Yard Designs for Goats
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:
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.
The activities carried out in the yards will determine their basic design, and include the following :
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
Aim to design the yards so that the following planning principles are met.
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:-
Move goats through yards with a minimum of dog/man force.
This planning principle involves:-
Goats can be worked as groups or individuals. Plan to improve efficiency by combining seasonal activities into one major yarding.
This Planning principle involves:-
The yards should provide a suitable animal handling environment.
This planning principle Involves:-
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
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.
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
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.
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.