Fencing & Other Basics

Goats don’t eat much grass 😳 they predominantly browse.

They LOVE Port Jackson – which we have in abundance, also Black Wattle, Pine & most other bushes & shrubs.

The downside is they will eat them – all. Not just the leaves but they will ring-bark your favourite trees – including fruit trees. You need to have trees well fenced in.

Remember with goats – ‘n bok is ‘n bliksem! & if water can get through the fence, then a goat will. They will go through, over or under every fence they can! Fences should be a minimum of 1.5m & I put logs/poles along the bottom to weight them down. (tied to the fence with wire) We also top our fences with a row or two of poles. With our abundance of Port Jackson (a Class 1 invader in SA), we have an abundance of poles. There is always a silver lining.

You need to use varkdraad, game fencing or some such. Strands of wire strung between posts won’t hold them. They will shimmy right on through. The kids are little so they can go through game fencing which I don’t mind on some fences cos they won’t go far from mum. Varkdraad will hold the kids, but they can put their heads through it. That is fine until the little horns start to sprout. I rescued a kid from the fence three times yesterday – the same kid! We will be stringing new fencing across the top of the varkdraad in the kid runs.

Fencing – Game fence for height with varkdraad for strength
to be adding chicken wire to stop little heads getting stuck!
See poles along the bottom

Goats need a mostly waterproof shelter it can have open sides as it’s not that cold here – but they hate that stuff that falls from the sky! You would think their world had ended! We live in a desert & only get a handful of rain days a year, but they will hide in their houses & yell at me as if I can do something about it.

They need to lie on ground that isn’t soggy. As they wee & poo continually, even while lying down, ok – they don’t wee while lying down, that takes concentration & the position needs to be assumed. Choosing what you have on the floor in your shelters & runs is really important.

We stick to ground. Originally, we dug out the area & backfilled it with sand, of which we have an abundance. We cut Port Jackson daily for the goats & then chip the left-over branches. We place these chippings into the runs. It looks beautiful for a day or 3 – then the poop starts to build up again. We keep adding layers of fresh chippings and then when it needs refreshing, we dig out the runs & start again.

The chippings create a spongy layer in the run & it all breaks down into wonderful soil to feed our land.

We also have pallets in the runs for them to lie on. They like that.

Can I keep a Goat in Cape Town


Cape Town Municipality allows for up to 5, as long as certain conditions are met.

Check your local laws, just because no one does it, doesn’t mean that they can’t.

But make sure that you are VERY friendly with your neighbours, if they moan about your dogs & chickens, they are going to have a field day with goats!

This is where you can find the document – I don’t seem to be able to post a link.

& this is the pdf

Keeping of Animals and Poultry for the City of Cape Town – approved on 28 September 2005

Do you research

Prepare well

Fence in your trees

Get goats!


Fencing Goats

There is a well-known saying “A fence that won’t hold water won’t hold a goat.”

& Here in South Africa, “’n bok is ‘n bliksem” which loosely translates to “a goat is a lightning bolt”

So how do you keep them where you want them?

Why do you want to keep them anywhere? Can’t they just roam the property & isn’t it cute if they come inside?

Goats jump on everything. Cars – especially fancy German ones,

equipment, furniture & every other elevated surface they can find.

Goats chew on everything. They are actually quite picky about what they eat, but they do like to chew. Laundry, curtains, cushions, trees & bushes.

Goats aren’t lawnmowers. You need sheep for that! Goats predominantly eat shrubs, bushes & every part of a tree they can reach. This will often include the bark. If they really love a particular tree, they may ring-bark it & kill it.

This brings us to fences.

If you want a stress-free life with goats, you need FANTASTIC fences, before you get goats.

Fence your trees in safely. Fence your veggie garden. Fence your roses. Fence your goats’ safe space. You need somewhere to lock them where they are safe from predators & where you can leave them unattended.

Do it right the first time or you will be adding layers of fencing on an ongoing basis.

What works?

Goats jump. Some jump more than others but it is best to plan for the worst & be pleasantly surprised. We have found that a 1.2m fence is too low. Even some Nigerian Dwarf Goats will get over it.

1.5m is the lowest fence to consider. I fell for the 1.2m again the other day. It is an internal fence. It will be fine. Then my billy hopped over! It will need to be raised.

