There are times when even the best of us let the cart get in front of the horse. Times when a great deal comes along and we jump on it, knowing all to well that we likely shouldn’t, but still the thought that it may never come around again weighs on us, and we do it anyway.
This is what happened when we started to keep goats. We wanted to have them to clear our property. We wanted the milk. However, of all the things we wanted, there was one thing we did not have – a fence.
Maybe you are in a similar situation, but for other reasons. Perhaps you need your goats to clear a specific area, but they roam elsewhere. Perhaps you have a fence and it was damaged, or proved inadequate for your smart and determined goat.
Whatever the cause, I would like share with you a few of our experiences and lessons learned.
You can, in fact, keep goats on leads, runs, ropes, chains, tie-outs, etc. There are things you need to know, things to expect, and ways to work around them.
If you would prefer to watch this information, please view our video series here.
Learn About Goats:
Before setting your goats to pasture on leads and runs, there are a few things to understand about goats.
- Their feeding behavior is much more similar to deer, than their close relative, sheep. While goats will graze a pasture, they will seek out the trees, thorny plants, and other such foliage first.
- They are very, very, strong. This is not to say that you cannot handle them, far from it. However, you need to consider this when choosing any material or hardware being used to restrain them.
- While each goat has their own habits, expect any natural food source that would be within reach of most tie-out type of systems to go quickly. Because of this, you will want your set up to be easy to move, or be prepared to provide forage to the goat.
- Access to water is critical to the health of all animals, and cannot “wait” until you pen the goat up at night.
Let’s first focus on the feeding behavior. This is all about location, location, location. A location that not only provides ample forage for your goat, but also ensures that you do not loose any trees you plan to keep.
A goat can, and will, “walk” up a 20 foot tall sapling, bending it over as it goes, and eat the leaves – perhaps even snapping your tree while doing so. This is an important consideration to us as we recently discovered Black Walnut trees on our property, and we want the saplings to live.
Keeping the goat out of reach of these trees, as well as other ones we have planted, is a primary concern for us.
Choosing Hardware for Livestock:
Next, consider what type of system you wish to use, and what components you will need. We have had success using T-Posts, short and long runs, and of course, trees. No mater what your plan is, expect to use “heavy-duty” stout hardware that can stand up to the abuse a goat will put on it.
For example, how do you plan to attach your goat to the lead? We use large, thick, nylon collars which are marketed for use on extra large dogs. These work great and we have never had a problem. We did – once – use a less expensive leather collar, which one buck was able to easily tear apart – right at the D-ring.
Use heavy latches – the type you would see at the end of a horse lead. A typical latch like on a dog lead would have a small nob on it that you slide down to open the latch – DO NOT use these. The goat will, at some point, rub up against a tree or get stuck on a vine and open the latch. You want the kind you have to pull out in order to open them.
To be clear, take a look at these pictures: