Going into Goats: A practical guide to producing goats in the rangelands

Case Study: Joe and Fiona Owens

Name of producer: Joe and Fiona Owens
Property name: Gydia Park
Property location: 25km west of Isisford, Queensland
Property size (in ha): 10,000ha
Avg. turn off annually: 400 goats
Rangeland enterprise type: High input goat breeding system
Target market: Live export and export meat market
Other farm enterprises: Cattle and sheep

Electric fencing for goat production in the rangelands

Joe and Fiona Owens have spent the last ten years working out what is the best electric fence system for goats on their property, 'Gydia Park', west of Isisford, Queensland. 

Joe believes six plain wires with one top barb with the second bottom and fourth wires electrified works best. He reiterates that it is important to run all this through steel posts on insulators and use galvanised steel pegs attached to the earth wires and driven into the ground in low spots along the fence to take advantage of any available moisture every few kilometres.

The Owens have found that this fence requires the least maintenance and presents fewer faults than other designs and is made even more resilient through the use of porcelain insulators which tend to stand up to more abuse, last longer and therefore require less maintenance than plastic insulators.

Other options, such as an offset or stand-off hot wire, can be effective in keeping goats in, but kangaroos can cause problems through constantly tangling the wire and causing it to short or breaking insulators by hitting the fence forcefully.

Important elements of an electric fence

Joe identified the following elements as being important in operating an effective electric fence in his environment:

  • Energiser size - “If you want to power 20km use an energiser that will do at least double that. This means that minor shortages and disruptions along your fence can be experienced without the fence becoming ineffective.”

  • Earthing - “In the dry areas, a good earth is essential.” Good earths, incorporating stainless steel rods with salt and dolomite, should be used at the energiser and complemented by earth wires in the fence and earthing rods or posts every couple of kilometres along the fence.

  • Stand-off wires - “If using an offset or stand-off wire over a long distance, run double wire for some distance from the energiser to maximise power at the end of the line. Think of your wire as a pipeline - a 2cm pipe run 2km will deliver no pressure at the end, whereas a 4cm pipe run 2km will deliver plenty of water and pressure.”

  • Joiners - “Pay attention to correct joins with clamps to prevent power loss along the line.”

Fence training

Joe believes training the goats to respect fences is a critical part of any goat production system. “If you have unhandled rangeland goats, it’s best to contain and feed them in a small goat paddock for at least three days. The fence is the important part; this should be made up of ringlock or hinge joint (8/90/30) with an electric offset. The ringlock or hinge joint will prevent them from escaping if they rush the fence and even if they try, they should hit the hot wire first and will soon learning to stay well away from fences.”

Before confining goats in an electrified training paddock, Joe insists that you must check that your energiser is working at maximum output so that the goat’s first encounter with the fence is the one the animal remembers. Also pay attention to any gaps in gates or hollows under the fence. “Be one step ahead of them, so they learn straight away they can’t get through the fence and out of the paddock”. Joe found they quickly accept this and do not bother to challenge the fences in future.

Fence maintenance

Joe spends a couple of hours most weeks checking his 45km of electric fencing. He also checks the energiser on most water runs. “It’s often convenient to build the fence checking task in with other jobs you’d be doing anyway, such as checking water. This way it does not take much time and does not become an onerous task.”

To be effective, electric fences must be checked regularly and well maintained; however, training goats to respect fences from the outset minimises the reliance on maintenance.

Words of advice
  • Seek advice from electric fence field representatives and producers with experience in your area.
  • A good electric fence fault finder, showing both volts and amps, is essential for maintaining fences.
  • Construct the fence properly the first time and train the animals well. This will minimise future issues and reduce the need for maintenance.
Key points
  • Goat proof fences are essential for high-value breeding enterprises. Electric fencing can be used to effectively control goats.
  • Regular maintenance is required to ensure that electric fences are operating effectively; however, the amount of maintenance required is influenced by the fence design.
  • Training goats to respect electric fences can improve the fence’s effectiveness.