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Best Goat Feeder *EVER*

How to Build a Feeder for the Most Wasteful Animals on Earth

Goats are the most seriously wasteful animals ever.

We all know there are so many feeder ideas out there. Up-cycling tends to be popular with goats too so there are feeders made from barrels, cribs, shelving, or livestock panels. But do any of them actually work? For the most part the answer is a resounding NO!

But why not? These are some great ideas, right? They should work, right?

Well, no, not really. Why, you ask? Because anything that a goat can pull feed from, she will drop. Once it hits the ground it's dirty and inedible. Or she will jump on it and once her feet touch it, it's inedible. At that point it's bedding, not feed. Mangers that are slatted are out, barrels with little holes are out. Buckets with heavy grid are out too. Hay nets are just downright death traps, plus they are one of the most wasteful ways to feed goats of all time.

So what's the answer?

Horizontal reach through feeders.

I toured a lot of major farms on the west coast. Dairies, show breeders, commercial meat market breeders, and did extensive research on feeding goats both from a behavioral stand point and nutritional stand point as well. There was one type of feeder that stands out. You can find them in use at the the top goat dairies in the world as well as areas of the world with the longest history of domesticated goats to third world farms that have been raising goats for more generations than I can count.

These excellent feeders are as simple as they can be. A huge bonus is how they can be built to whatever scale you need. I have 12' long feed walls in the doe barn and 3' feeders in the buck barn.

There are several reasons that these are such great feeders for goats. The first is reducing waste.

The goat has to lift her chin to slide her head through the gap then she can eat comfortably but, to pull her head back out, she has to lift her chin again and back up. This makes it complicated to pull feed out and throw it on the ground.

Waste issue solved.

It's really that simple. The spacing has to be right so that the goat has to lift her chin so about a 6" gap for disbudded or polled goats and around an 8" gap for horned goats. Yes these work for horned goats! There is no waste from these feeders. At all.

Free access.

Another reason these are such good feeders is that goats require a lot of feed. At a farm like mine we have both high production dairy goats and market types as well. They need unrestricted access to plentiful feed. I don't want my goats to have work hard to get what they need. These feeders make it easy to give the goats complete access to all the feed they can handle.

Reduced competition.

As Venus is is showing in the pic above, a hit just doesn't carry much weight here. Notice how Olive is having no reaction to getting pushed at all. That's because it's a push, not a punch. The goats can't get up enough momentum to really hit anything. All they can do is swing their heads around and be obnoxious. These feeders have seriously reduced competition between my goats. The submissive goats don't even hesitate to get in there with the dominant goats. With the horizontal bars they can just slide over and give room to the bully goats without leaving the feeder.

There are 15 goats in the loafing area pictured below. They are all happy and comfortable together without bullying or fights over feed.

When I built these I did come across some issues. I put in a solid base to 16, then an 8" gap, and horizontal boards above. Kids would bounce right out of the gap and play in the feed troughs, peeing and pooping all the way.

Grrrrr . . .

I finally found a solution through a bit of trial and error. I added a 2x4 that sticks out a bit to the lower board of the gap. The over hang catches the kids knees as they try to get the front legs through and effectively kept all the kids in. Yay!

I also left a 1" gap between the very bottom ground board and the board above so the kids have a toe hold and can still reach the feeder.

My waste hay is now only the stemmy, unpalatable bits that the goats don't prefer to eat. They have plenty of room and time to sort all the feed in the trough and leave the least nummy stuff there. It's worked out for me to scoop it out of the trough and toss it over to over bed their loafing area.

I have cut my hay use by more than half, my goats are happy, healthy, and chubbier than ever, and I didn't have to buy any straw this past year! It's a win for all of us!

Bon Appetit!

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