Fair Skies Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats, at All I Saw Farm, Wasilla, Alaska, 907.232.5414 or 907.441.1851
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Our setup

We get a lot of questions about how one sets up a property for goats.  The easiest answer is, "it's a learning process" and we have a lot more learning to do! In addition to the four stalls we already dedicated to goats in our old barn, a little while ago we built a new barn with a very small area for milking.  Hopefully these pictures can give you some ideas for your own setup.

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Updated 27 June 2010

Click here for an example of a list of goat supplies we regularly keep on hand. This list is more comprehensive than most, so you'll need to whittle through and find what works best for you.

 

Here is the basic structure going up.  It's a rib-style that is constructed one rib at a time and erected onto a base and later tied together.  You can see a few of the initial braces going in to help hold the ribs in place.  The base is treated wood so that it can be in contact with the ground.  Note that the exterior walls are solid 2" x and not plywood/OSB.  This will help insulate the building somewhat, since it will not have an auxiliary heat source beyond natural solar gain from the southern exposure and the animals' retained body heat or an occasional caged heat lamp for specific, focused warmth.  We faced this building to maximize southern exposure and minimize impact from the prevailing winds.  We also considered drainage and topography for the outdoor pens, as well as driving access for unloading feed to the adjacent storage containers & existing barn (not shown).

 

Here is the suspended floor going in.  We used rough-cut 2" x lumber because it's durable and affordable.  Over time, it will develop a patina and a smoother surface that will be easier and easier to clean.  Note that we spaced the floorboards like decking to allow liquid to drain through.  The photo on the right depicts one stall nearly finished.  As you will see in later photos, there will eventually be an externally-mounted feeder on the right wall, a top to the dutch door, gable vents, and maybe even a door on the back wall leading to the milking/dairy room.

 

On the left, here is the nearly-finished building in the middle of winter.  You can see that it needs paint! Note that we used adjustable pier blocks so we could re-level the building come spring.  On the right, here is the building after it was leveled in the spring.  In this photo, we are still in the process of back-filling around the adjustable pier blocks to minimize drafts coming up through the floor.

       

Here it is all painted up!  Note the long eaves.  In the summer, these eaves create shade and protection from overheating as the sun stays high above the eave level for the better part of the day.  In the winter, the sun is lower on the horizon, staying below the eaves to help heat the barn during the daylight hours.  Note that the eaves are open to ensure adequate ventilation year 'round.

 

In the center of the building we have a humble dairy room.  No plumbing, heating, or electricity here, just an extension cord from the house to give me a few necessities. I have a single light, a baby monitor to listen from the house, and a radio to help the chores pass more quickly.  We have official, calibrated, DHI hanging scales, milk stands (one is wood with a washable rubber mat floor, the other is a taller, collapsible PVC stand that makes clipping and hoof trimming easier), and my handy-dandy, portable bucket seat, proving that you don't need much to milk a few goats! In late 2009, we added a two-goat milker and boy do we love it now that we have over a dozen goats to milk twice a day, with many more to come! (We take our milk indoors to filter and chill and we wash our milker in the house after each milking.)

Here is a picture of our PVC milk stand.  We built this by modifying two other plans we found online.  It breaks down flat into six pieces.

 

Of note, although we have mounts for grain feeders on our milk stands, we have taken to training the girls to milk without grain or treats.  In our opinion, this makes for a calmer, more even experience and encourages the doe to chew her cud as she relaxes and lets her milk down.  We find it advantageous to feed grain after milking once the does are returned to their stall, especially considering that cud chewing buffers the gut before grain is introduced to the rumen.  We also find that we don't run into issues of sudden bad behavior when the feeder is empty before the milking is done.  Three of our 2009 milkers and several of our 2010 milkers were first-fresheners and they're just as cooperative as the more experienced does.  We're very fortunate to have such agreeable goats (even if they didn't all start out that way).

   

In the winter, we drop the ceiling to about 6 feet tall so that when it's very cold, the heat is retained in a smaller area, keeping the animals more comfortable.  You can see the supports here for the plywood we mount when temperatures are consistently below freezing.  It's a very simple process of laying the plywood on these supports.  Note that we added a 2" x 4" down the center to avoid bowing or sagging of the plywood.  Because the supports are mounted on the inside of the studs, the open eaves ensure adequate ventilation remains year 'round, even with the dropped ceiling in place.  In the summer, the plywood is either removed or pushed out of the way, leaving a gap of at least a few inches along the back wall to facilitate adequate air-flow.

