Hay Feeders


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Like most others who raise goats, feeding hay efficiently has presented us with some problems over the years.  We started with small square bales which were easy to handle but way too expensive for us.  We worked our way through various methods of handling big round bales until we graduated to a tractor big enough to move them comfortably but we still had our problems with the method of presentation to the goats.

We tried just setting the bales in the pasture and then we tried unrolling them.  Both cost way too much in wasted hay.  We then tried setting a bale in the field and putting a ring around it made of cattle panel.  Besides getting their heads stuck, the goats jumped onto the bale and down inside the panel when they made a little room.  We tightened the diameter of the ring and used smaller sized squares in the panel.   We decided this method just was not for us when we found our herd sire upside down, wedged between the hay and the panel.  We had to cut the panel to release him, he was really wedged. 

Then we tried feeding the goats from above by placing utility panel horizontally about five feet off the ground and putting hay on it.  We still wasted a lot and loose hay falling on the goats tended to irritate their eyes.

Finally we found the right way for us to feed hay to goats.  It may not be the right way for you but we thought we'd share it because getting to this point was very frustrating.  We'll tell you up front that this is a relatively labor intensive method because it involves storing the hay outside of the goat yard and forking it into the feeders.

First of all, hay loss begins with hay storage.  We store our big round bales outdoors and lose very little.  We initially used pallets to keep the hay off the ground and they did the job pretty well but we still lost more hay to rot than we wanted to.  We went to truck tires which any truck tire shop will gladly give you from their pile of bad tires.  The first year we tried this we just set the hay on the tire and lost more than ever before to rot because the tires stored moisture and channeled it up into the bales.  We found that a 22.5" truck tire has a center opening that is a perfect fit for the top of a 55 gallon drum while a 24.5" tire will let the top fall inside of it.  We then used only 22.5" tires with the top of a 55 gallon laid in the center at the rate of one per bale with the bale set on its side.  We lose practically no hay at all storing the bales and have actually found the bales are almost as good the second year as they were the first although we try to keep hay only one year.

We move the individual bales to the location where they'll be used and tip them on end and cover them with a piece of tarp held on with bungee cords.  As the hay is needed, we unroll from the bale and fork it over the fence into the feeders.  The exception to this is that the feeders in the barn are under cover and too far away to fork the hay so we fork the hay into a cart and then again into the feeders.  The work involved here is not excessive but we're pretty sure that someone determined could cut that labor through jury rigging some kind of conveyer from the bale to the feeder; it just hasn't been worth the effort for us.

The feeders themselves are made of four inch utility panels cut into ten foot lengths.  Most of ours are framed with one inch square tubing and can be used for gates or feeders.  We put two into a "V" arrangement and tie them together with small pieces of panel on the ends, otherwise the goats get inside of them.  There is still some hay loss but relatively little as the main gravity pull on the hay is down and the hay settles into the feeder,  The goats pull out what they want and don't lose much because they cannot get large quantities with one bite.  They still drop some but it's a relatively small amount.  We did find that the more vertical the panels are, the less waste there is.  You have to find the most effective compromise for you between totally vertical sides which do not allow for any hay and sides tipped too far toward the horizontal which allow for plenty of hay but too much waste.

Here are pictures of different ways we have done the feeders on our farm.  Notice that the top two pictures show the feeders tied into the barn support posts while the bottom two show the perimeter fencing as one side of the feeder while the utility panel forms the side where the goats eat.  You can also see that both pieces of utility panel  and four foot gates can be used as ends.  We found that one vertical side and one tipped side worked well for us.



Dan & Paula Lane
Copyright 2005 [Bountiful Farm]. All rights reserved.

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