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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Winter Feeding Projects

The weekend of October 25-26th 2014 was absolutely spectacular! This was THE weekend for optimal foliage color, perfect warm, sunny weather and a delightful breeze.... Too bad us farmsteaders had to work!! This was one of those weekends when on Sunday afternoon I realized we shoulda gone camping or something..... But alas, we had projects to complete and work to be done preparing for winter. Work first, play later is what I always say. It's the only way I can really enjoy play, otherwise I'm worrying about all the stuff I HAVE to do. I'm old, I know. 

I'm the one that does the everyday feeding and watering and such of all our critters. I like it. It gives me the opportunity to hang out and love on everybody as well as a visible inspection. Sis usually follows along chattering about something. She likes to help and that's what it's all about if you ask me. 

The exception to this is when I'm trying to feed the 25+ goats their grain. Goats like their grain, A LOT. They trample me. Well, not actually trample.. but they do step on my feet, try to run through my legs and someone usually ends up accidentally jabbing me with their horns. Once they see me with the feed bucket, they all congregate at the gate. This is really contrary to their desire to eat the grain because I can't get to the feed pans to pour the feed.  So I play this little game where I act like I'm going to pour over here, then run as fast as I can over to a different pan and try to pour the grain without spilling it all over the ground. (The goal with goats is to keep them from eating close to the ground which is where the parasites live.) Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't... Sometimes I get lucky and they are out in the woods and I can sneak over and get it poured before they spot me. Most of the time they step in the pans and/or spill the grain on the ground anyway..
Good times it is. 

So I've been thinkin about a way to make this easier on me and healthier for them. Thanks to the Internet, I found plans for a homemade feeder that keeps the troughs up higher than their rear, preventing them from pooping in it. (Because they can figure out a way to drop their pellets in darn near in anything!) It also prevents them from spilling it on the ground. 

Here is a completed goat feeder. We cut a 4 inch PVC pipe in half which is small enough they can't get in it. I used wood scraps we already had laying around. The horizontal board is for them to stand on with their front feet to eat. It's taller than they are. 

        Goats eating at the new feeder. 

I came up with a great idea to fence off the old garden spot by the gate that goes into their pasture.  It's grown up from lack of attention for several years. I figure win-win right? Get the goats to clean it up, fertilize AND also end up with a closed off section to feed in. 

Just after I let the goats in for the first time. Totally overgrown. Weeds. Lotsa weeds. 

After they get it cleaned up, I won't allow them in there so I will have a goat-free zone. Pour the grain, open the gate and let them in.

Poured the grain. See them all anxiously waiting at the gate? 

 Gate opened! I get to stand back out of the way now while they fuss over who gets what spot. 

You can see both feeders and part of my newly constructed feeding/catch pen. 

GENIUS. In summary, my weekend projects to help prepare for easy-peasy winter feeding were:  (1)Put up panels around the old garden spot and (2)build two feeders. I do have to say this: I did all of this on my own; I worked the circular saw cutting boards to the right length, screwed everything tight with washers, pounded in the fence posts and wired the panels to the posts. Good work Mama, good work. 

"What was the husband doing?", I bet you are wondering... Well, he did another winter feeding project. You see, we messed around this summer and didn't acquire the correct amount of square bales for the goats. Why? Because they are a pain. You have to go to the field, load them on the trailer, drive them home, then unload to the barn. It's a lot of work for us old folk. (Plus, we were in Ireland during peak square bale season. That's as good as any excuse, right?) I'm planning on feeding round bales anyway.  No heavy lifting. They last longer too, thus not requiring me to drag one down from the barn every day in 10 inches of drifting snow..... However, you cannot feed round bales to goats like you can to cows with the big round metal feeders. Well, you can, but they would waste a big part of it. They could slip right through the bars and climb on it. King of the round bale is a fav goat game! Then they poop on it. And of course, once the hay is on the ground, they won't eat it. If it gets wet, they won't eat it. Hay is a substantial cost for us, so we need to utilize what we have the most we can. 

So I'm talking with the husband about potential cost effective (cheap) ways for us to build some sort of roof over the round bale to keep it dry and I will use a utility panel around it to prevent as much waste as possible. (FYI, use the panels with holes smaller than the goats head to prevent goat heads from getting stuck... The smaller holes work better at holding the hay in anyway. The one I use has 4 X 4in holes, is 4ft high, and 20 ft long. Keeps them from jumping on top of it too.) He meanders outside and looks stuff over. He has an amazing mind for cost effective (cheap) solutions and problem solving. He's good to have around. Anyway, he comes back in and explains his ideas: Go between a couple of trees to attach a roof... That sounds pretty good.. OR open up the east side of the goat shed and move the metal walls to the north side, and extend the roof about 8 ft for cover and more inside space. "Wow, that might be a lot of work, but it sounds cool!  Let's do it!"

The "before" of the east side of the goat shed. We removed 3 panels on the short end and moved them around for the new north wall. 

The "after". We left the south and east sides open for easy access with the tractor and for the goats. 

  You can see little waste on the ground. You can also see all the little holes where the goats have stuck their noses in between the wires fishin' out the hay. 

Good work Daddy, good work!!

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