     

Here we have mounted a water bucket on the wall to keep contamination to a minimum. To help the goats reach the water, we provided a block upon which the goats step up to drink.  This helps keep the water clean and minimizes the likelihood of tipping and spilling.  Note that the flat brackets we used come in plastic and metal and flat and corner versions.  The buckets we're using are molded, flexible rubber so they are easy to clean and rid of winter ice build-up without breaking.  Note that these buckets have an overhang on the front arch, but not on the rear flat side.  This means we cannot mount the flat edge of the bucket on the lip provided on the bracket to further stabilize the bucket.  The simple solution to utilize this feature is to turn the bucket around so that the flat side is out and the round side is against the wall. On the farthest right photograph, we have an alternative hanger that fits over a 2" x 4". There are also similar hanging hooks that we use in other stalls (not picture).

 

Here is the interior view of the two-sided feeder.  Note regarding bedding: What you're seeing in the photos above is fine shavings over a wood floor (the wood floors are shown earlier on the page).  Usually we try get coarser shavings, but that particular day we had the finer type.  When it's very cold or when we're kidding, we use straw over the top of shavings.

Here we have the grain feeders (left) mounted on the wall opposite of the hay feeder (on right, out of view).  These are 6-quart, plastic mini-feeders designed to hang on a fence panel or milk stand.  We installed a 2" x 2" flush with the open studs upon which we can hang two feeders side-by-side in the 24" o.c. opening.  Twice daily, after milking, we fill these for our milkers in lieu of feeding grain on the milk stand.  Since they are removable and plastic, we can easily clean them between feedings.  We also use these feeders for loose minerals, salt, and other dosed supplements.  Note regarding bedding: What you're seeing in the photo above is fine shavings over a wood floor (the wood floors are shown earlier on the page).  Usually we try get coarser shavings, but that particular day we had the finer type.  When it's very cold or when we're kidding, we use straw over the top of shavings.



Here are some photos of the finished stalls (some of the photos show the stalls when the greenhouse glazing was removed temporarily for painting). The first three photos show the larger, west stall and the last photo shows the smaller, east stall.

 

Here is a design we borrowed from Boreas Acres for weatherized, guillotine, goat doors.  Note regarding bedding: What you're seeing in the photo above is fine shavings over a wood floor (the wood floors are shown earlier on the page).  Usually we try get coarser shavings, but that particular day we had the finer type.  When it's very cold or when we're kidding, we use straw over the top of shavings.

   
   

The flap is a 3/8" x 24" x 24", heavy-duty, truck, mud flap (available from NAPA or other similar auto parts stores), heavy-duty hinges, wood screws, machine-screw bolts with washers and caps, and an OSB/plywood guillotine door secured with rope and a mariner's/nautical belaying cleat.

Mounted on the outside of the building, the mat is heavy enough rubber to hang straight and mostly closed in times of inclement weather, but it is flexible enough for the animals to manipulate.  It takes a little time for the goats to learn to pull the edge of the mat up when they are going from outside to inside, but they generally catch-on within a couple of days, especially if you prop it open for them for a few hours a day while they learn that it's OK to travel through the opening in the first place.  Usually one or two goats learn the process and the others follow suit shortly thereafter.

The hinges keep the animals from tearing the mat over time and it makes it easier for the animals to push their way through in either direction.  The wood screws properly secure the hinges to the building.  The machine-screw bolts with washers and caps properly secure the mat to the hinge and protect the animals from sharp edges.  If the caps come loose too often, you can secure them with a little clear nail polish on the bolt threads.  We don't recommend using super glue, though.

The OSB/plywood guillotine door is installed in a small channel that allows it to slide up and down but not to be pushed in or out.  The rope allows for easy opening and closing (lifting and dropping) of the door.  The cleat gives you an out-of-reach place to easily secure the door in the open position or hold the extra rope out of the way when the door is in the closed position.  A simple cleat hitch is a speedy way to secure the door and it doesn't take much practice to perfect.  (There's an even easier way to finish the hitch: at the very end when you are going to pass the end of the rope under the prior figure-8, instead just simply make your final loop and turn it *under* instead of *over*.  This automatically places the end of the rope under the last pass.  Repeat at least once so that the rope is doubly secure and the door won't slip and close on the goats or unintentionally trap anyone in/out away from water or shelter.  Of course this is a good reason to always provide access to food, water, and shelter on both sides of the door.  We do this with a feeder that opens from both sides, an extra water bucket in the outdoor pen (in addition to the buckets in the stall), and a Dogloo dog house in the outdoor pen to provide shelter.

