Several years ago, during my quest for the perfect hay feeder for my sheep and goats, I built two 8′ long, 4′ high, and 35″ wide hay and grain feeders using Premier’s wire panel feeder inserts. I loved them. They won the hay-feeder lottery! Not only did they do double-duty as grain feeders, they were sturdy, would not tip over, and, as I had goats at the time, they were high enough that the goats couldn’t get inside them, pull all the hay out, and generally make a mess (as goats have a tendency to do).
Over time, however, a problem developed. Not so much with them, as with me.
I got old.
And it became increasingly difficult for me to move the feeders on my own, or even to drag them out of the way with the tractor and a chain, when it came time for me to clean out and shovel out the barn.
(I know that in the best of all possible worlds, I’d have a barn the size of the local WalMart, and I could install stationary feeders I wouldn’t need to move. But that’s not feasible. I needed to be able to move them. And the time came when I really couldn’t.)
So, I am ashamed to say, the lovely feeders spent two years on their sides on the ground, outside the barn, while I figured out what to do.
And this year, I did!! (Figure out what to do, I mean.)
I dismantled both feeders, and I’ve rebuilt the two eight-foot long feeders as four four-foot long feeders. Most of the lumber was too old and degraded to re-use, but I removed all the panels, and the hog-wire ends I put on the originals, bought new lumber (sadly, far more expensive than Premiere’s instructions (which are available here) would indicate, but still a bargain overall), jiggered the instructions to suit myself, and went to town!
I’m very pleased with the results. They are sturdy and stable. They are full-size feeders, for my full-size sheep, just half the length of the original. They are not exactly light and agile, but I can move them around myself, and, most importantly, when I need to get them out of the barn, I can tip them onto the front loader of the tractor, put a strap around them, and take them wherever I like.
Herewith, my adaptations and supplemental notes for the Premiere instructions, if you’d like to make the 4′ long feeder:
- I do recommend using Premiere panels for the feeder inserts (no, they’re not paying me to say that), rather than trying to cut your own from hog or goat panels. You might save a bit of money doing so, but they won’t be as sturdy (the Premier panels seem to be indestructible), and you’ll very likely end up with pointy bits of sharp and nasty panel that will stab you or the animals, or which you have to figure out how to secure.
- IMHO, you can get away with cutting hog or goat panels for the end pieces. (I had old panels and I used them.) If you don’t have those, or don’t want to use them, you can use 2x4x35″ horizontals as the end braces and put a couple of vertical 2x4s on them to hold the hay in, or if you don’t need the sheep to be able to feed from the ends, you can use a solid piece of plywood to finish the feeder ends.
- There are two sizes of Premiere panel. One is 24×48, and one is 30×48. If you have or use the 30×48 panel, you’ll need to make your feeder legs 48″ long. If you have the 24×48 panels, you can either lower the legs to a 42″ length, or you can keep them at 48″ and use the double horizontal struts backed with plywood to prevent the creatures from getting into the feeders. (Photos of this on page 2 of the Premiere instructions, the directions for making the feeders for “large sheep and rams.”) This was how I made my first, 8′, feeders. I had eight 24×48″ feeder insert panels, and I followed the instructions on pages 2-4, “Premiere Double-Sided Feeder for Large Sheep and Rams,” ending up with two separate 8′ feeders. However, I have far fewer sheep now, and I have only one goat. So when I made the 4-foot feeders, I eliminated the double horizontal barrier at the top, and cut the legs down to 42″.
- I used GRK screws (expensive, but they work really well, the 9×2 1/2 inches, and the 8x 1 1/2 inches. (You’ll need two different bits for these two different screw sizes, which is a bit of a pain, but worth it in the long run, IMHO.) In some places, (like to secure the plywood grain-feeder base to the bottom of the feeder from underneath) I used 1 1/2″ stainless steel roofing nails with a nice big, flat head. I used double-barbed staples when I needed staples. And whenever I had difficulty, or thought it would be useful (always before nailing in a staple), I drilled a part-way through hole. I used a 5/64 drill, general purpose, for everything, which worked fine and I didn’t have to keep changing the bit.) In the long run, I think pre-drilling saved me time.
- I’m a belt-and-suspenders kind of gal, and anytime it seemed to me that an extra screw or nail might be useful to make things more sturdy, I used it.
- Although these feeders are much easier to move around than the originals, I’d recommend building them as close to the barn, or their final destination as possible. It’s just easier to move the lumber and the panels than it is a fully-assembled feeder…
My Materials List for Each 4′ Feeder
2-Premier wire hay feeder panel inserts, 30″x48″ or 24″x48″ (see note (3) above).
5-2x4x8, white wood. Cut in 48″ lengths to make 10 lengths for horizontals
2-2x4x8, treated. Cut 4-42″ or 48″ legs (see note (3) above)
2-2x4x35″ white wood floor supports
4-2×4-35″ end braces (these are not in Premier’s instructions. See note (2) above, and do whatever floats your boat).
1-32x48x1/2″ plywood for the floor. The instructions call for treated. I used CDX, because I use the floor as a grain feeder and I don’t like the idea of the sheep eating off treated wood. If you have a full sheet, cross-cut it at 32″ (the rest of the sheet can be used as the “jig” to lay out the feeder sides, as described in the instructions).
Assorted screws, nails, and double-barbed inch-and-a-quarter fence staples
I followed the instructions for “Premier’s Double-Sided Feeder For Goats and Other Sheep” (pages 4-6 of the booklet) pretty much as written, with the exception of using the 48″ horizontals, cutting the legs down to 42″ because I had the 24″ wire panels (see note (3) above), and eliminating the center floor support at 48″ (if you’d like to put one in, cut a 2×4 at 32″ and just add it across the center of the feeder, under the floor, from one side to the other.
I made my ends out of 4″ hog/goat panel I had lying around, and settled, after a trial run on the first feeder, on cutting each piece to 16×24 (if your wire mesh is a different size, you’ll have to adjust) stapling it to the narrow edges of the 2×4 end braces, and then screwing it to each end of the feeder. It’s a bit lower than the front and back of the feeder, but that doesn’t matter. I like that the sheep can eat from the ends.
This was a good weekend project, I have four nice little feeders, and I’m very pleased. Hope these tips are helpful to someone in a similar situation. Happy farming!