Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Grazing the Goats

The enclosure where we keep the goats is not large enough to supply them with adequate grazing so we have to feed them hay every day.  During the green months, I usually pick a lush area of grass and weeds and stake them out on a long braided rope with clippy-doo-dads on each end.  
One clip gets attached to the goat's collar, the other to the tree or t-post (or wheel of the truck, boat trailer or heavy tractor implement).
Although this may seem like the answer for those of you who desperately want goats, but have yet to install goat-proof fencing for your dreamed-about caprine buddies, let me tell you that it is NOT.

Goats are escape artists.  They will lean on, push, shove, nose under, climb over and generally make your fencing look as if a tornado ripped through your area and just dropped a mess of wire around your homestead.  We sold a doeling to a couple who claimed that she would scale their 4' high chain link fence to go visiting with the neighbor's goats.  The best "fencing" in not only a physically tough barrier, but one that contains the BEST greenery, as we all know that the grass (and briers) are always greener on the other side.  This is, of course, almost impossible, but it does help if your goats do not harbor pasture-lust for things outside of their enclosure.  If they are happy munching on what's inside their pen, they'll be less likely to want to go outside the fence.  But this post is not about goat fencing; I'll do one in the near future though.

Even though the clippy-doo-dad method of staking out goats sounds perfect, it also has it's drawbacks.  First of all, you must be within eye or at least ear-shot of them.  Because even though you may have picked a relatively snag-free area of grazing for them, they will find the smallest twig to snag the rope on.  And in three minutes flat, they will have wound themselves around said twig no less than three-hundred and fifty-two times until they are laying on the ground because there is no more slack in the rope.  I had staked Pan outside several weeks ago and he tangled the rope into a knotted mess around a long dead sapling that was, I kid you not, sticking up only three inches from the ground.

It pays to make sure the grazing area is clear of such obstructions even those as unassuming as large rocks as those will also be used to create a sort of knotted-up goat-macrame project that you will not be able to un-knot.  Even when the grazing area is cleared of any obstructions, it is only a matter of time (say, four minutes after you've left the goats and just started a conversation with your insurance agent on the phone) before they get themselves tangled up in the rope.

So why do I still clip the goats out on a lead?  Because it's the best I can do right now to get them fresh, green grass.  And as long as I can easily see and hear them, it's just a matter of going back outside and untangling them.  Now that I think about it, it's usually Pan and Annette that get the rope all messed up; Nettie and Chop Suey must be more rope-savvy.  But at least I won't have to worry about Pan much longer.


  1. I thought I was so smart - having tiny goats that could not scale my fence. Ha. Sage, the tiniest of all, has gotten her head stuck in the fence four times, has managed to master the top of their Igloo house and then vaulted over the pallet fence, and has managed to get UNDER the fence. It is such a challenge.

  2. Someone once told me; "If you can make a fence WATER tight, then you can make it GOAT tight!"
    Truer words were never spoken!

  3. Maybe you should try the "lawn chair and a cooler of beer" method, that's what my husband thinks he'll do to watch the goats someday bahahahaha!

  4. You won't have to worry about Pan much longer? Have you made arrangements for him to leave your happy homestead?

  5. Susan, the kid goats have already mastered the Igloo houses. And I though the design wouldn't allow them to climb on it. HA!

    Lamb, I think it would be EASIER to make it water tight.

    Erin, but does he know that the goats will be IN his lap the entire time? I guess they could all pop a cold one.

    Mama Pea, YES! The poor sap, I mean, guy, that we get our freezer hog from wants him! Even AFTER I told him what a stinker he is. AND we'll get to use him during breeding season if we went (assuming he hasn't got rid of him or eaten him by then).

  6. Knotted-up goat-macrame projects scare me! So I cut off tree limbs and put in the goat pens. I doubt either way is any easier than the other, huh?

  7. Grass? My goats would never eat grass. They only eat flowers, garden plants, leaf buds, bushes, or anything else that I try to keep them from. They think grass is beneath them and only fit for the likes of sheep!

  8. At our old place we often tied ours out to eat. And every 30 min I would have to go untangle them. Too many trees, roots, ANYTHING. Bella, one of our Saanen does, is an escape artist. She is in her permanent pasture now- which is green and it is fenced with 4 lines of electric only. 36" at the highest. I was certain we would have to add a 5th wire to hold her in. But so far it is holding her. And it was a much easier, cheaper option than the other fencing we have done.

  9. Hoosier girl, we do the tree-trimming also. But like you said, either one is time consuming.

    Chai Chai, My goats LOVE grass! Yes, they like brambles and bushes and leaves, but always go back to the grasses and clover even when there is still browse available. And yes, they would LOVE to get to my fruit trees and flowers.

    Sadie, We had five strands of electric fencing before and there was always some goat that would manage to get out, no matter how hot a zap was going through the wires. They just run through the wires, and figure getting zapped is well worth the freedom on the other side. Our "real" fence will eventually be a tough woven wire with small holes and an electric wire to keep them from standing on the fence.