yet.

  12. Looks like you and Kai have been outsmarted by your clever goats. I, of course, have no advice, but I did enjoy this post - it made me smile. -- Inger

  13. I have no advice on the fencing..but this story was hilarious!!! I wonder how long they've been doing this..and just happened to get back to the proper place before you caught them..The fun just never stops on Critter Farm Danni!!

  14. As we all here can attest, your charger needs to be adequate enough for goats. Our charger here is a Gallagher and if you look at their charts, it takes quite a bit of 'zap' for goats and sheep. At any rate, the goatmother says to run another wire between the ground and the bottom wire and see how that works. However, she says you might have to get a stronger charger. Oy. No one here has even attempted to go through the fence after that first attempt. And no worries about a stronger charge hurting anyone. The goatmother has backed into ours several times. Oy.

  15. I am no help with the fencing situation. You know far more about goats and electric fences than I do. I did enjoy your post though. Always do.

  16. Let us know what you did when you figure it out. :)

  17. I am just now able to catch up with what has been going on with you.
    My goodness a lot has been happening at Critter Farm.
    Have to giggle about the cats. Animals know where a good life awaits them. They just seem to navigate perfectly.
    You with kitties! lol Make sure you have your allergy meds with!
    Ah, escapee goats. Yes. Yes. I know the feeling. The goat girls here learned how to get out of the pasture and now they wander wherever they please. And yes, they discovered the chicken house/coop and hhave helped themselves to the cracked corn! Keeping them contained, I learned, is a losing battle.
    Having a barn full of hay is always a nice sight!

  18. Another goat keeper here (Saanens & Nigerians) & we've had the same problem with the charger as you have. And we've used both a Gallagher pulse charger & a really nasty constant charge zapper. If they want to get out, they will get out. Then when kidding time came around, the kids would get out and get zapped, but for some reason they couldn't manage to go back in - even when they were crying for mom.

    The older goats figure a zap is worth getting over to the other side. We finally gave up on the electric fence (we had five strands) and they are now in a much smaller cattle panel enclosure. We can't afford to make a larger area with the cattle panels but are going to use a field fence with two, maybe three hot wires so they don't climb or lean on the field fencing.

    I know that's not what you wanted to hear, and I'm willing (and hoping) to hear from someone who has had success with just electric fence as it is a cheaper way to provide our goats with more area to roam.

    Good luck!

  19. Goats are so smart. They can figure how to get out of most anything. Do you have a fence tester? It is a thingy that costs about $25 and lights up like the
    4th when the charge is good. Our goats hate the electric fence. We did start with field fence first and then used the electric wire to run along the top outside (predators) and about 1 1/2 ft up from the ground to deter goats from performing tricks. They yell like crazy when they hit the electric wire. Oh, so do I. I say really bad words too. The goats may be saying bad words but I don't understand goat. ;)

  20. I think this problem goes back to the discovery of a thing called a "Chicken Pasture". Before its existence was known everyone was happy, but once Pete and Reggie found out that the chickens had their own pasture (they already knew about the donkey and llama pastures) they started exploring the property looking for the "goat pasture". I can hear them now:

    Pete, "Reggie, everyone else has a pasture so I'm sure we have one around here too!"

    Reggie, "Well lets get going while our winter coats are still in, it will take the zap out of the wires on the fence."

    Pete, "Do you think mom will mind us exploring!?

    Reggie, "I'm sure she would WANT us to find it. She is probably laughing at us right now for being so slow to figure out that it is out there just waiting for us."

    Pete, "Lets start by asking the chickens, she has been spending way too much time with them lately and you know how these hens like to gab...."

  21. Your boys are pretty clever! I agree that a lower wire at their favorite spot may be the only way to keep them from slipping through.

    They certainly know how to keep life interesting! Cute boys!

  22. Sorry you are having this goat fence problem, but I am still feeling sorry for Kai Llama as she looks down at her escaping charges. (no pun intended) Even though the photo is blurry, I can see her dismay that these boys would leave her. After all, it is her job and duty to keep them safe and with her. Do llamas sob?

  23. I wonder if the bottom strands are working. I can't imagine them going under and not feeling the zap if there is one. Do you have a tester?

