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We hope you find inspiration in these innovations from our farm.
Here is the Doe Barn, from the pasture side, an 18 x 24 foot shelter, built on top of the hill, 4 foot wide doorways make cleaning easy. There are NO DOORS, except for sliding hog panel gates. We sometimes hang a quilt in one of the doors to cut down on winter breezes if we have does kidding during especially cold weather.
There is a "portable garage" tarp shelter serving as a hay and feed storage shelter next to it.
You can see a goat "jungle gym" in the foreground of the second picture. It is made of 2 large fiberglass covered boxes with heavy metal doors for the platforms. The second picture shows the "jungle gym" and the doe pasture from the doorway of the barn. Picnic tables and cable reels (with the center hole covered), and stacked railroad ties also make great goatie playsets.
The third picture shows how we made a sliding gate from a hog panel. The fenceposts are about 4-5 inches from the walls, the panel has black plastic pipe split and pressed onto the top of the panel to protect hands and pants (when going over the panel rather than sliding it!). To help it slide smoothly we laid a "track" made of 4 inch PVC pipe cut in half length wise from a foot or so from the left end of the gate and extending several feet. To lock the gate it is simple to bungee or hook a chain around one of the posts and through the hog panel.
Our bucks are housed in either free standing 8 x 8 foot shelters with a surrounding pen, or in a shed-row shelter with individual pens. The shed-row barn, I call it "Buckingham Palace", is custom built to house both rabbits in the covered walkway and has 4 buck stalls. You can see my weather resistant feed cart on wheels just off the right end of the barn. I keep the rabbit and goat feed pellets in rectangular plastic waste baskets inside the cart. There is also enough room for a bale of hay if I desire, but usually the bale is sitting on my Radio Flyer wagon in the hallway.
The outside pens have solid treated plywood walls between each pen. This cuts down on "head bashing", especially when one of the bucks is entertaining ladies.
The third and fourth pictures show the locking mechanism on the doors to the buck pens. It is designed similar to those on most stock trailers. It is very secure, easy to open and close and prevents the doors from warping.
When weaning young bucks we pair them with an older buck for comfort and security. The older buck appreciates the company, the younger buck looks to the older one for security. They do not see each other as rivals but more as mentor and protégé.
Sandman is the luckiest pygmy buck in the world. He lives with doe herd and serves as a "heat detector". Sandman has had a vasectomy. Yep, just like a real person. Many vets can perform this surgery, be sure the vet sends the removed tissue to a pathologist to be sure the vasectomy "took". Sandman had to go back twice. He is more reliable than a wether, even though many wethers do an outstanding job at detecting heat cycles. We just take Sandman's Lady of the Day for a little walk to see the buck of our choice for a 10 minute rendezvous and we know the exact breeding date, making predicting and planning kidding dates much easier.
The first picture shows an easy to construct two sided hay feeder, built of hog panels and 1/4 inch plywood. It is light and portable but sturdy. We use this one in the barn on bad weather days. We feed the doe herd round baled hay and keep it dry and palatable under easy to construct tarp and PVC pipe shelters. The bale itself is secured in cattle panels bent into a round shape and pulled together with tie down straps. This keeps the bale from falling on the goats, and the goats from climbing on the bale. We also use a V shaped hay rack built of cattle panel in the doe pasture. This one is very easy to wire together and is very light and easy to move so the waste hay doesn't build up into a thick mushy mat.
Eight inch PVC pipe split lengthwise and screwed to 2 inch supports makes lightweight but sturdy trough feeders. They are very easy to clean. Make them well off the ground, about 6 inches and less bedding will be kicked into them.
In the background and in the following picture you can see our PVC mineral feeder. This one is made of 4 inch pipe but we are thinking of making one from 6 inch pipe to help the minerals flow better in humid weather.
The last picture shows the doorway to our kid creep feeder (the side panel has been removed for the photo). The actual door way is about 9 or 10 inches wide and almost a foot tall, cut in and arch through 1/2 inch plywood. Then a baffle is screwed to one side of the doorway. The baffle makes it so the kids have to bend their body in a fairly tight curve to get through the door. Adult does can't make the bend, but quite a few of them can easily wiggle through the door if the baffle is not in place.
If you have animals you have flies. Controlling them usually takes several approaches all working together. The first is reasonable cleanliness. Breaking the life cycle really helps the most, so cleaning the barn COMPLETELY every week (preferably every 4 days, but who can do that?!?) really controls the number of house and stable flies that use old damp bedding and manure as their nesting ground.
The next is SPREADING that manure, not heaping it up right outside the door. If you have a manure pile you have just moved the problem a few feet.
Next most of us use some sort of pesticide control. Now delivering that pesticide to where it does the most good AND keeps all of our animals safe can be a problem. Scatter baits work well for many people but the farm dog may find the rotten smell very enticing. Spraying the walls of the barn can work well too but many goats like to chew wood, again this may not be the option for you. Here's what Dan came up with, really cheap fly bait stations! Using an empty 2 liter plastic soda bottle, he cut windows into it leaving a cup at the bottom to hold the bait. Drill a small hole through the cap, insert a straightened coat hanger making a "U" bend on the underside of the cap to keep the coat hanger in place and hang the bait station from the rafters or eaves of your barn. Dan puts a square of paper towel in the bottom of the cup before putting in about a tablespoon of bait to make cleaning it out easier. They work best hung less than 6 feet from the ground and in a well lit area. The flies FLOCK to our little "death traps".
We keep our kidding supplies in a waterproof tackle box, ready at a moment's notice. We keep veterinary supplies in rolling plastic file cabinets. You can find them in any office supply store. Of course if you have small children you should keep these supplies in a more secure way.
An inexpensive digital postage scale (I got mine on eBay) is ideal for weighing newborns. Mine goes to 25 pounds in increments of 1/10th of an ounce. It has come in handy for keeping track of a weak kids' weight gains to be sure they are getting better.
Our maternity wards are made of hog panels that attach to the barn walls and have latching doors in front. Our does kid in their regular barn among friends and familiar surroundings.
We use rigid heat mats, often called hog mats, instead of heat lamps to keep winter born babies warm.
A wireless camera (from Radio Shack for about $100.00) saves many cold late night trips to the barn. The does don't get an unexpected visitor in the night and my feet stay warm. I am more inclined to check on things more often if I only have to look at the TV. Its also great for watching a shy new mother bond with her kids. She can pay attention to them instead of having to keep an eye on you. Dan and I often watch "Goat TV" while having our weekend breakfast. I can watch him feed the girls while I dress for work.
Our goats travel in climate controlled comfort in our "Caprine Limousine". The plywood platforms cover the wheel wells, allowing for more floor space for kennels, with lots of storage underneath for camp chairs, plastic feeders, pen barriers ("Buck Mats"), and our show kit. Six large (Size 400) Vari-Kennels will fit on the platform, Medium sized (Size 300) Vari-Kennels could be stacked on top of them, and strapped to prevent sliding. An extra large Vari-Kennel will fit on the floor between the driver's seat and the platform for that big big boy.
Without the platforms six large kennels can be stacked on one side with an extra large kennel in its usual place behind the driver. We have carried more than twenty goats this way. Hay bags keep hay bales neat and easy to handle, hay bags make feeding hay at the shows easy and efficient. We can carry 25 or more bales of hay in the van too. The load is safe from sudden rain storms and won't come loose on the highway. Cargo vans make fine farm trucks!
When the herd travels we can take along portable pen panels and can put a tarp over them using plastic fence posts secured to the corners of the pens for support. The pen panels are easily transported on a custom built carrier that fits in the trailer hitch on our "Caprine Limousine"