Episode-910- Mike Canaday on Grazing Goats, Electric Fencing and Working Dogs

Properly Managed Goats Improve Soil

Properly Managed Goats Improve Soil

Mike Canaday has 30 years experience in ranching and training Border Collies and Guardian Dogs to work with and protect livestock.

Goat grazing is a cost effective, ecologically sound way to clear land and promote growth of native grasses and beneficial plants, particularly for large acreages and difficult terrain.

It has been proven to efficiently handle areas that are inaccessible or difficult to manage with mowers, areas where burns are inadvisable, and sensitive areas where the application of herbicides is not appropriate.

The crazy thing is even if you don’t own a lot of land you could still own a lot of goats.  With advances in portable electric fences, the goats ability to forage land unsuitable for cattle, the cost effectiveness over mowing or herbicides and their ability to improve soil, many people actually pay to have goats graze their lands.

Mike Joins Us Today To Discuss…

  • Getting started with sheep and goats
  • Why sheep and goats, why not cattle
  • How to properly use electric fencing for predator protection and paddock shifting
  • What to look for in an electric fence
  • How much power a fence needs to be effective and what can cause power loss
  • Using dogs for both working and protecting your live stock
  • How you get other people to pay you to put your goats on their land
  • Finding properties that will be usable for your herds
  • Why some people say “electric fencing doesn’t work” and why they are wrong
  • Scaling goat grazing up and down based on property size and needs
  • Keeping dogs fierce enough to protect a herd by still sociable when not “on duty”
  • Channeling instinct in a dog vs. relying on their “intelligence”
  • Dogs for homestead security

Resources for Today’s Show

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50 Responses to Episode-910- Mike Canaday on Grazing Goats, Electric Fencing and Working Dogs

  1. Cranberryrose

    Wow! Was this ever timely! We are trying to pasture goats. If people ever say your Survival podcast is irrelevant, they aren’t looking at all the wonderful information that you provide.

  2. Premier fence products are great… Avoid, if you can, the mistake I made 4 times: buying Kencove fencing. Their fence is twice as hard to move (catches on excess plastic from the molding process) and setup than Premier, parts break often and service is poor. It may cost 10-20% less but will cost you more in the end. I wish I had bought all Premier instead of only one and multiple Kencove’s. Wish I knew before I dropped big $$ on fencing.

  3. My father currently uses and has used concrete reenforcement wire to fence deer out of his garden since the 1980s. The year before he started using the concrete reenforcement wire, he killed 29 deer out of his garden and we still didn’t harvest a single mouthful of food from the ~2 acres he had in cultivation.

    Since starting to use the concrete reenforcement wire, he has not lost a single plant to a deer to my knowledge.

    We live in Jasper County, Mississippi which, I believe, prior to Hurricane Katrina, had one of the if not the highest deer population density in the US.

    Would have been interesting to hear the voltage required to keep deer out. I currently have 3 acres of recently planted black walnuts being protected from deer by one of those cheap solar powered, food store purchased electric fence chargers. I’ve lost a few trees to predation but I don’t think they were lost to deer. Still, it would have been interesting to hear his opinion on that matter.

    • Modern Survival

      @George, um, 29 deer from 2 acres sounds like a lot of “harvested food” to me. LOL

  4. Michael (student ant)

    Today was a really interesting episode, I took so much away from it. First if you set your mind to it there is a solution to every problem. Like not having land to keep your livestock on doesn’t have to prevent having livestock. In the guests case he makes more because its not his land. To me this really opens up the idea that I don’t have to own the land to start applying permaculture techniques to improve my surroundings. Next all the knowledge on fencing and dog combo was priceless. We have a chow and even though we just have a small back yard our chickens and the garden are safe from Raccoons or any other preditor threat. Finally while I see Joe Nobody’s point that dogs can be dispached easily, I think Mr. Canaday’s point that a dog will help you determine someones intentions by the way they respond to your animals is a more valid point. Having a pet dog killed by an intruder would be terrible, but if there is no dog then you don’t really know their intent till they start shooting at you.

