This past weekend we started preparing for breeding season for our goats. We will do this herd health work about 1-2 months before we actually put the bucks in with the does.
So here’s what it looks like for us:
Bucks: The bucks get the same attention.
Why do we start the process in advance? It gives any goats that need a little extra attention some extra time before the big dating day comes. We can make sure all the goats are at their best, in terms of health. If any kids are still nursing, it also allows the does bodies to readjust before making the transition to growing babies.
The day of health work: We bring the goats from the pasture back to the barn. It’s just easier to have a contained space to work with them and sort them. We will have 1-2 friends or family members helping sort goats and doing the hoof trimming and health work.
I’ll also make observations and record all the health work and other notes into our online record system EasyKeeper on my tablet (if you try it out, you can get a $30 credit here).. This year I also was keeping tabs on our almost 2-year-old-daughter. It was a bit of a balancing act!
We use the over the fence feeder troughs to put our supplies in order of use and so they’re easy to access. There’s a whiteboard with a checklist of tasks for each goat and dosages based on animal size. This helps streamline the process. Next year I’m hoping to add a chute and sorting facility to our system. Right now, it works, but it has the potential to add extra stress on the goats and is also hard on our own bodies.
At the end of November, after Thanksgiving, we’ll split our herd into groups and put the bucks out. The timing works out well. We kid in mid-April, which its usually starting to warm up. We often have extra family and friends around the farm with the holiday and deer hunting season.
We’ll put our yearlings into one group so there’s no extra competition or stress with the older does during breeding. We also will often use a smaller buck.
The older does are split into two groups with our other bucks. We use breeding harnesses to know when does are exposed. They are kept in their groups for 20-30 days, or until all does are marked. Then we combine the groups at 45 days. Around 60 days we will usually pull the bucks and put them in their winter pen.
Five months later it’s baby goat time!
Wonder why we kid later in the season? Read this blog post here.
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I’m honored, and a bit humbled, to share that I’m featured in the most recent issue of the Rural Route magazine, which goes out to farm families and others involved in agriculture in Wisconsin. You can read the full article below to learn more about how I got my start in farming, as well as raising meat goats and direct marketing goat meat in western Wisconsin.
I’d also like to give a big thank you to Amy Eckelberg from the Wisconsin Farm Bureau for asking me to do the interview and coming all the way to northwestern Wisconsin to take photos for the story in one of the hottest times of the year.
She also started to learn the art of taking pictures with livestock guardian dogs sniffing and licking you and figuring out how to get a good shot of grazing goats. This includes not just getting them to face you but attempting to not get too many goat rear ends or anyone taking care of business in the shot. I think Amy did ok, if you look at her pictures!
Enjoy the read!
P.S. The magazine also featured a number of grilling recipes in the Farm Flavor section from my personal food Instagram account: @GrillingLikeSteven You can check those out here.
If you want to see the whole magazine, click here to read it.
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If you're raising meat goats or are thinking about rasing meat goats, you can sign up for our online community here to learn more about what we do on our farm raising goats for meat.
Electric fence is a must for keeping goats on pasture: keeping them and our livestock guardian dogs in, AND keeping predators out.
As good as electric fence is, it isn't foolproof. Sometimes it's not working as well as it could be.
The only way you might not know is if... hmm... a goat breaks out of your paddock fence, or you find one of your livestock guardian dogs roaming the whole pasture. Thank goodness for perimeter fence! (Learn how we use permanent, perimeter fence and temporary paddock fencing in this article).
So how do I know if the fencer is working like it should be? I will look at the fencer itself (see picture below) and check to see if it's fully energized, with the lights flashing all the way up to green. If it's not something could be grounding it out. But, do I always want to run back to the barn and troubleshoot? No.
So, enter in one of my favorite grazing / electric fencing tools -- a fence tester. I have the Fault Finder by Gallagher.
