As mentioned before, I polled more than a few farmers and homesteaders to get their thoughts on the ideal fencing for a combination of goats, sheep, and pigs. Cliff and Jen at Spiral Ridge probably picked the most cost effective method for fencing, but rotating paddocks every few days seemed like too much work with loose wires to be reattached and tightened. Not many people are doing intensive rotational dairy goat grazing, so there’s not really a lot out there on the internet about the subject.
Intensive Management Grazing, as it’s been called in many circles, is being used by some mid-sized commercial ag businesses with great success, but mostly for cattle, sheep, and meat goats. Most larger farms use automated milking machines, which requires the dairy goats to be near or in the barn.
After talking to one of our two favorite goat cheese farmers, I came full circle back to electric netting by Premier1Supplies.com. Their reputation for excellence and endorsement by Joel Salatin are good enough for me.
Here’s a pic of the netting fence before it’s unpackaged.
The netting is 48 inches high, with the lowest strand only 4″ above the ground which provides better protection for young goats and pigs. I opted for the double spike to provide twice the push resistant strength. This means the built-in spikes occur twice as frequently, protecting half the distance of the single spike version.
My initial plan is to create a 100′ x 100′ square-ish paddock with an additional three-sided similar-sized paddock attached on one end. This will enable me to use one fence as a gateway from one paddock to the next. We should be able to move the goats into paddock #2 and then take down paddock #1 fencing and move it to set up on the other side of paddock #2. In this process, the goats would always remain inside fencing while rotation occurs.
What About Cost?
The cost for fencing made us take a step back and gulp for air. I was ready to go back to the drawing board. But a little math and some long-term perspective helped us both reconsider. In fact, we currently spend the same amount on goat dairy in one year as we will on these rotational grazing supplies. Within two years of a milking herd of even 4-6 does, we will have made back our money at least four times over.
We can further justify the expense by consider the production of goat milk soap for sale. This turns our purchase into a business expense and makes it tax deductible, further lessening the blow. And, of course, beyond taxation, we earn additional funds on whatever we can sell.
Where to Place Guard Dogs?
I haven’t solved the question of where to place Duke and Dharma, our English Shepherds. Many people place an LGD (livestock guard dog) inside the electric fence in order to protect the flock/herd from any animal that makes it inside the fence. I plan to keep our dogs on the outside for now so they can patrol the perimeter and also keep an eye on the chickens/guineas, but that plan may change as needed.
I’m thinking the size of paddock will play a significant role in whether one of the dogs lives “on the inside.”
Next steps: building a movable A-frame for housing and developing a plan for a portable milking station.