  5. Perfect timing. My wife and I just adopted two Nigerian Dwarf goats. Can’t wait to listen when I get home.

  6. How do you handle the grounding of fence chargers on portable electric setups? I looked at the charger that Mike mentioned and it said that it requires 9 feet of grounding rod. You’ll have to excuse my ignorance, but I don’t know a thing about electric fence, and I think we could really benefit from a good “schooling”. :)

    • Mike Canaday

      Hi,
      I would suggest buying 2 ground rods, 6″ tall, drive them in the gound 4 ft each and at least 10 feet apart with a post pounder. I use cheap auto jumper cables that have been pulled apart so you end up with 2 cables, and use one to connect the two ground rods. If the ground is extremely dry a little water around the rod helps with the grounding. I pull them out after the fence is moved with a couple of vice grip pliers, turning the rod back and forth and lifting at the same time. A little water will help with this process. Remember to hook your fence tester to the ground rod to make sure it isn’t over 400 to 600 volts. If so, add an additional ground rod and use the other half of your battery cable to link the series of 3 ground rods. People underestimate proper grounding.

      • Thanks, Mike! You’ve offered so much useful information here.

        So it sounds like it would be more work than it’s worth to use a portable setup on a small homestead. I have 3.5 acres, but I’d probably only be able to allocate 1.5 to two acres to livestock. Even if I had just a few animals, we’d have to move things a LOT (for land management purposes.) ALTHOUGH, can you think of any reason that a person could put ground rods in multiple places so that each time you move a pen (every few days on intensely-managed land), you could just hook to the ground rods that were convenient for that pen location. Now I’m thinking how one could factor housing into that setup.

        So much to think about. Thanks again!

        • Another option for a static (ish) system is to run a hot line around your perimeter and have your charger mounted stationary. Then you move your fences where you want and hook to the hot line wherever you need to. Then you don’t have to continuously move your grounding rods. This is what I have done on my small homestead.

          This would also allow your to plug into your current electric system and not use batteries. The batteries and moving grounding rods are awesome for larger scale operations, but fixed chargers and grounding rods and a perimeter hot line are awesome for a smaller scenario.

  7. Thanks alot, I have been wanting to raise livestock but dont own any land. I am going to have to try to scale this down and see if I can do it myself. Thank you so much. Did Canaday say that for a few goats he would use one 150ft fence section to make a lot to move them around. Also does he only use land with on sight water, could this be done if water was near but not on sight?

    • Mike Canaday

      I would suggest at least 2 rolls of fencing for your pen. It depends on the calmness of your animals and the predators in your area. You wouldn’t want the goats trying to run from a predator outside the fence and end up running into the fence on the opposite side because the area was too small. You also need to have a 3rd roll to hold your animals as you build your next pen.

      • Mike Canaday

        If water is not available, use a water tank in the back of a pickup as you check on your animals daily.

    • The amount of sections you need would also depend on any perimeter fencing you have. You can possibly utilize any perimeter fencing as part of your paddocks, just make sure you don’t ground your netting or electric lines to the perimeter fence.

  8. thanks Jack :D

    enjoyed this. I liked that he mentioned Akbash dogs. just do an image or youtube search. great dogs.

  9. This was a great interview. Mike Canaday knows his crap. These shows continue to be top notch.

  10. Where does he get power for the fence? Such a large operation surely there’s not always an outlet nearby…?

    • Mike Canaday

      The Speedrite 3000 fence energizer adapts to electric or 12 volt. I usually use the 12 volt connected to a car or RV battery. The battery will last different lengths of time depending on the number of rolls of fencing and amount of green vegetation touching the fence.

  11. Thanks, Jack and Mike. There were a few nice surprises about voltage, etc. I’ve kept both large and small animals in stands of electric. fence, with differenting results. Now I’m on a limestone slab with new challenges. I need a boundry fence for my Pyrenees as she tries to work the road, too. We don’t like wire fencing as the goats get their heads stuck constantly, so I’ve been thinking about the electric netting. Money is short, so I may have to start small. Now I’m wondering if I can use Mike’s suggestions about the voltage with stands of wire. 14 gauge? 12 gauge ? Mike, could you make a short video of your battery, ground wire, and post setup, please? I have five acres, and prefer not to use electricity from the house. I’ve been keeping goats, sheep, chickens, horses and cows off and on for 25 years, yet you gave me surprisingly helpful information. Thank you. Enjoyed the interview and recommendations very much.

    • Mike Canaday

      The wire size won’t matter, the voltage requirement is the same. You will be able use the 14 or 12 and they will do longer distances than flexnet. I use the Speedrite 3000, a RV battery and recharge the battery with a 30amp solar panel. This would keep you from using your house electricity to charge the battery. Grazing season is here, video will have to wait until things slow down.

