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B8

Yard Designs for Goats

  • Tim Squire-Wilson, Sunbury VIC
  • Jim Browne, Merton VIC

The design of yards specifically for goats is a recent development in Australian animal husbandry. Many producers use existing sheep facilities and make minor adaptations for handling goats. However, there are increasing numbers of producers who may have introduced goats into country where sheep were not previously running, such as cattle properties or in cropping areas. They need to build new facilities.

This goat notes examines the principles that need to be considered when designing suitable yards, for handling goats. It presents some of the options for yards, both undercover and outside. Many of the features suitable for goats overlap those for sheep and dual-purpose yards may be constructed with careful planning and forethought.

Functions of Goat Yards

The five basic functions of goat yards, which need to be integrated for efficient goat handling, are:

  • Holding.
  • Moving.
  • Drafting.
  • Arranging.
  • Treating.

External Yard Designs

Types of Goat Yards

Yards fall into four main types, each designed for various handling activities, which can be carried out conveniently.

These are:

  • Main yards.
  • Secondary yards, or out-yards.
  • Temporary yards.
  • Portable yards.

The activities carried out in the yards will determine their basic design, and include the following :

Main activity Main yards Secondary activity Other activities
Shearing Drafting, lice control, dipping Drenching, culling, weaning
Weaning Drafting Drenching, vaccination, culling, bulleting
Classing Selection, condition scoring Drenching, ear tagging, drafting
Pre-mating Drafting, buck examination Drenching, foot trimming
Pre-kidding Drafting, vaccination, udder scoring Drenching
Temporary yards Kid marking Drafting, vaccinating, ear tagging, foot bathing Drenching, trace element treatment

Goat Behaviour

There are some major differences in sheep and goat behaviour. Goats are far more mobile and are far more observant of control signals. Given space, they will stay in their mob when driven. Commonly, an animal that breaks from the mob under pressure - will return to the mob if given time.

Goats do not respond well to forcing or crowding in confined areas, such as yards. Take time to learn the elements of goat behaviour. Apply this knowledge to yard design and operation.

Both sheep and goats exhibit 'flocking' and 'following' behaviour, and their natural circling instinct can assist stock movement in curved yards. The pecking order is such that goats often come through yards in family groups with the oldest females first. Goats learn quickly and once familiar with moving through yards in a certain way will expect to continue the same way time and time again.

Goats respond positively when shown the way, whereas, sheep usually have to be forced. Goats show more intelligence than sheep and tend to stress more. Generally, dog-use should be kept to a minimum in goat yards. Dogs are useful in the actual mustering and yarding process. Once yarded use only quiet dogs and see they are under control at all times.

Long races should be avoided, as the goats' crowd and 'pack up', and can easily be smothered.

Many people drench and treat their animals in small yards or inside a shed to prevent this occurring. Working goats in sheep facilities that have not been adapted for goats can be very frustrating.

People must learn to move carefully and quietly when working goats in yards, so that they do not alarm the alert animals. Women are often better than men at handling goats in this manner. The goats respond to their care and kindness and reward the operator with intelligence and co-operation.

It is important not to hurry when working goats, allow plenty of time to complete the job. If rushed, the goals will not co-operate and the time required will be even longer.

Design Guidelines for Goat Yards

  • Flow is better, if rearward vision is restricted. Goats, forced to look down are less alarmed. The front end of a raceway should appear open, so the goats do not enter a &guot;dead end".
  • Goats flow better around blind corners, and curved corners.
  • Following-goats must be able to see the other goats ahead, even as they are disappearing around a corner. Stationery goats are motivated by the sight of goats running.
  • Goats flow better through yards or sheds if the same paths are followed and the same flow directions maintained.
  • Goats do not like 'nasties' and will try to avoid them (e.g. poorly designed footbaths, or unstable floors surfaces in sheds and ramps).

Planning Principles

Aim to design the yards so that the following planning principles are met.

Size

Ensure yards and holding paddocks are of adequate size and strength, such that all goats can be mustered and held if required. Dual purpose yards (eg. sheep/goat or goat/cattle) will have different considerations to goat-only yards.

This planning principle involves:-

  • Allowing for adjacent holding yards. Planning yard size for when the property is fully stocked.
  • Providing sufficient working capacity in the main yard area to handle the biggest mob on the property.
  • Using strong building materials for fences, gates and races. Construct horizontal spacing to prevent kids from escaping, (lower spacings 100mm).

Movement

Move goats through yards with a minimum of dog/man force.

This planning principle involves:-

  • Adequate pens and raceways.
  • Gateways, wide enough and well located.
  • A single pathway to all handling facilities, through which goats will always go in the same direction.
  • A clear unobstructed view of pathway or race exits.
  • Other goats of a mob acting as decoys for goats approaching the treatment area.
  • Avoidance of downhill races.
  • Avoidance of sharp shadows over pathways and races.
  • Alignment of races in a northerly direction.
  • Features that encourage a smooth goat flow such as:
    • wide rather than narrow pathways,
    • sheeted panelling placed at key points.

Facilities

Goats can be worked as groups or individuals. Plan to improve efficiency by combining seasonal activities into one major yarding.

This Planning principle involves:-

  • Providing suitable drafting and multipurpose handling pens or races.
  • The use of layouts in which goats can be recycled readily through the main working area.
  • Allowing for mobs to be diverted to other pathways exiting from the yards, for example shearing shed entrances, and shorn animals returning from the counting pens.
  • Allowing for plug-in accessory equipment, such as scales or hoof trimmers, that may need to be moved in and out of the yards.
  • Allowing (in high rainfall areas) for all animals to exit the yards through a permanently installed footbath.

Environment

The yards should provide a suitable animal handling environment.

This planning principle Involves:-

  • Including labour saving features such as:
    • Remote control gates.
    • Curved layouts with a centralised working area.
    • Personnel gates if required.
    • Adjustable sided races.
    • Goat handlers for drenching, feet care etc.
  • Providing shelter and shade where appropriate, for example a shelter belt of trees or a roofed handling race.
  • Minimising dust and mud problems with paving and good drainage.
  • Reducing animal stress factors by:
    • Avoiding bright shiny yard components or walls.
    • Painting yards one solid colour.
    • Isolating a goat from its herd mates for a treatment at the last possible moment.
    • Providing drinking facilities.
    • Avoiding undue noise.
    • Avoiding using dogs in the yards.

Recommended dimensions

Fence heightInternal 1 metre, external 1.1 metres, some goat yards are 1.2 metres high.
Gate widthReceiving yards, 2 metres or more, Internal gates, 1.2 metres or more.
Drafting gatelength 1 metre or more.
Drafting raceminimum length 2.5 metres, v-shaped three way draft, 900mm high, 600mm wide at the top, tapering to 300mm at the bottom, with a solid floor. The longer the drafting race the better.
Handling yard2 metres by 3 metres. 1 metre high, or Handling race length 6 metres, divided Into three partitions, width variable 600 to 800mm, and height 900mm to 1m. (If handling large numbers of bucks or ferals, the height of this area may need to be 1.2m.)

Good flooring or paving is essential, especially in drafting and handling areas. These yards, particularly the drafting and handling areas, can be covered over with shedding at minimal cost.

Area required per goat

Holding yards1 goat per square metre.
Forcing yards3 goats per square metre.
Transporting5 goats per square metre, (the equivalent of 160 goats per deck for normal 12m crate.)

Working goats in indoor yards

The following describes a yard and shed layout designed from first principles. It is ideally suited to a flock of around 1000 goats. This design has been built and tested on a number of properties and works very well. The design could be expanded or contracted to suit larger or small flocks. The cost should be around $20,000 contract built. The aim of the design is to provide a quality facility at a minimum cost.

Figure1 Facility from outside

Figure 5 Facility setup for shearing

Figure 6 Looking down race

Indoor yards and sheds are particularly useful for goats because of the effects on the animals' behaviour. There is a psychological quietening of the goats in a confined environment, which reduces the urge to jump and rush through yards.

The reduced even lighting in the shed, compared to direct sunlight, also has a quietening effect.

As with outside yards, it is important not to have shadowed areas where the goats will not move. Goats load easily and quickly into a shed, (without dogs). Indoor races for treatment during inclement weather are also suitable for goats.

The basic concepts behind this design

  • All handling operations done inside a shed.
    • To provide weather protected working conditions. To give maximum security against escape. To provide a shearing facility with little additional expense.
  • Handling is done in a race feeding a 3 way draft. With a little extra effort, animals can be drafted 5 ways.
  • Internal design allows for a shed full of animals to circulate after handling to fill the space left by processed animals.
  • Internal design allows temporary creation of single pens for field day display or kidding problems.
  • Internal design allows gates to be set to form catching pens and exit pens for 2-stand shearing.
  • Internal design allows for storage of animals and loading of transports under cover.

To contain costs, outside yards (with yard style fencing) are only constructed to facilitate loading the shed and to hold animals after drafting. The facility can be expanded to work larger numbers, by the addition of small holding paddocks adjacent to the yards, using paddock style fencing.

The facility would be quite suitable for also handling small mobs of sheep, although the handling race would need be adjustable in width and height and the wool room would need enlarging for sheep shearing.

The shed is designed to minimise construction costs. It is, in effect, a modified machinery shed fitted with elevated batten floor constructed on concrete stumps.

The "woolroom" floor is at the same level as the batten floor, but is sheeted with plywood or pine flooring. Chipboard flooring tends to develop a rough surface as it weathers and should be avoided.

This type of shed should be readily available locally, in a tried and tested design, at a very competitive cost.

The shed is fully floored before internal pens and gates are fitted. Uprights are constructed with a welded footplate. This is bolted to the floor, with a clamping plate underneath.

Pen design is simple, incorporating straight internal fences and strategically placed gates. Internal fences should be Weldmesh reinforced with timber (as illustrated). Restricting animal vision with solid sheet discourages free movement and encourages pen hopping.

Summary

The concepts presented in this Goat Note apply to all yard and shed designs that are built to handle goats. Variations to the basic design can be made to incorporate special handling races or cradles, or to suit locally available materials.

© 2000 A.C.G.A.