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How to Build a Fence to Contain Goats [Jul. 29th, 2014|08:51 pm]
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As near as I can make it, this is how I heard it from one of the old men who used to sit on a bench outside the grocery (no bench there now) and chat by the hour with the other old men.  You have to imagine a lean, sunburnt-for-years, old man with the wrinkles of both a hard life and sense of humor, and twinkling eyes set under exuberant eyebrows.

"Now if you want to keep goats in, you need a right good goat fence.  Those critters'll get out of any normal fence--yeah, including that woven wire like you got down there at your place.   Here's how you build a goat fence.

"First you take your stobs (posts), and you set 'em deep and closer than you would for horses or cattle--say maybe ten feet or so, and make those corners good and strong.  Now you're gonna use at least eight strands of wire, good and tight.   They're not like hogs, so you don't need to set a line of barb down in the dirt.  Then you take your cedar staves, and you weave 'em into the fence, side by side, not a finger-width between 'em, and you twist every strand of  that wire between every stave so them goats can't push through." (demonstrates with his hands.)   And when you got your whole fence, all good and tight and strong  and you can't see through it, and it's as high as your head--"  Long pause, and he looked at me sideways.

"Youi're done?" I asked, since he clearly wanted a response.

"One last thing.  You take you a bucket of water, and you throw it at the fence, hard as you can."   Another pause, and he started that silent chuckle thing that old country folk can do.  Beside him on the bench, another old guy's shoulders were shaking with the silent laughter, knowing what was coming.

 "And if the water goes through...so will a goat."

Hilarity on the bench, and of course I was laughing too.  "The thing about goats," one of the other men said, "is like with some horses.  You want to keep goats, you got to be smarter than they are, and most people aren't." 

From the same group, later, I got the following livestock insights:

Sheep are born looking for a way to die.
Horses are born looking for a way to get hurt.
Goats are born looking for a way out (alternate: to cause trouble)

*stobs was the old name for posts or stumps
*cedar staves--the small limbs of cedar (actually juniper) a local tree, cut and trimmed to make stakes (staves) to use for both goat fencing and regular fencing to hold wires apart between posts--strengthens the fence.  Also used in the notorious "gap gates"  in a fence--no proper gate is needed if you just use a fence section, put a skinny cedar pole at the active end, and two loops of wire on the next post...one to stick the foot of the pole into and one at the top to loop over the pole's top.  These wobbly unstable miserable things are a pain to work with, especially if the fence wire is barb (which it usually is)  We have one gap gate left that's about to become a real gate.  (Real gates cost.)
*steeples is the old local pronunciation of staples, what you use to attach the wire to a post.  The first fence builder I hired years back told me I'd need x-number of stobs and steeples and I was totally confused.  We hadn't been here long enough.  They don't come into the goat fence story, but they're local color.


From: (Anonymous)
2014-07-30 02:24 am (UTC)

Gap gates

This is Chuck/Victorian Barbarian (Live Journal doesn't register my identification attempts)

Great old timer story--I recognize the type from the small town I grew up in, down to the bench in front of the little grocery store.
The gaps my daddy used in our "bob wire" fences always had a regular wooden post in the middle as well as one at the active end, of the same diameter as, but not as tall as, the wooden fence posts set in the ground. As I recall, his fences (to keep in cows, mostly) were of sturdier construction than many of the other ones in our part of Parker County. When he improved the fences on our place, shifting to metal fence posts, he put in a few proper gates, but made do with some gaps--again, with a supporting wooden post in the middle but a metal post to loop-close. The middle post was necessary not only for stabilization, but also because the cattle we had would have gone through the barbed wire on an unstabilized gap. (He just called it a "gap" rather than "gate" or "gap gate," that being the parlance where he grew up in Mississippi.)
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2014-07-30 02:50 am (UTC)

Re: Gap gates

None of the ones I've seen here have a regular-diameter post in the middle, though they usually have one or two much weaker cedar staves. Fence-building in this area is, as it was where I grew up in South Texas, a sign of character (and/or wealth!!) and people can be known by their fences.

