Shelter

Goats need shelter, there is no way around it.  They hate to get wet and will run to the shelter as soon as it starts.  There are many different ways to provide the shelter that they need and the Nigerian Dwarfs are pretty simple in mild climates.

Here are my extra shelters (I have a large shed behind them, note the big barn in the background that they do not use!

Barns, three sided sheds and even dog igloos will work!  It does depend on your climate on how elaborate of shelter they may need.  My guys have a large three sided shed that I have made their “home”.  Mainly I choose this because it is the closest to my house.  I have an older barn and other shed, but they never go in those!  Beside my shed I have 2 dog houses and an igloo.  They hang out on these and if a goat were to get pushed out of the herd then they have an extra place to go.  Craigslist is a great place to find used igloos!

Generally we have a mild climate, winter it stays around 30-40 degrees and our summers can be hot but stay around 80-90 degrees.  Of course, as I write this we just came out of several weeks of extreme circumstances (we were in the negatives with snow and ice).  I take extra precautions during these times.  We wrapped the shelter in black plastic and put a tarp on the front.  This seemed to insulate it enough for this weather.  I also brought some of the younger ones inside at night because I was worried about them!

In the summer I shave down my goats and make sure to provide plenty of cool water.  When extreme temperature come (towards the 100’s) I have fans that I hang from the ceiling so they are away from the goats.  Also, I have lots of shade and woods in their field so they can get away from the sun.

Fencing

This is a hard question on what is the “best” fencing.  I personally (if money was not involved) would use a 6 foot chain link around my entire property.  So since this is not a reality we have chosen several different types depending on the area.

First I separate my herd: I have a buck pen, junior buck area, does, does with kids and an isolation area.  This is always a work in progress and find my areas to be ever changing depending on my needs.  First things to think about are how big of an area (as large as possible), what are you fencing in, time and labor of fencing and the biggest…your budget!

For my main herd they have 5 acres of pasture ½ fenced with a woven wire and the front ½ with hot wire.  We were actually redoing the fencing when I decided to get goats, so it was being built for horses originally.  We redid our game plan with the hot wire for the goats.  Hot wire is debatable to use with goats and there are certain things that are very important.

  • First thing is that it is a psychological barrier, meaning they can run right through it.  I have also determined that most fencing is a psychological barrier to goats!
  • Second is that it must be VERY hot and the right box is important.
  • Third is there is training required!
  • Fourth is there is always one that will go through it no matter what!  Mine choose to stay in it!
  • Fifth is it is not good for babies, because they do not seem to figure it out!

We used a 6 strain high tensile wire spaced at 6, 12, 18, 24, 36 and 48 inches.

The space at the bottom is the most important because they need to have their head or nose shocked if they try to go through it (which they will).

Proper grounding and installation needs to be researched.

Hot box is a ParMak Rangemaster RM-1.  I looked at lots of others and wanted to make sure that it would be HOT!  I also wanted to help control predators with the fence.  It seems to work great and is just about right for the goats.  This is a great box and would recommend it for the goats!

So we all learn from our mistakes so I am going to tell you the step I overlooked.  Training the goats to the hotwire fence.  I thought if the fence was hot enough they would stay in, so I brought them down to this new area and let them go.

I thought they would be excited about 4 acres to roam…nope they wanted to run right back to their “home” area.  So once one goes through they all went through, they were zapped, but they mostly had their whole body already in the fence which just made them just forward.  I went and got them and repeated the process.  I thought we were going to have to re-fence with something else.

Ok, so I read about the training so I gave it a try.  I brought my herd down with my main herd leaders on leashes, I knew the others wouldn’t go out without them.  I fed them in their new shelter and kept them on their leashes.  We took a walk and even touched the fence (ouch) with their noses. I spent about 6 hours with them in their new pasture and eventually let one by one off the leash.  I had a couple of problems with them running at the fence but they were shocked and stayed off of it.  They never really mess with it now so I don’t regret using it, especially for some of the area we were doing.

The big advantage to hotwire is that it is the least expensive and easiest to put up of all the fencing.  Biggest disadvantage is that they may go through it…

We have two buck pens, one is smaller and was originally done with cattle panels.  I then needed to use that smaller pen for the junior bucks and had to re-fence to the woven wire because the cattle panels have too large of holes.

We have put our buck pens inside of our regular fencing in hopes that they have more protection from predators without having their own LGD.  Bucks do have their own LGD because they do have a long side without protection.  Baby areas are done with a welded wire or out in a chain link area because they can go right through any of the other fencing!

I do have one clever buck that seems to be able to get out of everything when a doe is in heat.  We finally went to a "buck jail" for these times!

Predators

Predators are a huge concern for any goat herd.  I learned when I first got chickens how many predators are actually out there.  For my area it seems for my goats that dogs, coyotes and hawks are my biggest concerns.  It changes for where you are and what maybe around.  I have heard of bobcats, mountain lions, bears, eagles and even feral hogs.

Dogs including your own can quickly kill or maim a goat.  Stray dogs or your neighbor’s dogs can quickly get into your herd and have disastrous results.  Any protection that you can have for them is important.  I prefer to keep Livestock Guardian Dogs with my herd, but do not rely on them for everything.  The LGD is mainly my first line of defense along with good fences.  They are protective of the goats and their property but their barking is my alert to check on things.

I never knew that we had coyotes until there were chickens and I opened a buffet for them.  If there is food (such as chickens) they stay, when the food supply is gone or they do not have easy access they normally move along.  When there were chickens the coyotes were bad and scary.  They stayed along my fence line and were very close to my house.  I counted 10 at one time…that was scary!  They would come out during the day and were not very scared of us.  We eventually took care of this problem and they moved along.

One trick that I learned to know if you have coyotes around (right then) is when an emergency vehicle comes by the farm.  For some reason the sound of an ambulance, police car or fire engine sirens sets them off into a howl.  It is a high pitched howl that can alert you to what maybe around.  Once you hear them you know what they sound like!  Here is a good example:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtsZoIe3Czk

One thing that I had not thought about when I bought goats was HAWKS.  Again, I know we have hawks because of the chickens but thankfully have not had problems with the goats.  Your kids, especially in the first few weeks of life, are really what a hawk would hunt.  Hawks can pick up and kill rabbits and even small dogs.  I always think about the scene in The Proposal (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9TENG4cgxl4) when I think of birds of prey and animals.  This was actually an eagle but same concept applies, so keep your kids safe!​