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B4

Fencing for goats

Agfact A7.2.1, First edition 1982 Terry Mitchell, Livestock Officer (Goats) Dick Kearins, Livestock Officer (Sheep/Beef) Division of Animal Production, Dubbo

Fences are being used successfully to contain goats under many differing conditions. In this publication we discuss:

  • The behaviour of goats in relation to fencing
  • New conventional fences
  • New electric fences; and
  • Upgrading existing fences.

Costs vary with time and location but to make costing easier, a list of materials used per kilometre is given for each type of new fence.

The term prefabricated fencing is used to describe fencing materials such as Hinged joint, Ringlock, and conventional netting.

BEHAVIOUR

Goats are, in general terms, intelligent, inquisitive animals. As such, they tend to 'test' a fence more than sheep. They usually feed over the whole paddock, and travel much further than other stock. Therefore, any fault in a fence is soon detected by goats and a breach made if possible. The part of the fence most tested is the bottom third, with goats paying particular attention to the gap between the ground and bottom wire. It is important to maintain, wherever possible, an even, close distance between the bottom wire and the ground. Surface irregularities like gilgais, gullies or stump holes need to be filled or blocked. The use of a bottom selvage wire and correct wire tension are good deterrents to goats going under. Gaps under gates, caused by washed out wheel tracks for example, may need to be filled.

Feral does with active kids at foot. To keep goats like these contained, you need good fences.

Experience shows that domesticated goats rarely jump fences. The exception is usually the result of them being severely harassed by stray dogs or similarly unusual causes. However, goats do tend to climb, particularly kids, which play on raised objects, such as rocks or stumps. It is therefore important that fence lines be clear of rocks, stumps, fallen timber, earth works or indeed any objects onto which goats will climb and play.

Any raised vantage point will provide a stage from which goats may jump over a fence.

Conventional angled stays on strainer posts need to be protected as kids can run up them and jump out. Double, or boxed, end assemblies should be used when building new fences for goats. Double end assemblies do not have an angled stay.

Some pre-fabricated fences are not suitable for goats. This kid is 'hung up' in 8:80:15 fencing. (Photo: T.D. Mitchell)

In general terms, a property that has fences to contain crossbred ewes and lambs will, with some attention to detail, be suitable for containing goats. However, one type of prefabricated fencing, often called pig-netting and described as 8/80/15, can be a problem with horned goats. In this type of fence the vertical wire pickets are 15 cm apart; goats can easily get their head and horns through but have difficulty in getting their head out. It is possible that a goat could become 'hung-up' and perish. Therefore, we do not recommend the use of prefabricated fences with vertical pickets less than 30 cm apart. The spacing of 30 cm allows goats to twist their heads more easily and thus to free themselves.

Buck-proof holding paddocks should be considered for holding males during the non-breeding season. These areas should consist of prefabricated material such as 8/90/30, and electric wires on outriggers.

NEW CONVENTIONAL FENCING

Two designs are suggested, one is suitable for a boundary fence, the other is adequate for internal fencing. These designs are suggested when building new fences and are suitable to control sheep and cattle as well as goats.

Boundary fence (8/90/30)

It is important that a boundary fence allows an absolute minimum of stock movement. The fence described in diagram 1, on page 3, will contain most kids.

Features

  • 165cm steel posts spaced every 20 metres;
  • bottom selvage wire- 2.5 cm above the ground with bottom of fabricated fence attached at 1.5 m intervals;
  • top selvage wire used to reduce sagging;
  • one additional wire above the fabricated wire for additional height.

Materials

The following is required per kilometre to build this fence:

  • five rolls 8/90/30;
  • two coils 2.5 mm high tensile plain wire for the selvage wire (coils are 1500 m long);
  • two reels of high tensile barb wire*;
  • 48 x 165 cm steel posts;
  • 100 x 107 cm droppers,
  • suitable strainers (end assemblies).
Conventional 8/90/30 prefabricated boundary fence.
Materials:
8/90/30 prefabricated 2.5 mm (121/2 g)
H.T. wire (top and bottom selvage wires)
H.T. barbed wire
165 cm steel posts suitable droppers

Sub-division fence (6/70/30)

The design shown in diagram 2 will control the movement of all adult stock, however some passage through it could be made by young kids or weaners. Young stock that may go through this fence will usually return to their paddocks, so their travels can be tolerated. This fence is usually cheaper to erect than the boundary fence that is described.

