Saturday, March 7, 2015

Simple Hayfeeder

Being that it's the middle of the winter, my pastures aren't growing much. So when the grass gets low, I need to confine the livestock to the inner, unimproved area in order to protect the good pastures from being overgrazed. This means that I need to supplement with hay. This year I added two donkeys to the inventory which resulted in my pastures getting grazed down quicker than previously. Usually I don't run low on grazing until closer to May. But this year I found myself starting the first week of February, alternating every other day between the grass pasture and the inner non-grassed area where they are fed hay or hay cubes. Hum, I'm going to have to refine my pasture management for next year.  

Anyway, what to do to get through this spring. The easy fix was to supplement with hay. Expensive solution but available. The horse and donkeys get hay cubes, which they seem to prefer. While the sheep get baled hay. Oh, they like the alfalfa too but they tend to have difficulty with it and choke. So I want to keep them away from the cubes. With all the livestock sharing the inner pasture on grass-free days, I had to devise a way to segregate the feed. Luckily the equines go for the cubes over the baled hay. 

I use a trashcan for holding the hay cubes. The trashcan is secured to the fence so that it can't be knocked over. 

By dumping only one 50 lbs. bag of cubes into it, the sheep can't reach in and get to the cubes. 

None so far have figured out how to jump into the trashcan, thus the cubes are effectively out of the sheep's reach. But the equines can reach them easily. 

Now what to do about the baled hay. Sheep can be great wasters of hay. And hay around here cost me $45 a bale! I'm not inclined to see sheep pee, poop, and sleep on it. My first idea was to build a keyhole feeder. So I built one and it worked fine for the sheep until the horse got her head stuck in it. Luckily the mare didn't injure herself but she busted up the feeder by dragging it about until she freed herself. Rather than trying to separate the livestock by building additional corrals, I tried to come up with a simpler, quicker, cheaper a hurry. Dumping hay into the ground won't do. I tried putting the hay into a cement mixing tray. No good. Sheep just stood on the hay. I tried a tub like a bathtub. Sheep jumped in, pooped and peed on the hay. Two failures in 20 minutes. 

Watching the lambs sticking their heads through the fence trying to reach some dropped hay made a lightbulb go off in my head. Why not put the hay outside the fence? So I gave it a try to see how they handled it. The lambs and ewes were fine, but the rams couldn't get their heads through the fence, so they could only reach what was close. Quickly they ran out of reachable hay. Now if I could only keep the hay up against the fence, it should work. 

Raiding my trusty pallet stash, I brought four pallets over. Propped up by the fence, it looked like they could work, but the hay would drop between the slats. 
So two old feed sacks cut open and nailed to the pallets would prevent the hay from slipping through. What I quickly jimmyed together kept the hay up against the fence even as hay was being eaten. It just slid down the slanted pallet and right up against the wire. The ewes tended to eat the hay further away while the rams cleaned up the hay along the fence. 

I've been using thus method for 6 weeks now and have seen very, very little wastage. On top of it, the equines can also access this hay if they want to, without ruining it too. A simple solution that was easy, quick, and cheap. 

1 comment:

  1. Su Ba, you're so clever...! Sometimes the simplest solutions are brilliant ideas!