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How to build an efficient Hay Feeder:
Author: NEWAIM Farm
The best idea we have come up with here at NEWAIM Farm is our hay
feeders. We started out using a traditional feeder that hug on the wall
with vertical bars to hold the hay. It seemed like more hay was dropped
on the barn floor and wasted than was eaten. The cria fleeces were a
disaster, full of hay that was dropped on them by the adults while the
little ones tried to eat from the bottom of the feeder. Something had
We decided that since alpacas graze more than browse,
it would be more natural for them to get their hay from a level closer
to the ground. My first attempt was a medium sized box made from some
scrap plywood. This worked pretty well. The fleeces were cleaner and
there was less waste, but you still had to open a bale and serve just a
few flakes at a time. This was labor intensive and you always seemed to
drop some on the way from the bale to the box.
The next version did
the trick. I built a box that was a little bigger than a whole bale of
hay. This one I built from 1" rough sawn pine as shown in the picture
below. We have a lot of mature pine trees here on the farm so most of
our structures are built from material harvested from the farm. My cost
to build this box is approximately $3.00. Any sturdy non-toxic material
should work. Avoid painted material and pressure treated lumber because
the alpacas will chew and scratch themselves on the edges of the box.
dimensions shown here seem to work well for the bales we get here in
New England. The typical size of bales seems to vary across the country
so you may need to adjust the dimensions to suit the hay in your area.
The dimensions shown are for the inside of the box; don't forget to
allow for the thickness of the material you are using when you cut the
pieces to make your hay box.
a couple of pieces of 2"x4" to tie the bottom together and to keep the
box up off the ground. Also leave about 3/4" gaps between the boards on
the bottom to allow debris to fall out of the box.
Once your box is
complete, place it against a wall in your shelter. This type of feeder
is best used inside under cover. Drop in a bale, remove the strings and
walk away. We find that one of these feeders will serve 8 to 10 adult
alpacas. If you place the box directly under the opening to your hay
mow you can also play "drop the bale in the box". Who said chores can't
We currently use 4 of these boxes. The one you see here has
been in use for 5 years. Notice the nice patina around the edges. This
is starting to look like real farm equipment!
The only refinement we
have made to this design is the addition of a miniature retractable
utility knife that hangs on a nail above the box. The blade only
protrudes about 1/4' when fully extended. This is long enough to cut a
piece of baling twine yet short enough to not inflict major damage if
one of those fuzzy noses gets a little too close while you are opening
the bale. The blade can be extended and retracted without removing your
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