  12. This episode gave me an idea on how to solve the problem of integrating animals into a system on a property the owner doesn’t live on full time. Thanks :)

  13. Great show Jack & Mike, thanks!

    Question for Mike:
    We have a few acres with a handful of dairy cows and goats. We are diversifying & setting up rotational grazing for better land management. I was thinking short durrations (daily?) in small paddocks of…Cows together, then followed by sheep/goat mix, followed by poultry to clean up the maggots, then a long rest (30 days?).

    Any suggestions for me? Do you see any problems with this approach? How is it running sheep & goats together (I am aware of the copper in the feed issues for sheep). P.S. we also have Pyrenees and LOVE them!

    • Mike Canaday

      Personally I would run the cows and goats together followed by the sheep then chickens. Cows and goats won’t be fighting for the same feed source and the copper requirements are the same. Ideally the animals will eat the pasture down in 3 days and rest for at least 28 days. The long resting period is not only good for the pasture but also breaks the parasite cycle.

    • In principle it only makes sense to follow one animal with another when the second animal makes use of a different resource and don’t share similar health challenges – that’s why following one ruminant with another is not done often. Following a ruminant with chickens makes sense though. Sheep do best on a 90 day rest cycle to break the parasite load which easily gets out of control in humid areas. Your location matters a lot in terms of answering this question. Sheep and goats share the same parasites – thus never run one after another sensibly (maybe in arid areas this is not a big issue but in humid areas it’s a major problem). It’s likely best (depending on your location and veg. types) to put all the ruminants together (cows, sheep, goats if you want all three), then follow with chickens immediately, then seed, then mow (if you have unpalatables), then rest for 60+ days, then do it all over again. You shouldn’t have to seed for more than a year or two if it’s done well, same with mowing.

      • Mike Canaday

        These folks have dairy cows so the feed value is very important. This forage would be best around the 30 day mark. At 60 days it would lose much of its protein content and would require more expensive imputs. They will graze only a few days so most of the time the animals are not eating off the ground but off standing forage. Grazing animals in my experience carry less parasite load than feed lot animals.
        The writer wanted rotational grazing for better land management as they only had a few acres and therefore could not afford wait to graze the pasture for 60 to 90 days as you suggested. They did not bring up parasites so perhaps they are not a problem. In any case running one animal after another over three days is about the same as running them together. Finishing with chickens is perfect.
        Parasites are not a problem for me I run a closed herd, graze them in an area no more than 3 days, don’t feedlot my animals, I’m in a dry area and I worm them two or three times a year.

  14. Finally got to hear it, great show. As I was listening through, I thought I heard that coyotes won’t jump fences unless something showed them how. I tried to find the coyote reference again in the show and couldn’t. My yard is surrounded by 5 foot chain link fence, but my fear has always been coyotes jumping it. Is that enough to keep out coyotes, at least the majority of the time? Anyones help with more direct experience than me would be very much appreciated.

  15. How do you get water to the goats when ground water is not available? Also besides browse and pasture what supplemental feed do the goats need? Is this business idea dependent on a temperate climate? Do northern grazers keep goats on the fields in winter? Thank you!!

  16. Mike Canaday

    We pull a water trailer when we check our goats and feed the guard dogs.
    If they need supplemental feed we use alfalfa hay and be sure to have a mineral block that is high in copper. You are better off with a cattle block than a sheep block. There is no such thing and a sheep and goat block as thier needs are different. Blocks that are high in copper could kill a sheep.

    I hear from people all over the U.S. that they are in the grazing business but I think most are on a smaller scale. That said I am sure most folks near an urban center (an hour or so) could make an exrta $1000 to $1500 a week for about three months out of the year just doing back yards part time. I don’t do yards because I have too many animals to deal with small areas. My minimum job is $2500.

    As for do northern grazers keep goats on the fields in winter, I think goats will eat you out of house and home in the off season so you need some feed and lots of it.
    The right breeds like the Kiko or Angora could be in the fields in winter, a stand of trees would be helpful . BTW those are not the breeds I have I have Boer Goats.

  17. I too have used the electric netting from Premier Fencing. One thing I found with helpful in grazing our cows, goats, and hogs using it, was cutting the very bottom wire, this allowed the grass to get to the 7 inch mark (needed for cows to really get their tongues around the grass) without shorting out the fence with all that long grass. I had a much more effective system after I did this.

