I've recently received a number of questions about the portable paddock fence system I'm using. In the past I used an electronet fence, which has worked well. However, now that my herd is larger, I am grazing three groups of animals: breeding does, breeding bucks/buck kids, and dairy buck kids. It takes time to move each group of animals, including fence set up/take down, shelters and water stations. I depend on our John Deere Gator to help move everything as efficiently as possible. With a larger number of goats, I decided to start using Gallahger's Smart Fence, an all-in-one four reel poly wire system. It's lightweight, simple to set up/take down, doesn't tangle as easily as the eletronet fence, and travels well in the back of the Gator.
As I've talked about in previous blogs, it's important to fence train the animals so they learn to respect the electric fence and stay inside. The fence training allows the animals to "experience" the electric fence, while I supervise for any issues. Just a quick touch of the nose on the poly wire once, will teach the animals to stay away. On a very rare occasion, I've had a goat get out. But, they usually don't go far since they're herd animals and the fact that this fence is used inside our woven wire perimeter fence. I'm ok with rounding up an occasional goat or two, versus having a goat kid get hung up in the electronet fence.
I set up our paddocks in Ls to maximize the fence length and always be set up for the next paddock (see picture above). Each group of animals uses three of fences, so each time we move a group, the previous fence can be taken down and set up for the next move. The video clip below give a little more information about the fence system.
One of my favorite things about being a landowner is the beauty of what’s around me: stands of old growth oak trees, vibrant maple trees in the fall, a pond that attracts birds of all kinds, orange sunrises and sunsets over the fields and tree lines, families of deer and other wildlife. But it’s what I love that I also fear. While I love sharing our space with wildlife, it also comes with an uncertainty for the safety of my livestock. Predators like bear, coyotes and even wolves move through our woods and are on the hunt for their next meal.
While I haven’t had an attack on our farm yet, I know the reality of it is very possible. Because of that threat we’ve invested thousands of dollars in new woven wire fence with a strand of electric high tinsel wire and started having a livestock guardian dog live with our goats full time – all because of the threat of predators and the possibility of losing the animals that are an essential piece of my job, business and livelihood I call my farm. I can’t imagine the pain and financial loss when I hear devastating stories (read more) from other farmers who have lost calves and sheep to wolves and can do nothing about it. The wolf population in Wisconsin is growing and something needs to be done about it. Wolves need to be delisted from the endangered species list and managed responsibly so farmers and even pet owners and families do not need to be concerned about the next wolf attack.
Last week there was discussion from lawmakers, farmers, hunters and other concerned citizens about the idea of delisting the wolf from the endangered species list at the Great Wolf Summit in northern Wisconsin. To learn more about the Summit and the unfortunate stories of loss of other farmers, including a friend of mine Ryan, read this story from the Wausau Daily Herald.
Right now my farm is somewhat like a teenager. It’s not quite to its full size, which at times can mean growing pains and even awkward situations (think of grandma giving you an XL shirt to “grow into”).
As my herd of goats grows, I’ll need more options for housing our breeding animals year-round. I have drafted expansion plans for our barns. But, I also need to consider how the pasture can be used in the winter as well. This is due to having multiple groups of animals over winter, which include our (1) breeding bucks, (2) breeding does, and (3) doelings kept for breeding, but not old enough to breed. And, then in January, the (4) dairy buck kids arrive. They need to be in separate groups because of their size difference, safety, and to prevent any unplanned breeding. This year the current barn space should be okay. It’ll be tight, but okay.
However, this is why I’m planning ahead for using our pasture over winter primarily for our bucks or older animals. Goats are fairly hearty animals as long as they have access to shelter to keep them from getting wet. I’ll be adding a tree line windbreak along our west pasture to provide more protection from the elements through the winter months.
This recently I started working on the actual windbreak layout. It’ll be two rows of Colorado Blue Spruce trees along the north end of the pasture. The trees are spaced about 15 feet apart in each row, with the trees off set in the second row, also 15 ft from the first row. Since there’s a field driveway that goes past the corner of the field, a small section of the windbreak will be one row to allow for hay equipment access to the other field. The spacing is based on recommendations for livestock windbreaks from my county NRCS conservationist and also account for ease of mowing around the trees, especially when they’re young, and still having access to maintain the fence line.
The trees are transplants and are 1 ½ - 2 feet tall and have a growth rate of 1-2 feet per year. This is why it’s important I get these trees in the ground now, so they’ll start being useful in a few years. I’ll plant them this fall and will put mulch around the base to help with moisture and weed control.
Thank you to the Women, Food & Ag Network (WFAN) for featuring me in a recent Farmer Profile on its website. I'm humbled to be part of the many faces of women farmers and landowners that WAFN recognizes through its communication and events.
I own and manage Cylon Rolling Acres in northwestern Wisconsin. On my farm I raise Boer - Kiko meat goats on pasture.
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Cylon (pronounced Si-lon) is the name of our township in St. Croix County, Wisconsin. Sorry fans, our farm is not named after the robots of Battlestar Galactica.