George the calf has has his two summers and a winter, and it’s time for his ride to the last stop before the Big Pasture in the Sky. However, he was originally scheduled to go last Friday … but there was a snag at the butcher’s and they needed to rebook to this Friday … and then today when we went to hook up the trailer to the borrowed truck, we found that the hitch ball was the wrong size (and very firmly stuck in place). So, we just rebooked for next Friday when the Cruiser will be home, which we know for sure has the right hitch. George can mow the pasture grass for one more week.
So, instead of heading to the butcher I built a sheep feeder. I’d been doing some research on different feeder shapes, again. The one we’ve been using wasn’t bad: it’s essentially a piece of hog panel stapled to the fence posts with a piece of plywood tied to the back on an angle, making a sort of V shaped trough into which the hay is pitched twice a day. The only problem with that set up is that the bigger sheep climb up on the panels and reach over to eat, which is hard on the panels and sometimes pulls the staples out, and the smaller ones stick their heads right through the squares on the panels and occasionally (or frequently, depending how stupid the particular sheep is) get stuck there. Yanking them out several times a day gets old fast (but they STILL put their heads through).
I was also hoping to find something that could hold a little bit more at one shot, so that I can maybe get down to one feeding per day instead of two. I settled on something like the Premier fenceline feeder, as I think the angled base will help the hay settle to where it’s easily accessible, and with higher sides, I can get it pretty full.
I built a small one in the ‘sleeping pen’ today as a test run, and it worked out pretty well. It wasn’t even all that difficult.
The Boy assisted by cutting a hog panel in half the long way, with the side with the smaller openings being reserved for the base of the feeder (the other piece is actually attached underneath, to serve as a fence and prevent anyone from escaping under the feeder).
The front and back are made from fence boards screwed into fence posts: the back posts were already there, they were part of the original fence, and the front two posts were added today and not pounded in as deep so that the front of the feeder is high enough that the sheep can’t climb up on it (or jump over it).
Two thicker boards (2x4s, well, I think one is a 2x6, but whatever, it’s the 2 that matters) are screwed to the inside of the posts, the front board higher than the back, and the cut hog panel piece laid on them. Fencing staples are hammered over the wires of the panel to hold it to the boards, and then thinner boards are screwed to the inside of the fence posts going up the front and back of the feeder, creating a big trough. I left gaps between the boards to allow air circulation, save on lumber, and let me see how full the feeder is without having to go outside and peer down into it.
Here is a sheep’s eye view:
I can probably lower the whole thing a little bit, most of our sheep are pretty short. I’m also going to cut the hog panel one more ‘square’ up from the bottom on the next one, making the angled base a little bigger in area.
The hay is going to fall through and collect on the ground under the feeder, but the sheep will eat that stuff too – they do quite well eating off the ground, actually, if they don’t end up lying in it. We’ll see how these go – the plans actually call for a tray underneath to catch the hay as it falls through, so that’d be another option (I figured the ground made a perfectly acceptable tray … we’ll see).
This is a small one and won’t hold very much hay at one shot – hopefully if I extend the bases on the long row of feeders I have yet to build, I can widen the whole assembly a little and get a bit more in at one time.
It’s really hot out today, but it was good to get this done. I’ve wanted to have a feeder next to the sleep shelter for some time now, because we can use that area as a catch pen (with a little creative fencing, which is on the list of things to do before winter as well). If you fill that feeder, everyone will run into the pen and then you just slam the gate before they figure out that you are trying to catch them in there. Sheep are very easily bribed with food.
Okay, that’s enough hard work for one day … I’m going to go rest now!