  18. Thanks Mike – good points. Perhaps parasites are barely an issue in dryer lands – here in VT it’s a given that good sheep grazers are waiting at least 60 days between passes with animals. Some of them still have to worm each year. Most are trying to avoid the need, though.

    Another point that’s often overstated and over-worried by new grazers is the voltage issue: We have run 1-4 strands of electronet in very wet tall grass with the fence touching trees, grasses, you name it – up to half or more the height of the fence. It doens’t matter – the fence still delivers a solid shock with a 3 joule charger. I know via testing it myself. So, in my experience in running small amounts of net 1-4 lengths it’s a waste of time and energy to mow/cut the fence lines each time, it’s simply not needed. One 40w panel has always charged my deep cycle battery fully (never have to plug it in and it’s very cloudy here) – so it’s neither an issue of running the battery down or having too light of a shock. Like with a lot of things, try it and see – you might be surprised what’s NOT needed to do.

  19. Mike Canaday

    Hi Ben,
    I ran 250 sheep in upstate New York for 25 years, very near you I would guess. Here is a fact ALL SHEEP HAVE WORMS. The best you can do is keep them under control and this requires regular worming. the only way to really know what is going on is to get a fecal examination done by your vet. Your sheep would be far better off by regular worming as recommended by your vet and then grazing your forage before 60 days when it turns to crap.

    As far as your fencing advice I am speechless.

    If you are ever in California look me up I would be happy to spring for a plate of mountain oysters and a couple of beers.

  20. Thanks Mike – would love to meet up with you sometime…
    The sheep farmers around here say the same thing, but they often just FAMACHA test and use other ways of determining the parasite load before deworming. There are sheep farmers here that never need to worm because they manage their herd in specific ways such as using long rotations. As far as I know the sward can still be in good shape in 60 days, some farmers think that’s actually the best way to build soil too – letting it get tall (and deep in the soil) before grazing down. Joel Salatin style. Many ways to graze or do anything well.

  21. Mike and Ben,
    Thanks for your advice. A look from different perspectives always brings a more complete picture. I appreciate your impute :) I’m looking forward to getting some rotations under my belt and seeing if things improve.

    Any advice or suggestions on deworming? Around here in Northern California everyone just uses Ivomec over and over again. I hate to use that stuff on milk animals, but we have. Our “natural” friends brew up an herbal anti-worm potion that the give weekly. I guess the goats love it. It is also a chance to supplement with other stuff they throw in the brew. They also put DE in the grain. I’m not sure how well this works though.

    FAMACHA looks useful. Thanks for that.
    http://www.scsrpc.org/SCSRPC/FAMACHA/famachainfoguide.htm

    • @Bbuub – tons of info out there on natural dewormers – many use willow, garlic and comfrey in the permaculture world. Many also say that none of these really work. I don’t know for sure what is true. Probably varies like most things by herd size, herd individuals, site characteristics (wet, dry, forage type), grazing timings and many more things. Experimenting at your place will eventually give you some clues though, if not a conclusive answer. Important to point out: there’s a big difference in approaches necessary between one who is an animal farmer – a true grazer like Mike and others who do this for a living, and one who raises a handful of animals among 50 other things on a diverse homestead. Not that a homesteader can’t learn a ton from a farmer who’s an expert in a, b or c, but their strategies often must vary from one another’s to be optimal. It’s all about context of the whole system.

    • Mike Canaday

      Doing fecal exams is the only way to tell if the animals have worms. We use the FAMACHA testing when we handle a goat but with 1500, not many get handled. Depending on your location, different worms are a problem. Try whatever worming method you want and retest the fecal. That will tell you if your worming method works or not. Use the same working wormer until it no longer works, don’t switch wormers unless it doesn’t work. Worms build up a resistance to wormers. Ivermec works for us. To my knowledge, no tests show the natural wormers work. Wish they would!

  22. One more note on fencing – our 1-3 length electronet setups run on a 3 joule charger, 40 w panel and a 2′ ground rod which is often only sunk in by hand 1′ or less, often 6 inches before hitting bedrock or boulders. Still, strong shock every time with wet grass and saplings against the fencing. Just speaking from my own direct experience here. So, try small ground rods before taking the effort of pounding multiple lineal feet of rod each time you move a fence, if you want to know for yourself and your specific conditions. If you’re grazing lots of animals on other people’s land – go conservative indeed -but most listeners here are likely homesteaders with small herds on their own site.

