I’m currently planning my homestead and as goats are one of my top choices of livestock, I’ve been doing plenty of research on how to raise and manage them. One of the biggest issues I’ve seen come up is that owners often have a hard time keeping them fenced in. Not only that, but fencing can be EXPENSIVE. While I did find a few small nuggets of information online, there wasn’t a complete answer on what’s the best fencing for goats. So, I dug a little deeper and put together this guide as a (detailed) note to my future, goat-owning, self.
|Sheep and Goat Fence||The overall best (and most affordable) choice for goat fencing||Needs to be woven wire (not welded), the “no-climb” and hinge joint knot models tend to collapse and come undone (more on the best models later).|
|Cattle Panel||Lightweight and flexible||Needs to be secured well to posts, can be difficult to transport|
|Electric Netting||Effective and portable||More expensive, more temporary, needs electric supply (and grounding), typically has a low height of around 3.5 feet|
The best fence for goats is a sheep and goat fence due to its effectiveness and lower cost. Although they can be a bit difficult to set up, they’re a better option than most other fences, especially if you run it with 4-5 electric strands, including one on the top inside-edge. The second best is a cattle panel fence.
So, while a sheep and goat fence is the best choice, how hard is it to keep goats in a fence, and how do you install a goat fence? Let’s take a closer look.
Are Goats Hard To Keep in a Fence?
Most goats are hard to keep fenced in. This is especially true if the goats are in rut or heat as they’ll make more of an effort to mate. Many goats are also naturally curious and don’t like to be fenced in. For best results, use a fence that is at least 4 feet tall and won’t bend under the goat’s weight.
The majority of goat owners would agree that goats are hard to keep in their fences. Goats are curious and like to explore. Add to this that they’re nimble, and it’s quite clear why they’re one of the most common livestock to escaping their fencing.
Here are some of the ways that goats will test their fences:
- Jump over
- Run into it
- Squeeze through
Lone goats or those in rut and heat are some of the hardest to keep in a fence. Nubian or miniature breeds are more nimble and will even stand on the backs of other livestock to clear the top of the fence.
On the other hand, bucks can also weigh up to 300 lbs, so it’s no wonder why goats need a serious fence.
For example, many fences are welded wire and goats can easily break these welds by simply standing on them. This is true for even the smaller goats (don’t worry, we’ll soon go over the pros and cons of the different fences).
Goats will also push through a fence if weeds are growing on the other side. Not only can this damage or collapse the fence, but goats can also get their heads stuck as well (I guess the grass really is greener on the other side).
A common rule among goat owners is that if a goat can fit its head through a fence, its body will likely fit through as well.
Goats also normally have lice, so using fences to itch themselves is standard practice. After standing, jumping, and itching themselves on the posts and wiring, most fences can easily become damaged.
But, how likely is it that goats will climb a fence?
Can Goats Climb Fences?
Goats love climbing, and if the fence allows it, goats will try climbing it. They’ll also try jumping the fence if it’s short enough or if there’s a nearby tall object they can use to clear the fence. The best way to prevent goats from climbing fences is to use a strand of electric wire on the top of the fence.
If you’ve ever seen the nature documentaries of mountain goats climbing a near-vertical mountain, you know that goats are excellent climbers. While domesticated goats might not be as talented, they’re still not to be underestimated.
Fencing is expensive, so making it climbing-proof is an important factor to consider when buying and installing it.
Goats will try climbing your fence, so make sure it survives their tests. Ideally, make sure your fence doesn’t collapse or bend under their weight and also consider providing an electric stand on the inside edge of the fence to prevent them from climbing over.
You can also use a strand of electric wire on the outside edge of the fence to further discourage predators such as coyotes from climbing over.
However, make sure to avoid using barbed wire. It’s not effective as the goats won’t learn and they’ll continue cutting themselves on it.
How Tall Should a Fence Be for Goats?
Goat fencing should be at least 4 feet tall for standard goats, and 5 feet tall for Nubian and miniature goats. However, even some goats can escape these heights. For best results, aim to keep a goat’s fence 6 feet tall if possible. An effective fence setup is to use 8-foot posts and drive them 2 feet into the ground.
How High Can Goats Jump?
Goats can easily jump 4 feet high and miniature breeds can easily clear 5 feet or higher. This exact height depends on your goat’s size, breed, and athletic ability. Nigerian and mini-Nubian breeds are well known for their jumping ability. For this reason, keep fences 4 feet tall at a minimum, ideally 6 feet tall.
