A Cautionary Tale

This is a cautionary tale. The outcome could have been much different. However, this is a story of but, thankfully.

For five years, the goat pasture was enclosed with an electric mesh fence, specifically designed for goats and chickens. It kept them in and it kept predators out. It was movable, so that sections of the pasture were grazed while others were left to grow the sort of browse that the goats love. Also, rotating pasture reduces the parasite load. But, there were downsides. When the ground was hard, the stakes were impossible to stomp into the earth. In the winter, it had to be taken up. So, last fall, I splurged on a permanent woven wire fence around the perimeter of the pasture.  But, I still wanted to manage the forage so I used the net fence to block off areas. The electricity didn’t reach out to that part of the pasture, but no matter, if the goats knocked the fence down, they’d just get a bit extra to eat. This worked perfectly for several months.

pasture management


The other day, after lunch, I went out to the yard to take some photographs of flowers. I noticed that Caper was near the barn, but not Pip. They’re always together. This is the first but, thankfully. Here’s the thing – no matter how busy or distracted you are, always, ALWAYS pay attention to your animals. Know them so well, that even if it is a peaceful and beautiful afternoon, that if something, even a little something, seems off, go and see what is up. Drop everything.

I put down my camera and I looked around the barn. Pip had his foot stuck in the netting. Thankfully, it was a gorgeous day and the kitchen door was open. Thankfully both of my sons were home. Thankfully, one was eating lunch just inside of that kitchen door. I yelled for help. It wasn’t an emergency, but it always helps to have a second pair of hands when a hundred pound goat has a foot tangled in a fence.

To get to Pip, I had to go into the barn, open and close a stall door, and go down a small hill. It took forty seconds to reach him, and in that short span of time, the situation had changed. He was down and five strands of wire-reinforced nylon fencing were wrapped around his neck. His tongue was sticking out. He couldn’t breathe.

Goats are like this. If they can get into a trouble, and then multiply that trouble by a factor of ten, they will.

I yelled Get the scissors! I yelled that from the hill, out of sight of the house. But, thankfully, the boys heard me. Thankfully, they knew where the scissors were. Thankfully, I have very, very good scissors in the kitchen knife drawer. Thankfully, my boys ran.

Meanwhile, I was doing my best to pull the fence away from Pip’s neck so that he could breathe. I was handed the scissors and I cut him free.

Pip stood up. Looked at me. Looked at the boys. Stepped over the fence (as if the fence wasn’t a danger to him at all) and started grazing on the long grass that he’d been trying to get to in the first place. Goats are like that.

I checked him all over. Not a laceration, or a bruise, or a lump.



My sons helped me take down the mesh fence. I won’t be using it anymore.


My goat mentor tells me that she’s had goats strung up in any number of ways. Some of her stories include broken bones, and worse. Goats are ridiculously fun to have around, but that fun comes with a flip side – if they can get into a predicament, they will.

I’m often asked, about the chickens and the goats, Can you leave them for a weekend? The answer is no. Sure, you could set them up with enough food and water. but, someone has to check in on them. The water could tip over. A predator could come by. A goat could get a hoof tangled in a fence. You never know.

I still get a pit in my stomach when I think about what could have been. But, thankfully, I was in the right place at exactly the right time, and I was paying attention. This story, this time, ended up okay.


  1. I am so glad the ending was a good one. Recently my daughter noticed the chickens all looked spooked and were hiding under things instead of wandering around the yard free roaming. She looked out further toward the coop and there was a coyote heading off into the field with a chicken in it’s mouth. :-( We rounded the remaining chickens up and closed them in the coop yard before we could loose any more. Ugh.

  2. Sooo happy that the story had such a wonderful ending!!
    Our sheep have been in the same predicament and It is scary!
    I had a Ram(over 180 lbs) that decided to play with the garden hose hanging on the wall, well the hose almost won! If I wasn’t there and paying attention it would have been a disaster!!

  3. Can you please do a sort of Essentials For Goatkeeping post? Learned so much about chicken keeping from you, and we are currently interesting in getting a few goats. Love your blog!

    • I feel confident giving chicken advice because I’ve had many hens over the last twenty years, and I’ve spent the last ten years learning all that I can about them. I’m not such an expert on goats. I’ve only had Pip and Caper, and only for five years. I’m not expert enough to advise others. A good website to start learning about goats is Fiasco Farm (well named!)