 

Here you can see we've added some outdoor pens.  The pens are built with combo panels mounted on t-posts and treated wood corners where we have gates mounted.

 

Here you can see what we mean by providing a two-sided feeder and Dogloos for auxiliary shelter.  Here the feeders are shown in the open position.  When the goats are confined to their stalls, we close the outer door on these feeders to retain heat, protect the feed from inclement weather, and keep the smaller goats from crawling through to the outside pen.

 
 

Note that the feeders are under the eaves, for added protection from the elements.  Snow does not accumulate on the slick, metal roof so this helps minimize the danger while feeding.

 

The feeder runs the length of the stall wall so that there is plenty of room for everyone to eat at once.  This minimizes fighting and dominance issues.  The feeders are a trough style with slats, requiring the goats to place their head into the feeder to eat once the initial hay is eaten down some.  This helps retain the feed within the feeder, display the feed for easy access, and minimize waste.  The greenhouse glazing also provides protection from wet weather so feed does not readily spoil.  It is also our opinion that the bright daylight coming through the greenhouse glazing on the top and outer front of the feeder helps attracts the goats to the feed, especially in times of low light (morning and evening).  In the winter, this also helps maximize light exposure to the animals when they are confined to the stall.  In times of direct sunlight, the glazing helps warm the stall and creates a welcoming place for smaller goats to collect.  The kids often use the feeders as creep feeders but because the feeders open on two sides and are accessible from a third side, they are easy to clean and provide a safe get away, so we do not discourage this behavior.

The finished building measures about 8' wide by 24' long (excluding eave overhangs).  Total retail cost in rural Alaska for this building's materials and hardware, plus delivered pit run for fill was about $2,300 in 2008-2009.  Most of the building could be constructed by one person, but it goes a lot faster (and is easier to do) with two capable adults (and the proper tools).



Things we have added to our to-do list or that we would do differently on the next building:

Paint interior white & exterior to match other buildings.
Add gable vents.
Use greenhouse glazing instead of OSB/plywood on top of dutch doors.
Add OSB/plywood to make all doors sheer to avoid climbing of doors.
Install doorways between dairy room and stalls.  Add door to dairy room doorway to keep weather/animals out/goats in and better facilitate milking.
Mount motion- and photo-sensitive lights on outside.
Expand outdoor pens.
Add two strands of electric to outdoor pens to keep predators out.
Hang bird netting over outdoor pens to keep birds of prey out.
Add greenhouse lighting to stalls.
Change feeder design to ensure wider loading space.  Make larger feeder front match smaller feeder (more greenhouse glazing, less OSB/plywood.
Do a better job of building things level, plumb, and square so roofing fits better.
Consider insulating/buffering roof for sound.
Leave overhang on both ends of the building.
Build slightly wider building to allow for more, uncluttered sleeping areas for the animals.
Build walls slightly taller or roof with less of a pitch so that the eaves are not quite so low (creates head danger for taller people, especially during winter when snow builds up).
Space floorboards a bit more apart in one stall, a bit closer in the other, to facilitate drainage but minimize heat & bedding loss.
Add climbing/loafing shelves or an outdoor-mounted box like the feeders for entertainment, to create more room for animals, or to create "safe area" for smaller goats (like a creep feeder).  Place feeders & doors in more appropriate layout to better accommodate this.
Design a mount for the water buckets on the outside of the building (like the feeders) so the goats must put their head through to drink and they cannot easily fowl or dump the water.
Build larger dairy room, add a small feed storage area, or design a room that can do double duty but still provide secure feed storage so animals cannot get into feed.
Consider adding gutters.
Add permanent power source to barn(s).

And now some pictures of our old barn. . .

We are located at 's No Rest, Wasilla soon to be Juneau, Alaska!
Our mailing address is PO Box 22189, Juneau, AK 99802

You may email us at: H.Fair@hotmail.com

You may call us at:
907.232.5414 (local call from Mat-Su, watch for new Juneau number)
or 907.441.1851 (local call from Anchorage)
Please note the current time in Alaska (we are 4 hours BEHIND the East Coast of the United States).


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