IF THEY CAN BREAK IT, THEY WILL.
Farm animals can be rough on a farm. If you could have a farm and not have farm animals, life would be so much easier. They damage stalls, kick holes through barn walls, tear apart feeders, knock over sprinklers, and destroy fences. On occasion we have made the mistake of not neutering calves. As the bulls grow from cute little calves to 1,200 pound bulls they destroy everything they can get their horns on. We had some twelve-foot tall cedar trees in the field that I had planted and nurtured along for eight years. A bull bent them over and broke them off at the ground. They’re not that smart but they are very strong. We’ve had them decide to take a walk about the neighborhood and push right through the field fencing. The last bull we had knocked one of our donkeys down and was mauling it with its head. That will be the last time any of our calves grow up to be bulls.
Bulls are not the only ones to do damage. Horses lean over fences to get to the grass on the other side, even when the grass they are standing on is better grass. Horses and donkeys also chew on wood and can chew a stall rail completely through in no time. Goats rub against fences, pushing them out and climb on fences, pulling them down. We have solved a lot of animal damage problems by installing an electric fence around the top of our field fence, but it hasn’t eliminated all of the damage.
Three years ago I built some feeders out of plastic barrels. I cut the barrels in half the long way and used tree poles for the frames and legs. I built them to be “indestructible.” They lasted almost a year. The horse and the donkeys chewed the pole and kicked them apart. The steers and bulls, rubbed their heads and horns against them, tearing them to pieces. I repaired them several times, but in the end the only useable parts were the plastic barrels. So, through this scientific process of elimination I discovered that the only thing the animals couldn’t destroy was the plastic barrels. If you have read any other of my blogs you already know that I am a big fan or plastic barrels.
Now that I knew what the animals couldn’t destroy, I revised my feeder design. I only use plastic barrels, nylon ribbon (used by power line workers to pull heavy wires through long runs of conduit) and large screws to attach the feeders to the stall rails.
To make the new feeders, first thing I did was cut a hole in the side of the barrel, we’ll call the front side, so the animals could comfortably put their head into the barrel to eat the hay. I smoothed the cut edges down so the animals wouldn’t cut themselves when they stuck their heads through the holes.
Livestock, especially horses and donkeys, will waste a lot of hay by shoving it around in the feeder, looking for the sweetest stems and leaves. Much of it will end up on the ground, get walked on and polluted. To solve that, most feeders will have a net or slat system that holds the hay up off the bottom of the feeder so the animals have to pull a little out of the net at a time to eat. To install the nylon slats I drilled half-inch holes in a line across the front top of the barrels and across the lower back. Then using the nylon ribbon, I wove it into the feeders from the front top holes to the lower back holes. Any nylon rope or heavy twine will work; just don’t use something edible, like hemp.
I drilled small holes in the bottom of the barrels so when I cleaned the feeders water would drain out quickly.
The final step was to mount them in the stalls securely so they wouldn’t be torn down. I mounted the barrel feeders in the corner of the stalls using ½” lag screws and washers. Bolts would also work. Of course you have to mount the feeders at the right height, lower for small animals and taller for large animals.
We have used these feeders for two years now without any sign of failure. They have withstood donkeys, a horse and yes, even a bull.
Anyway… for what it’s worth.