Goat feeder

A goat finds a way to get prime access to its hay at Bear Butte Gardens.

We are enjoying this warmer weather this week and we are continuing to get end-of-season tasks done around the gardens, greenhouses and farm.

We have a few head of steers that we raise each year and we also lease out pasture to a neighboring farmer for a few of his cow-calf pairs in the summer and then his bulls in the fall.

Due to the warmer weather and lack of snow so far, our stock tanks are holding up for water and we have been able to add on several more weeks of grazing. It is always good fortune when the grazing is clear and we do not need to supplement with hay this late in the year.

When you are a small acreage farmer you get to be creative in how certain tasks are accomplished without the larger equipment that larger farms have on hand. For example, we needed a better method of feeding large round bales (made by our neighbor on our hay ground) to our lambs and goats. Of course we could go out and buy a feeder, but we felt we could create something with supplies we have on hand that might be better than the typical feeders that are for sale.

Making a feeder for the lambs would be easy enough, but throw in the goat factor and the challenge is stepped up a couple notches. As everyone knows, goats can climb through and over things that lambs cannot, so the feeder needed to be taller with rather small openings for their heads.

We created a feeder out of 1 1⁄2 16-foot horse panels shaped into a circle and secured with heavyweight carabiners. We cut holes into the panels big enough for a lamb’s or goat’s heads, evenly spaced around the perimeter of the feeder.

The goal was to keep the animals off the hay and keep the hay contained within the feeder versus having it spread out on the ground and wasted. Our first feeder is working very well and basically accomplishing the goals. However, we have learned that if a goat’s head can fit into a space, the whole body will soon follow, as noted in the photo. This has not seemed to be a big problem so far, so we feel the feeder is about 85% effective.

We have also been able to add a goat and lamb nursery onto our goat and sheep shed. The goal with this addition is to have space for goat kids and bum lambs in the spring where they will get plenty of sunshine and have a little space from the adult non-parent animals.

This week we are cleaning out the starter greenhouse by dumping old soil mix and trays of unused soil and blocks back into the compost pile, pulling weeds around the inside edges of the greenhouse and organizing clutter.

It seems hard to believe, but we will be starting early season seeds for germination in just 2 1⁄2 months! Greenhouse cleanup is a welcome task on a windy or wet day because the greenhouses still warm up nicely.

It is time to start making lists of gardening materials we need to order for next year’s plantings, like drip irrigation tape, soil block inputs, seeding trays, landscape cloth and row cover. Then we will progress to making lists of seeds to order, which is every gardener’s favorite thing to do!

Everyone is welcome to follow our off-season activities on Facebook and Instagram!

Michelle and Rick Grosek operate Bear Butte Gardens in Meade County, S.D. They submitted their report Nov. 16.