I'm new-ish to homesteading. We have an old dairy farm in Western Washington, north of Seattle, near the Canadian border. We have a huge old dairy barn and ten acres of pasture, plus a bunch of cool outbuildings -- some are useful, and some are falling apart.
We've been here about ten months, and have concentrated on moving into the house, putting in a garden, and cleaning out 25 years worth of manure from the barn, and we haven't done much with the land at all yet.
Right now, we have a small flock of chickens (16 hens and a rooster,) and two pigs, which only have a month left before they become bacon.
However, someone offered us a really nice dairy goat, a nubian, and I'm picking her up on Tuesday. Now I'm panicking because I don't have the right fencing for her.
Here's what we've got: A great big barn, with only one real stall for animals that's closed in, which is currently housing pigs for the next month. The pigs have a small amount of pasture, but they're trashed it completely, and as I said, we haven't figured out fencing yet, so pigs on pasture will have to be round two of pigs, set for later this spring.
The rest of the barn is set up for milking, with a concrete floor and lots of space, but no place to pen up a goat.
Behind the barn, there's about seven acres of great pasture with some T-posts and old electric wire for a fence, but none of it is up and running. I'd like to repair that fence as a perimeter, but that's not going to keep in chickens and goats and pigs, and I have no idea how to configure the rest of it.
I'd like to figure out how to range chickens, goats, pigs and perhaps later this year, a beef cow.
I don't have a fortune to spend on fencing.
I've read about the paddock system, but I'm not sure I understand how it would work.
Do the chickens come in every night to their coop? Do the goats and pigs come in to the barn every night? What about a cow? What about predators?
And, in the meantime, what's a good goat containment system while we get the rest of it figured out??
Thanks for your help!
This is got to be the most expensive free gift ever. A cow could be cheaper.
What we've learned in our first year keeping goats:
You need another goat or sheep, ASAP. Lonely, bored goat=looking for trouble, fence-testing goat. You can probably can pick up a pygmy or dwarf wether cheap on Craigslist, but you will have to buy/find feed for two.
Since you don't have a fixed plan ready, you might as well get temporary netting, 48" high, like from Premier 1. Can the people giving you the goat will keep it until the fence comes? You can start with one roll and a charger. You will use it somewhere regardless of what you decide to do, it will pen almost anything, including chickens. Hopefully, you have power in the barn so you can start with a cheap charger. Hopefully, the goat is already trained or will train easy to respect the fence. Ours took three shocks, that was it. Get a good fence tester, you will use it. You can put the goat on day trips from barn to electric pen, or leave it in the electric net and move goat and pen around as you figure out a paddock shift plan, but you need shelter in the pen regardless because goats don't do rain or snow. They don't need a lot, just something they can get out of wind and wet. And they will try to climb it. Especially if bored. If it's already being milked, it should be used to standing still in a stanchion or other confinement while you reconfigure the pen. If not, this is behavior you want to reward ASAP.
See if the people will give you some of the feed they are using to start. I don't like to move an animal and change its feed all at once. They like what they are used to. We are using deep litter in the goat shed and it is very easy. I am actually anxious to clean it out in spring to do sheet mulching with.
Good luck. I hope you like yours as much as we like having ours.
Thanks! I was afraid this was going to be an expensive gift. I forgot to mention that I have another goat -- but he lives across the street at the neighbor's barn because he's lonely and because we don't have the right fence.
So I was sort of accepting this new dairy goat as a companion for our little goat that we'd like to bring home, and we'll breed her and use her for milk once we get a feel for having goats.
So, I guess I'll have two goats: One is a nubian dairy goat, and the other is a castrated male (whether?) that's a Nigerian dwarf goat. I don't suppose it matters which breed they are as to whether they'll get along -- company is company, right?
The lady who is giving the goat to me just asked that I trim the hooves, as she didn't know how and didn't have the right equipment, which is why she's giving it away. I have three neighbors with goats and trimmers willing to help and teach, so that's not an issue.
