Keeping fleeces clean is one of the most difficult challenges to combat on a sheep farm, and it all centers around chore time. Who would ever think that feeding sheep would be one of the most significant moments on a fiber farm? Sheep are like most other creatures, they talk with their mouths open, they dribble their food all over the back of the friend next to them, and they even scatter their food about the floor. Our secret to keeping fleeces clean is to use square bale box feeders.
How the Square Bale Box Feeder Works:
We built a box just large enough for a bale of hay to fit inside of it. Then, we built a roof over top on hinges to allow you to lift the roof and lower a bale of hay into the box. The roof keeps the hay dry even during rainy or snowy weather. We were fortunate enough to purchase one of the last of the “Grate Bale Feeder” kits which included a grate that is lowered over the bale of hay. The grate is held in place by a pin in opposite corners of the box. The grate holds the hay down into the box. (The man who built the grate is no longer in business, however, I did find someone else making a similar feeder called the Slow Grazer.)
Keeping Fleeces Clean & the Benefits of a Box Feeder:
- The first benefit is less waste. The sheep eat the entire bale, right down to the bottom of the box. Less waste, saves money.
- Sheep mimic grazing by pulling mouthfuls of hay at a time. The sheep maintain their grazing patterns even though they are not on pasture.
- The feed box also keeps the hay clean and dry.
- The grate prevents sheep from pulling their hay to the ground and scattering it underfoot.
- Keeps fleeces clean because sheep can not dribble over top of their friends as they pull hay out of the feeder.
- Ultimately, it saves me time because I do not have to pick hay out of fleeces.
- The feeder holds an entire bale of hay.
- Lastly, it discourages bullying at the hay feeder and promotes socializing. The sheep all stand around the bale facing in towards the center and we all like to be able to visit with our friends around the dinner table.