When I suspect the fence might not be as hot as usual, or not even on at all, I'll take out the Fault Finder and test the fence. It will show the KV running through the fence, and if there's a grounding issue it will point an arrow to direct you in the direction it's at. It gives me a general idea of where to check the fence to look for down trees, areas where deer may have knocked down the top high tensile wire and it's now touching the woven wire, or other issues. These tend to be my most common issues.
I also like to use the fence tester when I'm running more temporary fence than usual, or running temporary fence outside of our permanent fenced in pasture. These are instances where I want to be especially certain the fence is HOT. The more electric wire I put on my energizer, the greater odds it might drop the KV. Usually, in these instances, I might also need to do more trimming or knocking down grass and brush to make sure there's no other grounding issues, which impact how hot the fence is.
If you're going to use electric fence and graze, this is a tool to have. There are several options out there to choose from. I happened to use Gallagher's Fault Finder since I use a lot of their fencing products and have been happy with the quality and performance.
if you're interested in learning more about more of my favorite goat things and how we’re raising meat goats on pasture, join our online community for raising goats for meat here.
This is the first blog post in a four-part Grazing Goats Article Series.
There’s a popular saying, if a fence can’t hold water, it can’t hold a goat. While it’s true that goats are more challenging to fence as compared to other livestock, it isn’t as big of an issue as what some might think. However, the right type fence, energizer and training is important. It is often one of the most common barriers for raising goats – having the right fencing.
When we decided to raise goats, we knew that fencing was important, and it needed to be done right. Our perimeter fence specs were developed by a USDA – NRCS conservationist / grazing specialist with some consultation from a well-regarded fence installer who has experience with fencing goats and sheep. We didn’t want to lose our goats, nor did we want to be in a situation where we weren’t on good terms with our neighbors.
Our goat perimeter fencing is about 47 inches high and is high tensile woven wire with a strand of hot high tensile wire about 6 inches above the woven wire to keep predators from jumping or climbing over and keep the goats in. At the bottom, a few inches below the woven wire and a few inches above the ground is a strand of barbed wire to deter animals from digging under, specifically our livestock guardian dogs and predators, like coyotes. Fence posts are spaced about 16 feet.
The woven wire opening is 6 inches wide and starts at 3 inches tall openings. Each opening going up to the top gets a little bit bigger, with the top opening at 7 inches tall. The majority of our goats are horned. On occasion some of our younger goats will get their heads stuck in the fence, trying to eat grass outside the pasture. Usually if there’s enough to eat in a paddock (a section of the pasture) this isn’t an issue. Older goats typically can’t push their heads through since their horns are large enough to stop them. If a goat continuously gets stuck, we may put a “crown” on her head temporarily to help train her to not stick her head through. This is a piece of flexible pipe about 8-10 inches long and then duct taped to the horns. If the goat tries to push her head through the fence to eat, the pipe will stop her. It’s a safe way to train her to stop this habit. Goats that are stuck in fences may be more susceptible to predators or bullying from more aggressive goats.
Traditional high tensile wire can be used as well. It’s recommended that if you go this route to use a 5-wire set up. According to Randy Cutler of Cutler Fence, who did our fencing installation, goat and sheep fence should be 36-48 inches high with the bottom wire at 6-12 inches above the ground. Woven wire should be 14 gauge, with the spacing at 4x4 inches up to 12 inches between the verticals.
Our pasture gates are traditional pipe gates with cattle panel mounted on them with hose clamps. We’ve found this option to be more durable than the gates with wire mesh built in.
Do our goats get out? On occasion a kid might sneak out through a fence opening, between a fence post and a gate, or under a gate. But, as soon as they sneak out, their moms are calling them back and back they go.
Since we practice rotation grazing, we use portable fencing to divide our pasture into paddocks. The first few years we used electronet fencing from Premier 1 Fencing (ElectroStop 10/42/12). It worked well. However, we were grazing three different groups of goats and our pasture was old overgrown CRP land with lots of brush and trees. It got to be cumbersome to move that much fence and it would often get tangled on brush or tree stumps. The last three years we’ve been using Gallagher’s Smart Fence and I love it. It is easy to put up and take down. It’s also easy to transport. I can put several fences in the back of my gator, along with other grazing gear and there’s no issue with the fencing getting tangled.
