November 1, 2010

Sheep and hay feeder
Photo by Sue Weaver
Louie the sheep nibbles hay from the feeder attached to the baby rams’ fence.

Dad gets mad when we goats and sheep pull hay out of conventional feeders, then fling it around, dropping most of it on the ground. Once feed hits the ground, it’s automatically dirty, and we won’t eat it—yuck! Sometimes Mom picks it up and puts it back in the feeder, but we aren’t fooled. Goats and sheep are smart! Then she rakes it up while muttering about “expensive, perfectly clean hay,” and she gives it to the horses, who scarf it down. Horses aren’t gourmets, I guess.

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So, Dad invented a cheap, easy-to-make hay feeder that works for all kinds of livestock—even goats—as long as your fences are made of woven wire or cattle panels. Here’s how to make one if you want to.

  1. Find or buy a piece of cattle panel with openings, then decide how big your feeder should be. Dad made one two whole panels long across the front of the Boer goats’ paddock but used bolt cutters to snip the third panel into pieces for smaller groups.
  2. Then he used carabiner clips to fasten the panel to the outside of the fence. (If you put it on the inside, horned animals could get stuck in the open end.) He placed carabiners at the top, middle, and bottom of each side and one (or more if the panel is really long) at the bottom. He started with cheap aluminum carabiners from the dollar store, but they wear out too fast, so as they break, he’s replacing them with heavy-duty carabiners.
  3. Finally, Dad pulled the panel just far enough away from the fence to stuff it full of hay one flake thick. The panel holds the hay firmly in place, so we can’t fling it around and wastes it. The animals in the pen eat through the fence and anybody on the outside can eat through the piece of panel.

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