Features

  • 165 cm steel posts spaced every 20 metres,
  • bottom selvage wire 2.5 cm above ground with bottom of prefabricated fence attached at 1.5 metre intervals,
  • top selvage wire used to reduce sagging,
  • two additional wires are used above the prefabricated wire for additional height.

Materials

The following is required per kilometre to build this fence:

  • five rolls 6/70/30,
  • two coils 2.5 mm high tensile plain wire, top and bottom selvage and additional top wire,
  • two reels of high tensile barb wire*,
  • 48 x 165 cm steel posts,
  • 100 x 107 cm droppers,
  • suitable strainers (end assemblies).
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* Alternatives to using barb wire include a suitably insulated electric wire, or a horse sighter wire.

Conventional 6/70/30 prefabricated sub-division fence.
Materials:
6/70/30
2.5 mm (12 1/2 g) H.T. wire (top and bottom selvage wires)
H.T. barbed wire
165 cm steel posts suitable droppers

Other Designs

Previous recommendations for goat proof fences have included a prefabricated fence having the specification of 8/115/30. This fence has a prefabricated section of full height. Experience has shown us that kids of up to 12 kg body weight can get through the gaps between the third and fourth wires from the bottom. In internal fences this is not a great problem but in boundary fences it is undesirable. This problem can be overcome by running an additional plain wire through the middle of that gap. This wire should be tied to the fabricated material to secure it in position.

Some producers use netting fences for goat control. Wire netting has been used in fences built to control rabbits and wild dogs. Although several sizes of netting are available, the two most commonly used are usually referred to as either rabbit or dog netting. Whilst these types of fences have a specialised role, they are far more expensive to build than the fences that are described.

Further details

Selvage wires are additional plain wires attached to the bottom and/or top of prefabricated fencing to give additional strength. Bottom selvage wires are recommended in conventional goat fences to help stop goats from forcing their way underneath. They are of greatest importance when fences are built in areas with uneven soil surfaces. Selvage wires are also very useful when it is necessary to hang a skirt off the bottom of a fence when deeper depressions are crossed.

Top selvage wires are not recommended to reduce sagging in goat fences as goats will tend to climb up with their front legs, particularly where foliage overhangs a fence.

Wire tension is an important factor in fence performance and life. Maintenance of wire tension relies heavily on the use of suitable end assemblies. Our recommendation is to use 2.5 mm high tensile wires for selvage wires, with additional plain wires run above the prefabricated section. The correct tension for 2.5 mm plain wire is 2.0 kN and for prefabricated wire fencing is 0.8 kN per line wire. It is virtually impossible to achieve the correct tension without the use of some type of tension gauge.

The post spacings that are suggested are recommended for fences built on even surfaces. When a fence goes over a hill or through a gully more posts will be necessary. More posts are needed over a hill to maintain the correct height of the fence while more posts and/or tie-downs are necessary when crossing a gully to keep the fence down.

NEW ELECTRIC FENCES

Two types of electric fence are recommended, one for boundaries and one for sub-divisions. The two designs are known to work in several locations for control of goats and other livestock.

Electric fences are effective when well built and maintained and when stock have been exposed to them. If stock are exposed to electric fences but have had no previous experience, then they may go through. Usually, one contact with a live wire and suitable earthing is sufficient training for most stock.

The advantages offered by electric fencing are that it is relatively cheap to build, easy and quick to erect, and that it also offers a measure of control over some vertebrate pests.

Each fence design consists of plain wires that are alternatively earthed or energised. Recommendations on the most suitable type of energiser, insulators and other components can be gained from your nearest office of the Department of Agriculture.

6-Line boundary fence

Similar comments apply here about stock movement through boundary fences. This design will stop the movement of almost all animals; it is certainly effective against livestock and will provide a measure of control of other animals such as kangaroos, feral pigs, wild dogs, and foxes.

Six-wire electric boundary fence
Materials:
2.5 mm (12 1/2 g) H.T. wire
posts - timber or steel insulators
droppers - timber or other suitable material

Features

  • line posts spaced every 20 metres over uniform surfaces,
  • line posts are either 165 cm steel posts with iron bark droppers tied to them or electrified wires attached via suitable insulators,
  • iron bark (or insulated) droppers spaced at 6.6 metre intervals,
  • wires are alternatively earth or live with the bottom wire earthed.