To create paddocks, we have a short temporary fence set up running down the middle of the pasture built with t-posts and step in posts strung with poly wire. Then, we set up two Smart Fences running from the perimeter fence to the center temporary fence to create the paddock. Then an alligator clip connects the portable fence to the top hot wire on the perimeter fence.
Our energizer is located our barn and is a M1500 Gallagher (15 stored joules, up to 160 miles, 900 acres). We had a M120 (1.2 stored joules, up to 15 miles/60 acres), but upgraded it this grazing season so we could continue to run more portable fencing and keep the fence hotter.
The video below is one I made a few seasons back explaining the Smart Fence and why I like to use it on the farm with our meat goats.
Watch for the next blog post on fence training goats in this grazing goat series. Sign up for our online community here so you don’t miss the next post and to learn more about what we do on our farm raising goats for meat.
On the farm we work to be as low stress as possible when it comes to handling our meat goats. It’s easier on their health and for us as farmers too. One of the best goat handling tools we’ve added to our management system is a crook. Yes, that’s right a crook.
We use the Kiwi Crook from Premier 1 Fencing. It looks like a long fiberglass cane, with a traditional crook opening for the head at one end and a self-locking lever to catch a leg on the other end. It’s named “Kiwi” since it was created by a New Zealand sheep family.
You might wonder how is the low stress? If you don’t have a formal animal handling setup designed to move animals through safely and calmly, you’re in a situation where you are catching your goats by hand. The first one or two might go ok, but after that the rest of the goat herd will likely catch on to what you’re doing. Then you’ll be in a “goat rodeo” situation where the goats will be running away from you, causing them stress and putting yourself at risk for falling, tripping or getting charged by an animal. Using crooks greatly reduces the stress put on the herd since you can quickly catch the goat at a distance. As soon as I have the goat, I’ll release the crook and then work with the goat from there.
We use the crooks on pasture and also in the winter in our barn pens. They’re handy for quickly catching a goat that might need to be given a closer look over for health reasons or even treated depending on her symptoms.
We like them so much, we have two crooks, a his and hers. That way if my husband is helping me out with some animal health work, we both can work quickly to catch the goat(s) we need to work with. I even gave one to a fellow goat farmer friend of mine as a wedding present.
While in the future I would like to set up a formal goat handling facility, this crook will still be useful when I need to work with an individual goat here and there, especially while out on pasture.
If you're interested in learning more about more of my favorite goat things and how we’re raising meat goats on pasture, join our online community for raising goats for meat here.
Here's quick overview of the components of our goat pasture. During the summer our meat goat herd is on pasture 24/7 using rotational grazing practices.
What would you like to know more about raising goats on pasture? Let me know by commenting below or sending me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll share more on what I'm doing with our goats in future blog posts.
If you're interested in learning more about our goat pasture management and rotational grazing, join our online community here to get updates on what we're doing on the farm grazing meat goats on pasture.
You don’t know how many times this winter (now spring) I’ve been asked, “How’s kidding going?” Each time I explain that we don’t have any babies yet since we’ve moved kidding to later in the season. We’re set to kid in early April and then have the last batch of kids in May.
We’ve kidded and worked with baby goats in January through April, with both babies born on our farm and bottle babies we’ve raised since they were only a few days old. The first few years raising goats we didn’t own a buck and our breeding schedule worked around the farm where we rented a buck. We’ve also bred for earlier in the season (anytime between January and March) because that seems to be what most farms do in our area. So why not do the same? And, with raising bottle babies, we of course were on the schedule of the dairy farms we worked with.
There are many reasons farms kid earlier: raising for the show/fair kid market, having kids be at market weight in the fall, renting bucks like we have done, seasonal milking, and so on.
Here are three reasons why we’ve moved to late season kidding:
If you’re interested in learning more about what we do on our farm raising goats for meat, join our online community here.
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.