Ruminants like goats need to be pretty much constantly eating or chewing their cud for energy. During the warm and dry months they can mostly graze pasture with only supplemental feeding for the milkers and a little hay to balance everyone else’s rumens. The winter months when they’re housed in the barn is a different story, with the whole herd needing to be fed almost exclusively hay.
We’ve tried a couple of different types of feeders over the years, from hanging bags and welded wire to free standing feeders. While these solutions were fine when the herd was small, we found that they had some shortcomings as the number of goats we had to feed increased.
After some searching around, we settled on the Premier One Single-Sided Feeder design which you can download from here.
The plans are pretty straightforward and you don’t need any specialized power tools beyond a jigsaw and a drill gun. The designs themselves are relatively economical with the number and dimensions of cuts, minimizing time and wastage. With all of the necessary parts we were able to assemble them in less than a day.
These feeders have the following advantages:
- Low cost
- Easy to repair
- Less wastage
- Loaded from outside the pen
The designs are sturdy and with minimal modifications we were able to incorporate them into our existing barn setup. Since the livestock guardian dogs (Boo Boo and Ellie) live in the barn with the does, we needed to add more height and crossbeams to the front posts to stop them from climbing over. We also added extra height to the side panels as the Nigerian Dwarfs are small enough to get their heads through.
We’ve been using these feeders in the barn for over a year now and are pretty pleased with their performance.
The next challenge was a hay feeder for the buck herd’s new pen. Given the layout of their new area, we decided to build one of the double sided models and place it under a ShetlerLogic corral shelter. Even though the total of 16′ of trough was more than enough for our 8 bucks and 2 Toggenburg wethers, the boys can get a little pushy at dinner time so we figured the extra elbow room would be better for everyone.
The instructions for this are a little more complicated than the single sided feeder as you need to attach the floor from underneath instead of from above so you need to pay close attention. The instructions also suggest a simple way to square up the sides of the feeder by laying them out on the plywood sheet before cutting it down to size. While you could also screw them to the board to hold them in place whilst assembling, I found that it was easy enough to just eyeball it.
The feeders are quite economical, depending on lumber prices, with the most expensive part being the welded wire feeder inserts from Premier One, which go for about $40 each. All up, an 8′ single sided feeder shouldn’t cost more than $200 including the inserts and a double sided feeder about $290. If you compare this to the Tarter Mini Feeder which is quite popular then building it yourself is quite a bit cheaper per foot of feeding area, but more importantly you can customize it for the needs of your specific farm. The other advantage of these feeders is the goats can’t jump inside them and nest in the hay.
The fully assembled feeder is pretty heavy, so you may find it easier to put the wire panels and the end panels on in-situ or as close as you can get to its final location. On the plus side this means it’s very unlikely that it will get knocked over or moved out of place by the bucks, although I’m sure they’ll give it the old college try.
Of all the ways we’ve tried feeding hay these are our favorite. Feeding hay is one of our biggest expenses and they are key to reducing the waste.