Materials

The following is required, per kilometre, to build this fence:

  • four coils 2.5 mm high tensile wire (coils 1,500 m long),
  • 55 line posts - can be either 165 cm steel posts or suitable hardwood posts,
  • 60 hardwood droppers - plus 55 hardwood droppers if used as insulators tied to steel posts,
  • six porcelain bullnose insulators at strainers,
  • 700 pre-formed wire ties or enough tie wire.
  • Sub-division four-wire electric fence

    Whilst this fence will control the movement of all stock, it does not have the security of the previous design and it is therefore suggested as being suitable for sub-division fencing. This fence is suitable for control of all livestock that are trained to electric fencing.

    Features

    • line posts spaced every 20 metres over uniform surfaces,
    • line posts are either 135 cm steel posts with hardwood droppers tied to them or electrified wires attached via suitable insulators,
    • ironbark (or insulated) droppers spaced at 6.6 metre intervals,
    • wires are alternatively earth or live with the bottom wire earthed.

    Materials

    The following is required, per kilometre, to build this fence:

    • three coils 2.5 mm high tensile wire (coils 1,500 m long),
    • 55 line posts - can be either 135 cm steel posts or suitable hardwood posts,
    • 60 hardwood droppers - plus 55 hardwood droppers if used as insulators tied to steel posts,
    • four porcelain bullnose insulators at strainers,
    • 500 pre-formed wire ties or enough tie wire.

    Four-wire electric fence
    Materials:
    2.5 mm (12 1/2 g) H.T. wire
    posts - timber or steel insulators
    droppers - timber or other suitable material

    Hardwood posts and droppers can be bought custom cut from some suppliers, or multi-grooved versions can be purchased. Hardwood posts and droppers, if made from suitable timber such as heartwood of iron bark, are dense enough to have excellent insulating properties. Also, their cost is usually less than that of other types of insulators. In some soil conditions, hardwood posts can be driven, and are suitable to use as line posts. However, in soils that are too hard, steel posts are driven. Electrified wires need to be attached to steel posts through an insulator. The above diagrams show hardwood droppers tied to steel posts as insulators. Other types of insulators are available, but are often more expensive than hardwood droppers.

    Wire tension is of great importance in electric fences. It is therefore important that adequate end assemblies (strainer posts) are built. Double, or boxed, end assemblies are recommended because they are usually stronger than conventional angled stay-type strainers and have the added advantage that goats cannot climb up them. Wires should be strained up to the correct tension which is 2.0 kN for each 2.5 mm high tensile wire. A tension gauge is necessary to achieve the correct tension.

    Other Designs

    Another design that has been used with success in the Cobar/Bourke area of NSW is a five wire electric fence. This fence has three wires electrified (top, middle and bottom) with remaining wires earthed. Wire spacings used in this fence are from the ground 12.5 cm, 12.5 cm, 15 cm, 17.5 cm and 20 cm, to give an overall height of 77.5 cm. Electrified bottom wires are acceptable in areas where pasture growth is not prolific.

    Further details

    Electric fencing can be used for temporary fencing, for example dividing a paddock of crop to graze some and save some. Specialised woven wire and re-wind reels are available for this purpose. Also, multi-wire electric fences are suitable for use as semi-permanent sub-division fences, for example to divide a large paddock for, say, two years to aid in scrub control.

    One of the most important factors when erecting an electric fence is earthing. It is essential that adequate earthing is designed into the fence. The designs discussed here use an earth return system. That is, all wires that are not electrified are connected to the earth pole of the energiser and a suitable earth stake. It may also be necessary to have extra earthing stakes along the fence. It is simply not enough to rely on the animals contact with the soil surface, as in most locations poor earthing occurs when the soil surface dries out.

    Five-line electric fence built at Cobar, using porcelain insulators, and creosote-treated hardwood battens as insulators. (Photos: R.D. Kearins

    A recent innovation in electric fence energisers is an energiser which charges each wire with alternatively a positive and negative current. This energiser has the apparent advantage of having all wires energised.

    Further details on electric fence design, construction and components can be obtained from your nearest office of the Department of Agriculture.

    Solar powered energisers are useful in areas where rural power is not available. (Photo: John Gasparotto)

    UP-GRADING OF EXISTING FENCING

    Many producers interested in goats may need to modify existing fencing rather than to build new fences. The types most frequently in need of modification are: plain wire fences, pre-fab fences and old fences.

    (1) Plain wire fences

    In purely grazing areas, such as the Western Division or tablelands and coastal areas, many fences are built of plain wires with or without one or more strands of barbed wire. In areas that have traditionally run only cattle, the fences may be multi-strand barb wire.

