Constructing a Goat Proof Natural Hedge Fence

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2014: $1,370.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Christine Kocourek
Floppy Ear Farm, LLC

Annual Reports


  • Fruits: apples, plums
  • Animals: bovine, goats


  • Animal Production: animal protection and health, grazing management, grazing - multispecies, housing
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement, hedgerows
  • Production Systems: holistic management, organic agriculture
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures


    Hedges have been used for centuries in England to contain livestock. The point of the project was to construct a natural goat-proof hedge to act as a barrier fence, provide a wind break, and create a natural separation from surrounding non-organic farm land.

    As we discovered, there's a reason the British government has regulations in effect to protect  hedgerows in their country  - chiefly, it probably takes decades for a hedge to reach maturity. They're protecting hedges that have been grown since the 1800s and even earlier.

    Looking at our baby hedge and its growth, I suspect it won't be able to contain any sort of livestock for at least ten years.

    Project objectives:

    The hedge has not reached any sort of density. The hawthorn is starting to spread from its base but has not spread more than 4" either way of its planting hole.

    Species selection
    We created the hedge with 90% hawthorn and 10% wild fruit trees. All plants were hard hit by rodents, but especially the fruit trees. Recommendations would be to plant the fruit trees in tubes. It would be difficult to plant the hawthorn in a tube as it spreads quickly, particularly if damaged near the base as many of ours were the 1st winter. The hawthorns have proven to be resiliant and the majority of them grew back from their roots, even when their bark was ringed by rodents.

    We have a lilac hedge we've planted which has been established for fifteen years. Looking at that hedge and the planting density, I think lilac would be enough to contain the large animals like the cows, mules, and llama. These plants were free - they spread quick and we dug them out of other areas. The lilacs were planted about 12" apart. This hedge is at least 6 feet wide.

    We also have a hybrid willow hedge we've planted which has been established for ten years. That could possibly contain animals if planted much closer together. We planted the willows at 1.5 foot distance from each other. This type of hedge does not appear to spread much from its base.

    The benefit of the hawthorn, of course, are their thorns to deter the animals' overgrazing.

    The hawthorn has not reached a size yet to test whether the livestock would enjoy eating them.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.