As ruminants (animals with four stomachs that chew a cud and primarily consume a plant-based diet), goats require a daily intake of roughage in the form of hay, especially during the winter when grass is typically not available for consumption. Although you can purchase quality goat hay feeders, they are usually quite expensive and can be unwieldy and awkward to move. Choosing to construct or use a homemade goat hay feeder is a decision that you can best make if you go into the experience with a little knowledge about materials and other important considerations.
Although you can use a range of materials and styles for your homemade goat hay feeder, being familiar with the pros and cons of each will help you choose the best for your particular goat feeder situation. Metal pipes provide a solid frame for a homemade goat hay feeder but using this material requires welding skills and it typically produces a heavy feeder that you probably won't want to move frequently. Wood is a preferred option for goat feeders due to its durability and low cost, but if you use it, be sure it is untreated wood since goats love nibbling on wood and could potentially get sick from the chemicals in treated wood.
Many goat owners choose to use a homemade goat hay feeder that is part of a manger system; this type of homemade hay feeder serves a multipurpose function, giving you a trough area to feed the goats their daily grain ration as well as a hay rack. However, if versatility is important to you, you should probably consider a stand-alone hay feeder since it can mount on the wall of your goat pen, which gives you more options in terms of your hay feeder location and the height at which you mount it.
Being familiar with your goats and their physical limitations can go a long way in helping you choose and customize a homemade goat hay feeder. If your goats have horns, you want to choose a homemade hay feeder style that allows extra width or space for horn access. Similarly, if you have pygmy or miniature goats, you'll need to keep their smaller size in mind when choosing a homemade goat hay feeder style. A hay feeder for a buck, on the other hand, requires a sturdy design constructed from solid materials, since he'll typically subject it to daily abuse during breeding season.
Since goats are notorious hay wasters, often pulling large mouthfuls of hay out of a feeder only to allow most of it to drop on the ground uneaten, you must consider the size of the openings that your goats use to get to the hay; ideally, these openings should be no larger than about three square inches, which is just big enough for your goats to fit their mouths in to pull out small bites of hay. Dr. Tatiana Stanton, a Cornell University goat extension specialist, suggests visiting other goat farms and looking at other hay feeder plans before constructing or investing in a homemade goat hay feeder.
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