Goats go under fences. Goats can wriggle through small spaces. You need to secure the fence within cm’s of the ground, really well. Our boundary is anything but even & as our goats are free-range, we need to keep them out of the neighbour’s vineyard! How to secure the bottom of the fence along kms of uneven ground?

We start with moving rocks along the bottom of the fence. It works but you have to make sure that the rocks can’t be used as a step to jump the fence. Rocks are heavy to more. Rocks are a limited resource.

We have a Port Jackson invasion. They are an unlimited resource!

We cut the PJ for overnight fodder for the goats & sheep. When we do this, we “log” the tree trunks that may not be huge, but they are adequate for poles.

The best ones fit between the fence posts, or we use two. I “tie” them to the bottom of the fence with binding wire. When the goats try to go through under the fence, they have to contend with the poles.

Definitely works!

Type of fencing.

For secure camps, I use fencing that the kids can’t fit through. Some of the kids are teeny-tiny! Vark-draad (pig fencing) works for us. It’s strong & the tiny kids can only get their heads through & luckily, not for long!

For the boundary & most other fencing, we now use Veldspan. This is a game fencing that has smaller gaps at the bottom & bigger openings towards the top.

As a general rule – the kids won’t go far from their moms & the herd so even if they do go onto the wrong side of the fence, they will pop back through without going far.

Trust this will help you contain your bokke (goats!)

Have fun fencing!

Milking Goats

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Many people are looking to become self-sufficient.

This means different things to different people.

For many of us, we want dairy products. The two main choices are between cows or goats.

Cows are big. Cows eat a lot. Cows give a lot of milk.

Cows are also destructive of the ground where they spend much of their time, purely because of their size.

Goats are much easier to handle as they are physically much smaller. They eat comparably less. They don’t overwhelm you with milk. They are less destructive to their surroundings as they are that much smaller & lighter.

I will focus on milking goats as that is what we have on our farm. Much of the same holds true for cattle – just think much bigger!

To have milk, goats need to have babies. The natural order is for them to kid about once a year. Some are capable of kidding twice a year but that is generally unfair on them as their body doesn’t have time to recuperate its’ strength.

Goats are pregnant for 150 days – about 5 months. They should be “dried up” at least two months before they kid so that their body puts its energy into the growing kid & not into milk production. They can then be milked for about ten months before needing to be dried up again before they kid.

This is a general rule of thumb. Many goats can be milked for a longer period, but they will give progressively less milk. Some goats dry themselves up within months of having kidded. Not great in a milking goat!

For a household looking to have a continual supply of milk throughout the year, it makes sense to have at least two milking goats. You can then plan to have them, kid, at different times of the year which means that you will have a year-round milk supply. Sometimes a bit more & sometimes a bit less. Excess can be made into cheese & many types of cheese store well or can be frozen.

It is really simple to milk by hand. It’s a good idea to have a milking stand to secure the does head. Most goats will stand to be milked quite happily, while there is food in their bowl!

A milking machine comes into its own if you are milking more goats than your hands can cope with & if there is no one to act as a backup milker if you injure yourself! It doesn’t really take any shorter, but your hands will thank you!

Be sure that you get goats that will give the right milk for your needs. Some have higher butter-fat content & others give more milk. There is a balance between the two. I will talk more about the different milking goat breeds in another blog.

Milking goats is a daily commitment.

It isn’t a chore you can do when you feel like it. It needs to happen at more or less the same time each and EVERY day! You can choose to milk once, twice or even three times a day. You won’t get 3 times the milk but the more you milk the more you get.

I choose to milk once a day, in the morning. Then the herd goes out to play for the day – they free-range – and I can have a few hours to do other things before the evening routine & locking them up for the night.

There is no right way.

Only the way that works best for you & your goats.

Making friends with goats

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If you are getting goats of your own or if you are visiting goats, you want to be friends with them!

The best thing to do is take them food. Then quietly sit down close to them and put the food down next to you. Wait patiently. Keep chatting to them. The sound of your voice helps them get to know you.

Goats are inquisitive.

They will watch you closely and then sneak up to see what you are offering. If you know what their favourite food is, they will smell it and sneak up to take it. Don’t be tempted to try & touch them yet.

Put down another bit & wait again. This time when they approach, place your hand close to the food but still refrain from trying to touch them. Let them take the food. They may sniff your hand and even your face. Keep still.

The third time you can try to tickle them.

