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

Trap yard design and considerations

Trapping of rangeland goats is one of the most effective ways to accumulate goats from the wild or from large paddocks. Trapping involves the construction of goat proof fences, typically around water sources with a number of one-way gates or ramps.

There are many trap designs, three of the most commonly used traps are:

  • Jump-down traps or earth traps
    The entrance to the trap consists of an earth ramp sloping up to approximately one metre high approaching a fenced watering point. By walking up the ramp and jumping from the top, the goats are able to access the water. A heavy gauge wire or baulking bar may be placed approximately 30cm above the top of the ramp to prevent the goats from jumping back out of the trap. The width of the ramp depends on the number of goats in the area.

    A gate should be positioned in the fence encircling the watering point on the opposite side to the ramp. This means that goats will move around the watering point toward the gate rather than milling around the ramp which can occur if the gate is positioned next to the ramp. The trap is set by closing this gate.

    Jump-down traps may be used in conjunction with spear gate traps.

    Small or timid goats as well as other livestock may be reluctant to use the ramp and incorporating a spear gate trap in the design allows an option for entering the watering point and results in higher catch rates. The spear gate should be positioned next to the ramp on the opposite side of the watering point to the exit gate.

    Jump-down traps are best suited to areas that are free of other livestock or used in conjunction with alternative access to the watering point, such as via a spear gate. Cattle and sheep that are in poor condition may suffer injuries when jumping from the ramp into the trap.

  • Spear gate traps
    The entrance of a spear gate trap consists of a V-shaped gate with flexible spears. Goats have to squeeze through the spears to enter the yard to drink.

    Goats should be trained to go through the gates by gradually closing the spears over several days or weeks so that they become used to squeezing through the V.

    Large bucks may have difficulty squeezing through this type of gate and it is advisable to run a spear trap in conjunction with a jump-down trap to ensure higher trap rates.

  • Swinging one-way gate traps
    One-way gate traps incorporate a one-way gate which allows the goats access to the water but does not allow them to exit.

Important features of an effective trap
  • Traps should be established in areas where there is limited availability to water. Alternative watering points should be fenced off.
  • Traps should be large enough to avoid overcrowding and regularly checked and destocked as required.
  • Traps should be constructed to allow for shade and shelter as goats can suffer when exposed to extremes of heat and cold.
  • It can be useful to incorporate loading pens, holding yards and drafting facilities into the trap design, thus enabling on-site animal handling.
  • Goats typically exhibit a following and circling behaviour. Round traps can be more effective as they aid the flow of animals and eliminate corners which are high-pressure points where goats may be forced.
Other considerations
  • Appropriate feed and water must be made available and goats should be monitored for their unwillingness to drink or eat while in the trap. If goats are not eating or drinking they should be removed from the trap.
  • Selection of trap design will be based upon habitat, available materials and accessibility to site.
  • Trap design should avoid injury caused by loose or sharp edges or malfunctioning equipment such as gates.
  • Consider the implications for other animals of fencing off watering points to force goats to the trap.
  • Trees and shrubs should be cleared from the fence line so they won’t interfere with the operation of the trap or cause damage.
  • Sensitive and fragile natural watering points should not be incorporated into traps.
  • Trap fencing must be well maintained and secure.
  • Prior to setting traps a period of adjustment is required - refer to Chapter 3: Animal husbandry and welfare, Section 3.2: Trapping of this guide for further information regarding trap training.
Impact of traps on non-target animals

Traps designed and set up for the capturing of rangeland goats can have a significant negative impact on native non-target species by inadvertently trapping them and also by excluding them from water sources.

A combination of engineering and management solutions should be adopted to minimise the impact of traps on non-target species. The most important of these is to only set traps when goats are ready to be moved and do not leave the trap set for extended periods. Check the trap regularly once set.

Other options include:

  • Chicken wire, rubber belting or shade cloth placed on the top 20cm of the trap gate mesh acts as both a physical and visual barrier, particularly for kangaroos.
  • Fences should be no more than 1.2m high (preferably 90cm).
  • Small escape gates can be incorporated at intervals around the fence to allow immature kangaroos and wallabies to escape under the fence while mature kangaroos can jump over the fence.
  • A protected water source could be provided nearby that would allow access for wildlife species.