    These types of fences can usually be goat proofed most easily by tying prefabricated fencing directly onto them. This is usually fairly expensive and is often difficult where fences are run in hilly country. When the fence is in sound condition, it may be possible to run additional wires on stand-off insulators and electrify them. To control goats, additional wires near the bottom and top of the fence are necessary.

    A porcelain stand-off insulator. (Courtesy, Daken Corp. Pty. Ltd.)
    A porcelain stand-off insulator.

    The relative merit of using electrified wires on each side of a fence needs to be assessed against cost. A whole range of products can be bought, some examples are pre-formed wire containing porcelain insulators and hardwood battens.

    Location of the wires is important. The bottom wire needs to be placed about 23 cm above ground and about 23 cm out from the fence. The top wire is located below the existing top wire and about 23 cm from the fence.

    If all line posts on a plain wire fence are bored native hardwood, gidgea for example, then it may be possible to insulate selected wires and electrify these. However, most fences contain some steel posts. Where plain wires pass through holes in steel posts, some producers have threaded split insulation tubing between the wire and the inside of the hole. Whilst this is relatively cheap, the long-term effectiveness and ability to find faults is questionable.

    Where barbed wire is used in a fence that is to be electrified, it is no longer necessary as a deterrent to stock and is in fact dangerous. Under these conditions it is best to remove and discard the barbed wire. When additional wires are strung on an existing fence, whether they are prefabricated or plain electrified wires, it is important that the end assemblies are able to carry the extra load. Under some conditions, it may be necessary to replace or strengthen existing end assemblies.

    The suitability of various techniques, types of equipment and their placement varies with the existing fence. Assistance with these problems is available through the nearest office of the Department of Agriculture.

    (2) Prefabricated fences

    Existing prefabricated fences may require relatively little improvement, depending largely on the type of prefabrication that has been used.

    If netting fences are used, and are in good repair, the addition of an electrified wire on stand-off insulators located between the top of the netting and top wire is usually sufficient. However, if the base of the netting is holed, then it may be necessary to place foot netting to cover the holes. It is difficult to place an electrified wire near the bottom of netting that is holed, as there are often long ends of wire that can reach the electrified wire, causing it to earth, giving voltage loss.

    Prefabricated fences using patterns with narrow vertical picket spacing, e.g. 8/80/15, although goat proof, cause problems as animals can become hung-up. A single, off-set electrified wire placed about 23 cm up from the ground will eliminate this problem.

    Other prefabricated fence patterns can have problems with animals passing through because either the spacings between horizontal wires are too wide or the spacings between vertical pickets are too wide. These problems can be overcome by running an additional plain wire across the space that is too wide. This is most often the second or third space from the bottom.

    If the prefabricated section is too far off the ground, i.e., higher than about 2.5 cm, an additional bottom wire may be necessary. Alternatively, steel posts could be driven further down to close the gap. The addition of at least a bottom selvage wire is an advantage in fences that do not have them.

    Further to these changes, details such as creek crossings need to be checked to ensure that minimum clearances are made.

    (3) Aged, poor condition fences

    Many fences are barely adequate to control sheep movement due to broken off or rotted posts, or perhaps washaways. Some fences can be refurbished, relatively cheaply, by dummying broken posts, or building new strainers or the addition of new wires. The use of either prefabricated fencing or electrified wires can stock proof fences only if these fences can be stood-up and strained-up to the correct tension. The cost and time involved to repair an old fence must be weighed against the cost of erecting a new replacement fence or even the need for the particular fence.

    Old fences that are in a poor state of repair and are past redemption should be completely removed. If left lying around, they are not only unattractive but are a nuisance when mustering, can be dangerous to man and stock, and perhaps of more importance, they can become an aid in teaching stock bad habits.

    ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

    Mr Alan Murphy, Mechanization Officer, Dubbo, provided technical assistance and drew the diagrams. The knowledge gained from Officers of the Department of Agriculture working with goats on our Research Stations and owners on private properties was invaluable.

    FURTHER READING

    `Permanent Electric Fencing' - Agfact E2.1, Department of Agriculture, NSW.
    Agricultural Engineering Section, Glenfield, 2167. 'Waratah Fence Manual' - Australian Wire Industries, Chiswick, NSW.
    `The Electric Fencing Handbook' - Daken Corporation, Brookvale, NSW.

    © 1982 NSW Dept Ag