My husband builds really good fences, though it's harder and harder for him (and slower) as he has physical problems now. All the fences on the 80 acres were in very bad condition when we bought it. He's done the quarter mile west fence, and most of the south fence. But he was building for cattle, not goats. Right now there's utility construction at one end, where the gap gate to the highway is, but the utility's going to put in a real gate, they promised. Then we'll pay to have the highway-end fence rebuilt by one of the local fence-builders. Just bob wire, but not falling apart.
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[User Picture]From: dianavilliers
2014-07-30 05:50 am (UTC)
Gap gates are called Taranaki gates in my neck of the woods, after one specific rural area, although they're used all over.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2014-07-30 12:11 pm (UTC)
Now that's a good-looking gap gate! Much tidier than most of the ones you see here. And a gorgeous view, too.
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From: sheff_dogs
2014-07-30 10:56 am (UTC)
I have a friend who has recently aquired a couple of rescue goats, they have trashed the fences, but also the hutches of the rescue rabbits and the coops of the rescue chickens. May I share this story with her (with attribution of course)?
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2014-07-30 12:28 pm (UTC)
Thank you for asking. Yes, though the easiest way is just to send her the link. A woman near here who keeps dairy goats says the smaller the enclosure, the more the goats will get after the fence...running into it, butting it, leaning on it, pawing at it, climbing it if they can (with the goat-weight hanging off a fence, many fences buckle) etc. They do get on top of anything climbable or jump-up-able (we looked out one day and found that the neighbor's goats were jumping up and down on top of one of the metal-roofed sheds, trying to reach a tree limb with leaves they could grab and eat. And I saw one escapee standing on another goat, shortly before it went over the fence.

Here's a practical YouTube video about goat fencing:

He doesn't mention that if you have a way for goats to climb something else near the fence, they can jump down over the fence.

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[User Picture]From: draconin
2014-07-30 12:08 pm (UTC)
You *have* to find a way to build that conversation into one of your books! :-)
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[User Picture]From: redvixen
2014-07-30 01:11 pm (UTC)
*chuckles* My grandfather didn't like goats. He said the best way to keep goats in was to drop them in a deep hole and throw down food to them. But you still needed a fence around the pit because the goats would jump out. Guess that was why he never had goats.
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[User Picture]From: blueeowyn
2014-07-30 01:41 pm (UTC)
I've known a few horses looking for a way out. Alvin is the resident Houdini at the barn. His latch is VERY low on the door, 2 part, clipped with a leadshank (clip facing down) and the shank is tied to an adjacent stall to provide tension so he can't wiggle it around enough. That said he is also usually looking for ways to hurt himself (though never to my knowledge as a result of busting out of the stall ... even when the hinges and latches are no-where to be found).

Love the story and I have heard that about goats. Pigs are pretty creative at escaping too (and will know within seconds if the electric fence is off. Thus sayeth my uncle.
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[User Picture]From: Elizabeth Mancz
2014-07-31 06:32 pm (UTC)

Gap Gates

Oh my, that does take me back. I'm an archaeologist - retired from the field now, due to knees and back, but not from teaching. I have opened and closed many such gates and they are a pain - but a fence-wrench makes it a lot easier! If you have never seen one, it is a short loop of chain or rope attached to a stick. You loop the loop over the gap post and then thread the stick between strands of wire on the standing pole and use the lever to pull the gate stake close enough that you can get that loop of wire holding it closed off. Same thing to close it. A rather sadistic trick that archaeological crews used to pull on newbies - you send them out to open the gate for the truck, then drive through once it is opened and solemnly watch them struggle and finally shut it -- usually on the wrong side! Then you laugh. I recall I was quite disappointing to the crew my first time - having grown up in the country, I knew enough to go through the gate before closing it! This is Elizabeth Mancz from Akron Ohio if you need that info.
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