  4. Terry, what do you mean by “rotating pasture reduces a parasite load”? Glad Pip ok.

    • Goats, like all animals, can get internal parasites. Few drugs effectively kill them, and used too often, the parasites become resistant to the chemicals. So, it’s prudent to use management techniques to interrupt the parasites’ life cycles. Most of the parasites emerge out of the soil and climb up grasses – but it turns out that they only climb so high. So, if goats browse on tall forage, they eat above the parasite line. The best thing for goats it to graze in a field that is knee-high and above. If you can keep the animals off of the pasture until it is overgrown, that reduces the parasite load inside of the animal.

  5. Oh my, the goat drama never ends! So glad they are both in one piece. The girls often run away screaming from something in the garden (even a leaf floating by) but I always go to check – just in case…..

  6. Llama drama, sheep shenanigans, chicken capers … I couldn’t see life with out them!!

  7. Goats are always interesting…We had white dairy goats when I was a kid, they were always into something…as a side comment, I wanted to tell you I tried your pie crust recipe in your new book. It was easy and turned out wonderful…My 3 year old grandaughter helped me(a little too much at times) . I have struggled with crust recipes. Mine are usually tough, but this was flaky, and tender… I am enjoying ” The Farmstead Egg Guide and Cookbook” . Many thanks, Terry!

  8. That is one scary story and with a happy ending. Thank goodness your boys were around and you have them well trained! They didn’t just holler out and ask “What’s the matter?” Quite an adrenaline rush.

  9. So thankful all turned out well. As with all emergencies the bad part is having that feeling of first coming upon the disaster. It just stays in your mind. Especially when it is a beloved goat.

  10. Oh my gosh. I actually broke out in a cold sweat reading this story. I am SO thankful that things ended well. More proof that people should always listen to their intuition.

  11. I’m so glad this was a happy ending! My Dad has told me a story where they had a young goat when he was a child.. the goat found her way out of the pen and got wrapped up in a rope in the yard. Poor thing had already strangled herself when they found her =(

  12. I am so glad this story had a happy ending and well done you and your boys. It’s so good when you can work together in an emergency and save the day. It’s better not to dwell on might have been but think that quick action and knowing your animals is key.

  13. Whew, those ‘just in time’ things leave you gasping. Soooo glad it turned out okay. And add to the warning signs – silence. If you have animals and hear nothing – run.

  14. Yikes! Glad you were home!! I’m sure you are too…

    So what will you use now for temporary/portable fencing? I’ve got a few angora goats and I’ve used similar electrified netting like you had. I’m curious what you’ll use now.

    • The electric netting is good IF it is on and IF the charge is very strong – because of how goats are built, they can withstand quite the shock. But, if the fence is off, they’ll quickly know it… I will be saving up to pay for more woven wire fencing – I’ll divide the pasture in two, and let one side rest while the goats graze on the other half. (Thank you to everyone who supports me with “coffee” money. It is now going into the “improved goat fencing fund”!)

    • Oh, my gosh. You have wonderful boys. So glad to hear the three of you make such a good team when it really counts, and that Pip is fine. Whew!

  15. Good God Terry! Am so THANKFUL the little dude is OK..you are right…they are like KIDS..you cannot leave them alone without checking constantly. Happy for this outcome!

  16. Maybe not quite a Lassie moment but I’m glad that Caper didn’t stay near Pip. Caper saves the day (!) with the help of his Goat Maid and boys. I’m glad that everyone is safe and sound.

    • You’re right! The opposite of Lassie. “oh, my brother is in trouble. I’ll just leave now.” :) Actually – since I saw Caper looking towards me, perhaps he was hoping for help :)

  17. So grateful everyone is ok! Take care, Terry! Thanks again for all you do!! Heather

  18. Golly! Glad he’s okay. And so glad we are reading a cautionary tale, not a tragedy.

    Here’s my cautionary tale:

    I’ve always heard that cats can be left alone for a few days with food and water. But… We were remodeling our house in Massachusetts, doing a complete tearout. We got a phone call that required an instant emergency trip to Maine so we left the cat with kibble and water in several bowls, enough for two weeks, at least. When we returned five days later, kitty insisted she was staaaaaarving! No food in any bowl. Later, when we removed the stove we discovered a nest of mice, babies and all, and a huge cache of kitty kibble. We put the nest outside, far from the house. And we never ever left the cat alone again. By the way, that cat never, in all her twenty-one years, ever killed a mouse.

    • When my neighbor would go on vacation I would go over daily and feed and water her cat.
      One winter I went in and the house was like walking into a Midwestern summer. It was hot!!!
      I checked the thermostat it was set on 90 (as high as it would go).
      Apparently the cat had jumped up to snag the thermostat (which was one of the older round type with a dial) in some type of play motion and sent it to 90 degrees.
      According to the neighbor the cat loved to jump up and “attack” light switches as well.