While providing toys and structures for goats to play with is important, it’s best not to place objects near the fence that goats can use to gain more height.
For example, goats can climb trees like ladders and stand on the backs of other livestock to get an even better height advantage. Because some goats can jump a maximum distance of 9-10 feet (especially the smaller breeds), it’s a good rule to keep any objects at least 9-10 feet away from the fence.
Goats will also climb any fence posts that are placed on the inside of their enclosure. Because of this, stake the posts on the outside of the fence if possible.
The 3 Best Fences for Goats
|Sheep and Goat Fence||$1.48-$1.85 per foot||5/5|
|Cattle Panel||$1.56-$1.90 per foot||5/5|
|Electric Netting||$2.40 per foot||4/5|
Sheep and goat fencing is the best type of fence to use for goats (hence the name). Not only are they one of the most affordable options, but they’re highly effective at keeping goats in and predators out. Just make sure the fence openings are no larger than 4″ to prevent goats from getting their heads stuck.
Fencing for goats (as well as other livestock) can be incredibly expensive, so making sure it’s installed right and is effective is essential to prevent future issues.
Let’s take a further look at the main types of fences and their pros and cons.
1. Sheep and Goat Fencing
Sheep and goat fencing is by far the best option to get for your goats. This woven wire fence is one of the most affordable fences, costing $1.48-$1.85 per foot. While they can be slightly difficult to set up initially, they can last many years without having to do much maintenance.
When shopping for a sheep and goat fence, first, avoid the “no-climb” models as these can stretch and not flex back into shape. This means your goats will quickly take advantage and escape the now loose fence.
Second, steer away from the welded wire fences as these will easily break from the goat’s standing on them. Choose woven wire instead.
Third, avoid the hinge joint knot models (see image below).
Instead, I recommend getting the fence models that have knots supporting above and below the joints (see the image below for an example).
However, woven wire on its own is sometimes not enough to keep goats fenced in.
To maximize the performance of your fence and keep the goats in more effectively, you might need to add other items to your fence’s construction such as:
- Wooden or metal anchor posts
- Electric wire
With these additions, and the cost of labor to install them, some owners were quoted about $12 per foot.
Here’s the cost breakdown:
|Metal posts||$30-$60 (spaced every 40 feet)|
|Wooden posts||$30-$100 (spaced every 40 feet)|
|T-Posts||$6.49 per post (spaced every 8-12 feet)|
|Electric wires||$0.29 per foot (6-strand)|
Metal posts can cost $30-$60, and gates can cost anywhere from $100-$500, depending on the type of gate you need. If you do get a fence gate, consider going with a padlock to lock it. Goats have been known to open hook and eye, lever, and bolt latches.
According to Home Depot, wooden posts can cost anywhere from $30-$100 depending on the wood type, size, and quality. Depending on your soil and how you’re installing the wooden or metal posts (also called anchor posts), you may find that you’ll need to secure your posts in concrete. This can mean up to several bags of concrete per fence post, so make sure to do the quick math first.
Lastly, if you’re adding electric strands (AKA turning your sheep and goat fence into a permanent electric fence), 4-5 strands work best for goats, with only 2-3 of them needing to be electrified. The average cost for a 2-strand can cost $0.08 per foot, while a more permanent 6-strand costs $0.29 per foot.
Since goats can sometimes go under fences, a good rule for electric fences for goats is to have at least one live strand six inches from the ground, one in the middle, and one at the top. Have the top one on the inside edge to prevent goats from climbing. As mentioned, you can also have another one hanging over the outside-edge to deter predators from climbing too.
Each strand should be spaced about 10 inches apart. See below for a visual guide of electric wire height and spacing.
Many goat owners love their permanent electric fencing and say they have few to no issues with it.
“Not all goats will go through the electric fence, if it’s installed tight and grounded well it can hold most of them. I run Boers, Nubians, and Alpines and have no problem with them going through the electric fence. You need to have a good charger that is big enough for the area you are covering and make sure it’s well-grounded. I can run my bucks and does next to each other when they are in heat and no one gets out, they don’t go near the fence.”thegoatspot.net
For more information about using permanent electric fences, check out this video by Homesteady:
2. Cattle Panels
Cattle panels are a fairly easy and cost-effective way of installing fences for your goats. They don’t need to be stretched like the electric and sheep/goat fences, and because of their 4 gauge wire construction, they can handle a lot of wear-and-tear.
