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.
If you’re interested in learning more about what we do on our farm raising goats for meat, join our online community here.
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This is the second blog post in a four-part Grazing Goats Article Series. The first article, Pasture Fencing for Goats, can be read here.
Electric fence is a great fencing option for goats. However, it is only as good as the training the goats receive. If there's no training, there's a greater chance, or even better chance, that your goats will get out. With the proper training, the goats should respect the fence and not escape.
Each spring our goats are given a "refresher" training, and new goats to the farm, kids or purchased goats, are also trained on how to use the electric fence. Between having good perimeter fencing (see part I) and fence training with portable electric fence, we have little to no issues with our goats staying in the pasture. On occasion kids may get outside a paddock with portable fencing or out of the perimeter fencing since they are smaller, but they always come back to their moms. Once they get older it's not a habit that continues.
Here's how we fence train our goats:
The prep work:
The actual fence training:
Tips for success all season
If you raise goats, what has worked for you for training goats to respect electric fence?
In the video below you'll see an example of how we fence train our goats to portable electric fence.
Watch for the next blog post on the basics of rotational 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.
If you missed the first article in this Grazing Goats Series, you can find it here: Pasture Fencing for Goats.
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 email@example.com. 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.
If I'm introducing a new series in my blog: My Favorite Goat Things. It's a way to feature resources, tips/tricks and other tools of the trade that I use as a farmer who raises goats for meat. Here's my first #MyFavoriteGoatThings - Enjoy!
One of My Favorite Goat Things: Holistic Goat Care by Gianaclis Caldwell
When it comes to goats, there’s not much research, health care products, equipment, reference books, or even veterinarians who have basic knowledge about or are willing to work with goats. Goat producers usually put on their “goat glasses” and adapt sheep or other ruminant information to manage the health needs of their herd.
That’s why Gianaclis Caldwell’s book, Holistic Goat Care, is such a welcome resource. The book is a comprehensive guide to raising healthy goats, and solving health issues that arise. It’s well suited for both the new and experienced goat keeper, and covers all types of goats. Topics include:
Caldwell presents the content in an easy-to-read manner that flows well, whether one reads the book in its entirety or uses it as a reference guide. Throughout the book, she blends her practical experience with goats with science-based information. Caldwell also takes a broad holistic approach to health care for goats.
While the goat resources that do exist touch on many of the same topics, most do not have the depth of this book, nor recognize holistic management practices.
Since there are few veterinarians in our area who are knowledgeable on goats, I’ve added a goat veterinary textbook to my stack of resources. While Holistic Goat Care doesn’t dive deep into veterinary medical speak, it is a great resource for goat producers. It is much easier to read than the veterinary textbook, and explains terminology and practices for those who may not have formal training or background in animal science. The book also includes a variety of supply lists, check lists, terminology, signs/symptoms, resource lists, photos, troubleshooting guides, A-Z list of disorders, and a glossary. Additionally, the value of the content is more reasonable—about $40 versus $100 or more for a textbook.
I especially liked the feed choice section, which includes information about pasture, grazing, browse, and forages. Other feeding options were covered, but since I practice rotational grazing, I really appreciated the information in this section.
I also liked the information on the role of minerals, vitamins and supplements, covered both in the feed choice and nutritional needs chapters. The book covers how minerals interact with each other, their impact on a goat’s development, signs of deficiencies, risks of an overabundance of minerals, and approaches to supplement for minerals.
The step-by-step instructions on how to do your own fecal float test to look at parasite loads are good, too. She includes a supply list and instructional photos. There isn’t any information on what certain parasite eggs look like. However, that information is easily accessible online or through a consult with your vet.
I never want to lose one of my goats, but I also recognize the importance of continuing to learn how to care for my livestock. Over the years, I’ve had our veterinarian out to the farm to do necropsies. While observing live animal behavior and symptoms can help us draw conclusions to why a goat may have an ailment, it doesn’t always tell us what is actually happening or why. Necropsies have helped answer these questions and as a result I’ve made some adjustments on feeding and management practices. It’s not always feasible to get a vet out to our farm or bring the animal into the clinic. This guide helps solve this challenge by providing clear instructions on doing a necropsy.
If you’re getting started with goats, the first part of the book includes a variety of information on goat behavior, fencing, feeding, animal handling tips, and so on.
While this book isn’t a substitution for veterinary care, it is a very comprehensive holistic health care reference that all goat farmers should consider having on their bookshelf. You can find it on Amazon.com or other retailers that carry books.
If you're interested in learning more about more of my favorite goat things, join our online community for raising goats for meat here.
This book review originally was featured in Midwest Organic and Sustainable Educational Services (MOSES) Organic Broadcaster newsletter, November/December 2017 issue. Farmers can subscribe to mosesorganic.org/sign-up/this newsletter for free at https://mosesorganic.org/sign-up/.
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.