Thursday, October 11, 2007

Managing my Hay

So, since this drought has gone on for so long we have worked very hard to "manage" our hay appropriately. I mean---when you can't even steal a bale of hay because it's so scarce have to care for what you have.
Waste---especially of hay is always an issue. All livestock love to walk, climb, fling, roll in, run through, and poop on their hay. I don't know why but there you have it.
Round bales come under particularly aggressive attack---probably because they are big and don't get eaten as fast, but small squares are not really that much safer from the "waste fairies".
For a long time we didn't have to worry about hay and so we didn't really care about the waste. The bales were only $25 dollars for about a 650 to 800 pound round bale. Need a new one?---just drive down the road a mile or so and pick up a new one. Or just across town about 10 minutes away there were even nicer rounds. So, though we did try and keep the animals from completely destroying them it was inevitable that eventually some of it did get wasted.
Last year the weather started to show it's true colors and we became a bit more conservative with hay feeding since it became a bit harder, though not impossible, to find hay. Rounds were tarped in the driveway and fed out in small piles or stuffed into moveable fence panels tied to the regular fence. Square bales too were fed out in small piles or stuffed between the two fences like filling in a pita pocket.
As we moved into summer though and we were STILL feeding hay----we really began to give serious thought to how to feed the hay through summer then on into the winter so that NO hay was wasted. By now hay had become and will remain difficult to find. If you do find it---it's pricey. We now can only get square bales for $7.50 each---though I heard they went up since last we bought. That's $7.50 for just a measly little 70pounds of hay. You do the math in comparison to what we used to pay. Also---though I only have to feed out not quite one bale worth of hay a day I will have to feed more as it gets colder and there is no green grass left to help supplement.
So, after deciding it had become somewhat imperative that we design a hay feeder of some sort I stumbled on the two sided feeder that premier 1 sheep/livestock supplier had on their web site---it's in the downloadable instructions/chart section.
Well, after all my procrastinating for years now---someone should smack me. This feeder was so easy to build that I did the first one, which was the bigger one, in about 3 1/2 hours by myself. The second, though smaller one made by my husband and I for the rams was even quicker. Somebody kick us for being lazy! I tell you what! And wow! how easy to put hay in to it instead of trying to stuff it between two fences. Humph!---how disappointing that it took so long to become aware of this "labor saver" of a feeder.
Also, as a really great bonus---it has a "trough" area that can be used for grain or alfalfa cubes without any spilling. Since it's so stable and part of the whole unit--they can't knock it over while they fuss and fight amongst their selves during feeding. That part is o.k for my ewes----but a huge (HUGE) convenience for the rams who bash around so much during feeding of grains or cubes that most of the feed in lower troughs or bowls gets spilled and smashed into the ground.

And cheap! though we did already have a livestock panel specifically for goats/sheep that we had purchased at Tractor supply for $25 dollars---the wood was very cheap. (small aside to those who try this---we own very large bolt cutters that make easy work of cutting the 16 foot panels to the correct sizes). We even used some of our scrap lumber pile for the bigger one so total cost for it was under $50---most of it being the part of the goat panel we used. The smaller one obviously was cheaper though we did have to buy new wood for some of it---but it used the leftover part of the goat panel in it.
I wish I had built this years ago because not only is it easy to feed hay in but it also keeps the fleeces much nicer than the way we had been doing it. We spent much less time picking VM (vegetable matter), specifically hay, out of the fleeces after we sheared this summer.

There are two issues that we now need to address to make this feeder fit us even better.
One: A roof. The feeder needs some sort of roof that is easily moved, lifted off,or tipped so hay can easily be put in and it could then be used in an open area of a pasture. Both of ours are under cover---the big one is used to divide our "catch pen" and the smaller is under the new chicken coop addition.
Two: Wheels. Wheels and maybe a hitch of some sort, along with a roof would make it easy to move the feeder from pasture to pasture or just around a pasture so they don't "beat down" the grass in one area.

So here are the pictures. The last one shows how we dealt with the open end of the smaller hay feeder. It also allows one more animal to eat at that end. Plus an extra picture of my now healthy Princess (with hay hanging off her face and body!)

Good day all---here's to rain


Woody said...

I like the design...simple and very cost effective

Michelle said...