The Premier 1 fencing is what I've been looking at, along with field fence and T-posts. It's hard to know which way to go, but perhaps since the Premier 1 fence is ready right away, that's the way to go. The barn does have electricity, but it was built in the 1940s, and the electricals haven't been updated, so I hate to leave stuff plugged in around the clock -- we usually shut down power at night. Which might work if we bring everyone in every night!
Thanks for the helpful reply!
Location: Torrey, UT; 6,840'/2085m; 7.5" precip; 125 frost-free days
Yep, powering down for night should be just fine. I fear Premier1 is like that potato chip, you can't stop at just one, but it is a great product. Goat hooves aren't hard, we just did all three today, took 15 minutes, including play time. Would have gone faster if we'd tied up the noncombatants and just worked with one at a time. There's a couple good Youtube videos on it. Here's one.
You've certainly got your work cut out for you!
If I were in your shoes, I would use part of that milking area (with the concrete floor) to create a "temporary" pen for the goats...both of them. I know you said it could not be done; however, I'd lay odds you've got some type of studs and/or wall bracers inside that area that you could attach some 2x4s to. If not, I would find a way to do so...preferably in a corner. Then I'd get a couple of 16' goat panels, attach them to those 2x4s and fasten them together on the other end. (They will do a pretty good job of standing up by themselves; but a few cinder blocks strategically placed and maybe some rebar inside to extend up the panels would help...just cemet the rebar in the blocks.)
Premier 1 is good money spent. I'd recommend at least 3 lengths of it to make paddock shifting easier 4 is even better. And then a Speedrite 1000 fence charger by Tru-test. It can be used with a deep cycle battery, so you can keep it charged over night without concern about the barn electric.
I use tposts with aluminum wire. Aluminum is 10 times more conductive than steel and can be repaired by hand with just a wire cutter. If you decide you don't like where you put it, it can be moved but not as easy as the net fence. I have both, but use the aluminum for permanent stuff and use the net for temporary set ups. Tposts don't need to be very close, just depends on the contours of your land. Aluminum wire shouldn't be tight like steel. Some slack lets the fence give a little if an animal runs into it. I just pull mine hand tight. That way the corners don't get pulled in.
If this goat hasn't had its hooves trimmed in awhile, it may take a couple of sessions a week or so apart to get her standing properly. I'm sure your neighbors will help you with this.
I think a temporary pen in the barn is a good idea, or at least access to the barn. It's a good idea for them to have shelter. Two 16 foot panels and you're set, as was described in a prior post.
I have been using my premier 1 fence and solar charger for almost a year. I like it, and it's getting easier to move to the next spot. But, I ordered a 165 foot length of fencing, which was a lot of trouble to move around. It snagged on branches and weeds, it was a lot to carry around at once. My set up involves enclosing selected and oddly shaped areas, and to get the perimeter adjusted to use all the fence took a lot of rearranging. My neighbor mentioned how easy it is when you have several shorter pieces. I got some extra clips, and cut my long piece into 3 short ones. Now changing the pen is a less than one hour task, even with frozen ground.
I will likely get more fence this year, but the short pieces cost almost as much as the 165 foot piece. I will again go for the cheapest per foot price and cut it up. If you do go with premier 1, I recomment you get some extra step in posts. My preference is the green one. When the ground is really hard, frozen or dry, I use a tool to make the hole, then slide the pin at the bottom of the post in. Right now I pound in a piece cut out of one of those 16 foot panels mentioned above, but I am thinking the metal workers down town would probably make me a nice step in implement to to pre make the holes. Something shaped like an up side down T, so there is a bigger ledge to step on, and no chance of breaking my post if I step on it with both feet, stand there and rock back and forth....
Also, though goats don't like to be "only" goats, some do OK. I had a goat last summer, she was an only from May to August. During that time, with me as her only company-- and I was conscientious about spending a few hours with her every day, she went from being rude and standoffish to being quite friendly and personable. If you CAN"T spend a lot of time outdoors and in one another's company that's another story, but even then, the companions animal does not have to be another goat, it could be a sheep or a dog...
Have fun with your new goat. Goats are the best!
Best luck: satisfaction
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