They can also be cut to size (to do so, you’ll need a circular or hack saw, or heavy-duty bolt cutters).
First of all, cattle panels are notoriously difficult to transport. Because shipping options are limited, you’ll likely need to go to the store to pick them up. If you don’t have a pickup truck, consider asking a friend or rent one.
But even when you have a pickup truck, you’ll find it’s difficult to fit them in the bed successfully. Some goat owners have successfully transported them by bending them in an upside-down “U” shape, but this can be dangerous as the tension can cause them to spring back.
Luckily, there’s another way. To see an alternative and effective way of transporting cattle panels, check out this video by Cosmopolitan Cornbread:
Second, when you get them home you also may find the cattle panels are hard to attach together. After all, wooden and metal posts can be expensive, so you don’t want to install them for every single panel you have.
Cattle panels are typically installed to 4″ metal pipes every 8 feet, but what if there’s a way you can increase this distance (and therefore reduce the number of metal pipes you need)?
Fortunately, there is a way. You can connect the panels by using wire hinges. This way you can increase the length your cattle panels can go without needing support from posts. Check out the video below by Premier1supplies to see it in action:
Keep in mind that cattle panels often have openings of 6″, which is the size that goats get their heads stuck the most often. Kids can also slip through with this size of openings.
If you decide to go with cattle panels for your goat fence, consider building a sample pen and seeing how well your goats do with it and if they escape or get their heads stuck.
3. Electric Netting
There are two types of electric fencing: temporary and permanent. Since we’ve already covered the more permanent option above (in the form of running 4-5 strands of live wire on sheep and goat fencing), we’ll take a further look at the more temporary option, also called electric netting.
Compared to the sheep/goat fencing and cow panels, electric netting doesn’t need much setup or support and can be quickly disassembled and reassembled. It’s a good option if you don’t want the extra work or costs of materials like the anchor or t-posts.
Electric netting is also incredibly effective for goats and is becoming a more popular choice. It usually only takes one shock for the goats to not test the fence and its portability means that you can rotate the goat’s pastures easily. Electric fences will also help keep predators out more than some other fences.
Another advantage of electric netting is that you don’t need to have an electric hookup. You can get a solar charger instead, and be covered in times of blackouts (this is also true for permanent electric fences as you can station these on the metal or wooden posts).
One of the biggest cons of electric netting is its cost. While the electric netting itself isn’t too expensive, the solar chargers drive up the cost. Because you might need more than one solar charger, the cost can quickly add up.
One solar charger typically powers:
- 1-2 rolls of electric netting (164′ each)
- 1/2 a mile of 3 strand cattle fencing
- 1/4 mile of 5-7 strand sheep and goat fence
With each roll of electric fence yielding approximately 164′, it brings the price to about $0.87 per foot for the netting and $1.52 per foot for the solar chargers (a total of $2.40 per foot).
Another disadvantage of electric fencing for goats is that they can be too short. Commonly, electric netting is only 3.5 feet tall, which some goats can easily jump over.
Additionally, electric netting needs to be stretched well to prevent collapse or bending. If this happens, the goats can easily hop or climb over it.
Soil conditions and vegetation can also diffuse the electricity in the fencing. You’ll have to ground the netting well and make sure weeds don’t grow near the fence.
Lastly, some solar chargers don’t provide the appropriate amount of joules. It’s recommended that electric netting for goats needs about 0.25 joules of energizer per roll of fence.
Make sure to periodically check that the charger is working as goats can somehow tell when it’s off (they use their whiskers to test the current).
While it may be obvious, I’d suggest sampling the electric netting first and testing how your goats do with it before buying in bulk.
Supervise them before leaving them alone with it in case their heads get stuck (if they do get stuck, they can get continually shocked). This especially applies to kids. You’ll only need to do this once or twice in the beginning as goats are quick learners.
Why Wood and Pallet Fences Aren’t a Good Choice
While wooden and pallet fences didn’t make the cut for the top 3, I figured I should provide an explanation as to why.
Wooden fences are mostly for livestock larger than goats, such as horses and cows, as they can’t fit through the gaps and won’t lean on the fence as often.