  23. Joe Prepper

    Mike,

    Great stuff and thanks for taking the time for Q&A after. I hope I am not too late. Would the single spike poultry netting by premier work for chickens and goats or would thier goat fencing be better for dual purpose? They seem to suggest animal specific fencing .

    Also I found a fence charge (parmak 12 mag) that comes with a built in 12v and solar panel that gets good reviews. Any experience with these?

    Thanks !

    • Mike Canaday

      From my experience, chickens would not stay in the goat fence but goats will stay in the chicken fence.

      I have never used the Parmac energizer but in reading the specs on their web page, I wouldn’t use it for myself because it doesn’t have over 10,000 volts with no load. So loaded, the voltage would drop too much for me.

  24. I was little skeptical of the netting while listening to this episode , but after researching it It seems that netting is = in cost as traditional fenicng and cheaper when factoring in my time . I bought 5 HF solar pannel kits last year when you could get the $135 coupon out of guns and ammo and this will make for great use for one those sets .
    Great episode , keep more of these coming Jack , you really get some great guests and interviews!

  25. Mike could you give an exact rundown of your fence set up(brand,size and when roll is mentioned what size roll)? I am wanting to start with goats and would like to start with the best set up as possible. Thanks

    • Mike Canaday

      We use http://www.Premier1Supplies.com , ElectroStop, item 203000. It is 42″ high with the posts every 12.5 ‘. If we need to add additional support, we use fiberglass rods to help support the fence. We use the 164′ rolls. The fiberglass rods are available at Tractor Supply.

  26. Mike in Collin County Texas

    What a timely show. I had been thinking about the possibility of getting some goats to keep sections of my 37 acres cleared from brush and grass, however I don’t know anything about goats. One of the areas I would like to clear is around the 2 acre pond. The dam on the both the water facing side and the down stream side is too steep to mow or trim using mechanical methods. I understand how I could run electric fence on the down stream side, but is there a way to use electric fence on the water facing side? I could run electric fence down to the edge of the water, but will the lake prevent the goats from bypassing the end of the electric fence? Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  27. Mike Canaday

    If the water is deep enough, it would keep the goats in most of the time, but it won’t keep predators out. I would try putting a couple Tposts in the ground and putting a couple hog panels into the water for my fence.

  28. Thanks Jack and Mike for a great show. We purchased a 60 acre property 2 years ago and since that time we have been focused on building various aspects of the infrastructure for an off grid home/retreat location. We have come a long way in those areas and are now starting to focus on the kinds of animals we intend to keep on the property. Other than for milk, goats have not been a big part of those plans, until I listened to your show last week with Mike. One of the more frustrating aspects of taming this land we bought has been dealing with the weeds and undergrowth. You have given me a lot of good ideas as to how we can incorporate goats into our plans and also how to help protect our 5 acre garden area from predators. Thanks again Jack for another timely prepper topic.

  29. Very engaging conversation, thank you guys.
    I’m looking to put up some fence around my garden to keep out the deer (and potentially feral pigs) as well as to keep out potential predators from an outside cat. Would the ElectroStop harm a cat if it was exploring the fence, or just give it a scare? It’s not very old and it is in good health.
    Cheers

  30. Pingback: Homestead Links June 18, 2012 | Weekend Homestead

  31. Mike

    Thanks for the advice on the podcast. I was thinking about getting electric fence for my poultry. A fox made up my mind this past weekend when she came in and stole 4. :(
    Fence and energizer in shipment now.
    Brave fox, had to out maneuver my Great Pyrenees….

  32. Thanks Jack and Mike – this has been one of my favorite episodes and interviews. Mike, after trying wool sheep, black bellies, and katahdins, I am zeroing in on dorpers as the ideal sheep breed for my purposes. They seem to have all of the attributes that I’m looking for and I feel they have a great future considering those attributes. I’m starting a with a ram and three young ewes. You have both dorpers and boers, right? Do you graze with the dorpers? Could you tell me when you use which and why? Also, are you able to use electric fencing with the dorpers? Do you prefer to stay with purebreds or fullbloods or does it matter to you if they are commercial? Thanks so much again for the great interview.