  24. Oh Danni.... very cute pictures for a not cute issue! We went through a phase where my dog was digging out of the fence. He was a sight hound and so would just run after anything fast....like cars... We had to fortify with concrete under ground; but that is when he became a mostly indoor dog. Neither of which are options for you.... but it is scary to see one's animals out knowing they could get into something that could get them hurt. Good luck!!!

  25. They are silly goat boys! What if you took some of that 24" or 36" field fencing and put it on the lower portion where they escape. Or by a taller roll and cut it to the right height. Good luck!

  26. Thanks for the tag by the way!

  27. my husband said he doesn't see any insulators in your pictures. Is the wire nailed to the posts or do you have a plastic or glass insulator between the wire and post? If not, the moisture may be shoring it out. If you are using insulators, you might want to get a stronger charge on your wire.
    This was not a good post for me to read with husband sitting here, as he's always telling me, when my goat desires come up, that "they get out all the time are constantly into something" and now he's giving me that "told you so" look. Thanks!

  28. We found that ours didn't care about getting zapped if they wanted out enough. They probably found the chicken's grain.

    I don't want to tell you what we spent on fencing until someone told us to buy horse fence. We have 6foot for the does and 8 foot for the bucks.

    Fingers crossed it is working so far.

    Good luck!

  29. that photo of the goats and the children is priceless

  30. Oh my...goats are notoriously difficult to contain! Wow, you've got your work cut out for you :) I don't have goats anymore, just an expert escapee hound, but here's my 2-cents worth about electric fencing for squirrelly ruminants:

    The fur on our various farm creatures provides different insulating value from the shock of your fence… couple that with a strong (desperate) desire for escape of some varmints and you'll want to charge your fence accordingly. A horse zapped by less than 2,000 volts will stay far away from the fence at all times. You'll need 2,500 volts to contain a cow, and you'll want to pump that up a bit for goats and sheep - try 4,500 volts - that should get their attention... yes, ma'am.

    You also want to have high-quality insulators to keep your wire off your fence posts where it'll short out for sure. The most common in my area are the yellow ones (it's what I use), the porcelain are super old-school and work great (they're also pretty expensive). You can also recycle plastic/rubber tubing to use as an insulator, like garden sprinkler line or even leftover rubber weather-stripping, just don't mash it down too much with your staples or you can tear the rubber and get a short.

    Then be sure you ground it well: poor grounding = poor shock. You can get long (6-10 foot) galvanized metal grounding rods at most farm supply stores. I use four 6-foot grounding rods in my fence. They're installed right near the energizer. Drive them all the way into the soil except for about 6 inches or so where you'll jump connect them with good ground clamps. Ideally, you want to drive them into an area where the soil is consistently good and moist, that moisture will add to the shock value. Keep in mind that stray voltage can be an issue when the fence controller/grounding system is located within 50 ft. of a utility ground, buried water pipe, or buried telephone wire.

    Lastly, don't guess, get a voltmeter. Check the fence frequently to ensure you're getting a goat-worthy charge!

    Good luck!

  31. I have seven strands of electric for the perimeter fencing around my pastures & woven wire dividing up the paddocks. The electric works great for the sheep but the 3 Angora goats got out constantly. I was afraid they would teach the sheep how to do it so I sold the goats.

    When I was first considering goats, I was told: "If water can get through it, goats will get through it". Unfortunately, I found that to be true...

    Good luck!

  32. I fill in the holes that the goats get out of with poultry netting. It's cheap, easy to hang and has small enough holes they can't get through it. I don't have electric fences though so I'm not sure how it would work with an electric fence. My goats still find new ways to get out.

  33. I don't think you can every keep goats in with electric fence. We have a large herd of Nigerian Dwarf goats (about 100 right now, including all the winter babies), and we have the whole property fenced with 4' field fencing (the kind that "twisted" together, not welded). It's been tons of work keeping it in good enough repair for these guys, but it's the only thing that seems to work. Good luck!
    Cathy's Critters

  34. While I no longer have goats, we do have a horse who likes to stomp and lean on the fence. So, we strung hot wire and it worked well for a while. Until the charger burned out a month later. So, I agree with checking your charger. You can get a voltage meter thing to test it with. And test it in several places. If that is the issue, I suggest surfing Amazon or a like site and reading lots of reviews on whatever charger you think you may want. Had I done this originally, I'd not have bought the charger at my local feed store that ended up having nothing more than 1-star reviews.


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