Updated: Feb 16
Hay is probably the most expensive feed items that goats require to not only survive but to thrive on a small homestead where browse may not be plentiful.
The search for a no-waste kind of feeder began early on in our goat raising endeavour.
We began with a hay feeder we picked up at a farm store and quickly found that was not going to work - the goats were pulling huge pieces of the hay onto the ground and once hay hits the floor, it becomes bedding once their little hooves touch it.
Hay prices in our area had soared from $5 to $6/bale to over $10.00/a bale and that was for grass hay because of the high volume of rain we had that year. Like most things, the better quality the hay, the higher the cost and goats are very picky eaters, they want a good quality, nutritious forage served to them. Goat's rumens require they have access to an adequate amount of forage or hay in their diet to live and to stay healthy.
In search of a better hay feeder, we bought another hay feeder at a farm store that said it was for goats. That feeder was another hay waster and not going to work. We were blowing through bales of hay like dandelion seeds in the wind! We had to find a hay feeder that prevented so much waste. I was really getting tired of cleaning up all the wasted hay. That was hard, miserable work!
We began searching online for alternative style feeders. We saw feeders made from wood, cut barrels, garbage cans, laundry baskets and hay bags. Each one raised concern for us whether it was a safety issue, cleaning issue, limitation or an aesthetic issue, each was discounted but we kept searching while watching our hay quickly disappear out of the feeders and onto the floor.
Finally we began to look back at some of the designs we had originally dismissed because goats could get into the feeder and the holes of the feeder were the same as what we already were using that were from "goat panels". We had to slow the waste down - it was really ridiculous losing that much hay.
We liked the designs but weren't so keen on the metal panels that the goat panels we found available all had the 3"x 4" holes - too much hay gets pulled out and ends up as bedding from that size hole. The holes needed to be a little smaller.
We began looking for smaller metal grates we could use for the goats to pull hay from which we felt was a huge design flaw in most of the available hay feeders. We finally found a steel panel grid that would work in the funniest of places - the garage shelving department at a big box store. Here is a photograph of the panels we used:
The panels we found were less than $6.00 per 28-3/16" x 23-3/4" panel. Our largest hay feeder cost was less that $25.00 so that too was a winner.
The feeder below is a medium sized hay feeder that we are using in the smaller stalls. We put a lid on each feeder with a hook and eye to hold the lid up for easy filling.
We've been extremely happy with the reduction in hay waste. We remove any built up hay stems in the trough part every couple of days and we've even begun using
the bottom tray as a feeder for the pellets we feed.
We have now had the new hay feeders installed for over 2 weeks now and I can say with confidence we have finally found a solution to the excessive hay waste we were experiencing over the past two previous years.
Many of the hay feeders we built were made from leftover lumber - 2 x 4's we ripped down to 2" x 2", plywood sides and tops, 1" x 12" bottom boards and 1" x 6" lips on the fronts. Even so, the cost of building the feeders are well worth it in the savings we will gain from saving all of the the wasted hay.
Here you can see the largest hay feeder we made for the doe pen. The hay feeder is 7' long and can easily feed 6 to 8 goats at a time.
After using this feeder for the last two weeks, we can wholeheartedly recommend this homemade hay feeder that actually prevents any massive wasting of hay as we were previously experiencing.
It will be interesting to compare the hay consumption of previous hay deliveries to our hay deliveries going forward. I know another huge benefit will be in cleaning the barn stalls - wet, heavy hay is not fun removing from our goat pens - that is another benefit to finally getting a grip on the hay waste here at Mitten Acres.
( It's been about 3 weeks now and two of our goats have rubbed a little bit of hair off of their noses from the smaller grids. That is a little consequence to the savings we are finally having from stopping all of the hay waste. We will continue to monitor that small issue.)
In the summer months, we will be feeding the hay out-of-doors and they have access to browse so we don't think we will have any significant issues or permanent hair loss on the bridge of the two does nose's.