Goats love to be tickled along their backs and up their necks. Once they let you give them a good tickle all over their bodies, you are friends! Not close friends yet, you will need to keep sitting quietly and allowing them to approach you until they learn to trust you.

If you are getting your own goats. Place them in a fairly small enclosure initially. When you feed them, place the food bowl right next to you. Sit and wait. They will soon realise that you are their source of food and if you make no sudden moves, they will quickly learn to trust you. It is tempting to reach out to them, but let them set the pace.

Goats are prey animals and humans are hunters.

If you chase a goat it will go into prey mode and run! Then you will have to start again with befriending them.

Patting a goat is not really a good thing. This is also related to them being prey animals. A pat is a bit like the thump of something attacking. It is best to scritch, scratch, tickle & stroke. They especially like having hard to reach places scratched, such as their necks and between the shoulder blades.

Goats really don’t like their ears being played with. You know that they really, really trust you when they let you fiddle with their ears.

The next time you go to meet a goat, sit down quietly and let them come to you.

I want goats! How many should I get?

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Many people contact me asking for 1 doe (female) & 1 ram (male).

It is much better for the goats if you get 2 does & a ram.

Goats are herd animals. They need the company of other goats. If you get 2 & something happens to one of them, you have an immediate problem. If you start with 3, then you have a less urgent problem. The heartache is the same!

It is also unlikely that you will be able to let your ram stay with the does once they have kidded.

I have never had a ram that has hurt a kid but the does will come back into oestrus within a month of giving birth. They are pregnant for 5 months; they could kid 6 months after giving birth!

That isn’t fair on the goat.

When you separate the ram, you can have him in a camp alongside the does, then he doesn’t get lonely. There is also a good chance that you will have had a least one male from the kids & if he is castrated you can keep him as a companion for the ram.

If you plan to milk your does, you can have them kid at different times. That way you will have a constant supply of milk.

What if I want them as pets?

I still recommend getting three. If something happens to one, then your goats still have a friend.

Castrated males make the best pets.

Rams are not pets. They are smelly & can be dangerous when they go into rut – even if they love you dearly.

Does can be lovely pets, but they do have hormones! Even if you don’t plan to breed them & you don’t have a buck, they can go into oestrus up to once a month & can be VERY loud when they are!

If you want a goat for a pet or milk – then plan to get three!

Do I know what my food eats?

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We are all looking to improve our health. Many of us have realized that what we eat is a very important part of this.

But have you thought about what your food eats?

If we eat meat, eggs & dairy products, we are eating what the animal is eating. Has it got all the nutrients it needs? What nasties is it eating that I wouldn’t choose to eat myself?

Grain is easy to grow & store in high quantities as it has a high calorific value. It is relied upon as a feed source across the food industry. For humans and animals.

A lovely article on a study in Canada https://medicine.utoronto.ca/magazine/article/you-are-what-your-food-eats shows the benefits of eating grass raised beef compared to grain-fed. Just looking at Omega 3 & 6 – grass-fed beef has a far healthier balance than grain-fed (& the meat is said to be tastier too!).

This is where my dairy goats come in. In the dairy industry, grain is relied on as a source of high calory feed to keep weight on scrawny dairy goats. They really are a bony bunch! If you look at dairy breed cattle you will see that they too are scrawny compared to their meat-breed family.

When I started with my first few goats, I was feeding them some grain. This was conventional wisdom to keep them healthy. Dairy goats put all their energy into producing milk for their young & for us. While it is fine to be scrawny, you don’t want them to be underweight. That isn’t healthy. I never feed mielies/maize to my animals. About 90% of maize grown in South Africa is GMO.

Over time, I found that I had weaned my goats off all grain & they were looking healthy & happy.

What does this mean to us? The milk produced by a healthy herd is healthy. Because goat milk is so good for us in the first place, why not get the healthiest version possible?

What our goat herd does get to do is free-range across about 200 hectares of land. There is a range of vegetation types including Sand Fynbos, wetlands & the highly invasive Port Jackson (Acacia Saligna). It is fascinating to watch them targeting certain areas & different plant types at different times.

Our milking girls get lucerne pellets & a variety of fruit & veg each morning on the milking stand. They also get sunflower seeds which are very high in selenium that is so important to goats – & humans! All GMO-free!

Next time you buy meat, eggs & dairy products – ask yourself

Do I know what my food eats?

Do I want to eat that?