Even though some wooden fences can work for goats, they do have several cons:
- Expensive (commonly $12-17 per foot)
- Can use a lot of nails and staples
- Usually won’t last as long as metal
- Typically have more gaps (no ideal especially for miniature goat breeds)
- The wood sometimes won’t hold from the goats standing on it
- Predators can get in easier
Additionally, while pallets may seem like a good option to reuse resources (and is highly pin-able on Pinterest), there are too many stories of this doing more harm than good.
Compared to other fences, pallets aren’t able to withstand as much weather and stress, which means they’ll break down quickly, leaving behind exposed nails and tacks. This can injure you and your livestock.
If this happens, one of the only ways you can get these nails and tacks out of the ground is to use a giant magnet and run it over the perimeter. As you can imagine, this can be a lot of work.
However, if you’re already working with wooden fences, consider adding heavy-duty chicken wire to close any gaps your fence might have.
And, if you need a little extra security, add 4-5 electric strands. Again, only 2-3 need to be live, and space them out accordingly:
- One 6 inches from the ground
- One in the middle
- One on the top inside-edge
- (Optional) One on the top outside-edge—makes a good deterrent for predators
How To Install a Sheep and Goat Fence
Since electric netting doesn’t take much setup, and sheep and goat fences are the most effective fencing, we’ll be covering how to install this type of fence.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Wood or metal anchor posts
- Concrete for anchor posts
- Wire fencing (at least 4′ tall with a maximum of 4″ openings)
- Clips to attach fencing to T-posts
- U staples or nails to attach fencing to anchor posts
- Hole-digger for the anchor posts
- String line and level to keep the fence straight
- T-post pounder
- Heavy-duty pliers
- Hammer for U nails
- Anchor posts spaced at the corners of the fence and every 40 feet between
- T-posts spaced every 8-12 feet
- Anchor posts should be at least 2 feet deep
- The blades on the T-posts should also be buried at least 2 feet
Once you get your anchor and t-posts measured out and level, it’s time to secure the fence wire to the t-posts.
If you’re a visual learner, you’re in luck! From here, the best way to show you how to install your sheep and goat fence is via YouTube videos from the professionals.
Here’s how to install t-posts (credit goes to Mommymilestones):
And here’s how to install the woven wire fence to the t-posts (credit goes to The Upside of Downsizing):
After doing this research, I’m personally going to go with a temporary electric fence, aka electric netting. While it’s more expensive per foot, I won’t need too much of it initially and I’d like to rotate the goats’ pasture if possible. It’s a quick setup and I can collapse it whenever I’d like.
However, depending on my goats (and their predators), I might find that I’ll need to upgrade the fence at some point. In this case, I’d consider installing the sheep and goat fencing and adding electric strands to make it a permanent electric fence.
More Tips to Goat-Proof a Fence
If you’d like even more tips to goat-proof your fence, consider the following:
- Keep weeds trimmed around the fence
- Check fences for gaps or breaks at least monthly
- Wood or metal anchor posts should be installed on the outside
- If you have smaller fencing and need a taller one, you can stack and secure them with zip-ties
- Consider getting a livestock guardian to keep goats in and predators out (Great Pyrenees is the popular choice)
- Goats love standing on the fence and can wear it down quickly. If your fence won’t support goats from standing on it, consider installing a 2×4 one foot off the ground so the goats can stand on that instead.
- Make sure the fence openings aren’t any larger than 4″. For larger goats, 12″ can also work. However, 6″ openings are often dangerous as goats can strangle themselves or become stuck and easy prey for coyotes.
When doing a perimeter check and testing your fence’s durability and effectiveness, ask yourself:
- Can the goats jump over it?
- Can they dig under it?
- Can they squeeze through it?
- Can kids squeeze through?
- Will they get their heads caught?
- Will the fence support them pushing or standing on it?
- Are the fence joints woven wire (and not welded)?
If you do have any weak points in your field fence, consider upgrading it by running 4-5 strands of electric wire (including the top inside-edge) and securing heavy-duty chicken wire along the openings.
Once you’ve optimized your fence, you should have much fewer escapes.
Still, the likelihood of your goats escaping depends on your goat’s conditions and their temperament. Keep your goats as happy as possible and they might try escaping less!
Consider providing more of the following to keep your goats happy:
- Shade (and sun)
- Goats in the herd
- Objects to climb
- Sufficient pasture (and pasture-rotation)
- Attention (from you)