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Sheep/Goat Predator Control

By Connie Krider

In 1977, my husband, David, and I acquired our first of many hundreds of goats that we have raised over the years since. A little over a decade later, we added sheep to our program. We found internal parasites, predators and containment to be the major concerns with both species. We started using the FAMACHA method of checking the lower eye lid to estimate anemia levels for de-worming, or at least a slight variation of that method. That was before we knew there was a name for it, but not before spending a considerable amount of unnecessary money and contributing to the problem of immunity build-up in worms to commercial de-wormers that exists today. Our best luck with parasite control has come through a combination of multi-species and management intensive grazing practices. For predator control we have relied mainly on guard dogs. At one time we tried a gelded male donkey. He was fine with the adult sheep, but when they started lambing, he thought it his mission to put the noisy little intruders out of their (or more accurately, his) misery. We later learned that a jenny would probably have worked out much better, but decided to stick with the dogs. And last, but definitely not the least of our concerns, has been fencing to contain the determined little animals. Additionally, keeping dogs fenced in, or out, has posed as much of a dilemma as controlling the sheep and goats.

Sheep seem relatively easy to keep behind fences when compared to goats. From our experience with grazing cattle, horses, sheep and goats, the latter are by far the most difficult to keep fenced in or out. We learned that electric fencing is considerably more effective than other types of fencing when it comes to controlling goats. Barbed wire fences seem merely an inconvenience for them. Woven wire field fence can serve as a ladder until they ride it down to a more manageable height where they can hop over it. The spaces in heavy wire panels seem to work similar to a catch gate, especially for the horned animals. Its always much harder to get their heads out than for them to get their heads in. And, it can also be handy for climbing on. We found that by adding even one strand of hi-tensile wire with 7,000 or more volts running through it, all other fences became more functional.

Affordable cost for the fencing is also a top consideration. Over the years, weve learned that the best way to make a profit with livestock is to keep overhead costs as low as possible. Five to seven strands of hi-tensile smooth wire has proven to be the most cost effective and reliable when electrified. We learned to keep the bottom wire no more than 6 from the ground. Our observations have revealed that the first choice for goats in their efforts to escape from fencing is to go under, second choice is through, and last choice is to go over. When theyre familiar with electrified fencing, jumping over is even less of an option because it appears they are unsure of how high that pain barrier will go.

Weve noticed a considerable increase over the past couple of years in the percentage of our customers who are raising goats and sheep, including many cattlemen who are adding one or both species to their cattle operations. We have had good success with five or more strands of hi-tensile wire for perimeter fences for goats, and as few as three strands for cross fences. While our electrified hi-tensile fence works extremely well for most, it doesnt work for everyone. In general, sheep are far easier to keep behind fences than goats, but when it comes to predators they are all quite vulnerable. Our goal was to find a product that would keep the small ruminants fenced in, as well as keep predators fenced out, while maintaining an affordable price. We found the answer in our fully electrifiable Hi-Tensile Woven Wire.

One of our criteria was to have hi-tensile 12.5 gauge horizontal wire with a minimum of 180,000 PSI, and a minimum breaking strength of 1350#.  Another requirement was to have a fixed knot, rather than the traditional hinged knot. A fixed knot insures more reliable control of the spacing. We found a product with both of these qualities, plus far more. Like our new single strand hi-tensile wire (see page 8), our hi-tensile woven wire is a Hispan 4 life product. That means it has a heavier 260 gram Zinc/Aluminum coat-weight, providing 4 times the life of galvanized wire.

Since bringing in our first container load, we have had tremendous response to this hi-tensile woven wire. The most popular configuration for sheep and goats is the 7/36/24 with horizontal spacing from the bottom at 4-1/2, 5, 5-1/2, 6, 7, & 8 and vertical spacing at 24. When installed on self-insulated Powerflex posts, the entire system can be electrified. The first place we installed this system was at our store location. Starting with good, strong ends/corners, we ran a 12.5 ga hi-tensile sight wire near the ground as a guide to place the 1-1/4 x 60 posts in a straight line. Then, we left that wire in place as a ground wire and installed the hi-tensile woven wire about 6 inches above that. We ran one strand of hi-tensile wire on top. On relatively flat ground, we found post spacing up to 30 feet works well. In some areas we electrified the whole thing and in other stretches we just run one electrified offset wire. We have not had one animal get out, or one predator loss while using this system. You are welcome to visit our store and view our system, or the folks at Kerr Research Center in Poteau, Oklahoma are happy to show you their system also. Their phone number is 918-647-9123. Ask for Mary Penick.