Over the years we have utilized many different delivery systems for feeding salt and mineral supplements to our small ruminants and feed to our poultry. The focus has always been on waste control and low investment cost for the device. Along with the level of waste by spillage there has always been an issue with physical contamination.
The minute little hooves paw through a tray of salt and mineral there is the potential for parasite/disease contamination. And with tight cost of productions, dumping uneaten mineral is not an option. Poultry love to jump into their feeders and scratch everything out. People are choosing more and more to use poultry to assist in pest control around the yard and in pens so keeping them out of the ruminant’s salt and mineral boxes is important. This spring was time to revisit the extensive use of PVC pipe feeders.
PVC pipe feeders are extensively used in the United States in large meat goatherds. They can easily be attached to a barn wall or fence post with plumbers strapping or baling twine. In order to access the minerals in feeders the goats have to stick their muzzle in the open end of the “elbow” to reach the minerals. Breeders we know, using the PVC pipe feeders, say they have had no more problems with urine or feces in their minerals or salt. And since the products are also protected from the rain, it lasts a lot longer.
The components of a common mineral feeder include one section of three-inch PVC pipe 12 inches long; two pieces of three-inch PVC “90° elbows”; and one three-inch PVC cap (it is optional); and PVC cement
To assemble the feeder glue A, B and C together as per the illustration following manufacturer’s instructions on the PVC glue. The cap is only needed if there is a worry that something will get in the top (such as wild birds). The cap is not glued to pipe A. The top must be removed periodically to fill the feeder. To maintain the cap in place, yet have it also removable, position the cap on top of the pipe and then drill a 1/8-inch hole through the cap and continue on through the pipe underneath. Then place a cotter pin in the hole. It’s best to do this in an inconspicuous place (around the side or at the back) — goats are very curious and it is possible they will pull the pin out and swallow it. It is also recommended to drill a hole in the top cap and put a twine through it to make a handle. Put a knot in the twine so it cannot be pulled through and this should help you open the feeder.
The cost of the materials for these PVC feeders is approximately $20 depending on the size. An added bonus to the less waste scenario is they also take up less space. Animals can come and go with these feeders hanging in a corner of the barn, taking up no floor space. This also helps to reduce the risk of mineral waste and contamination.
There are many uses for these PVC feeders other than as a salt and mineral feeder. Using larger diameter pipe a similar configuration can be used to make a creep feeder for small lambs/kid goats. Another producer reports they use one like we built for feeding free choice diatomaceous earth with great success.
Using these feeders for the small ruminants achieved the goal of keeping the poultry from scratching in the salt and mineral. A quick online check revealed a two-foot length of pipe holds about 10 pounds of poultry feed — another money saving possibility. A commercial six-pound capacity plastic feeder costs about $16.99, but with a freestanding design it can easily be knocked over. The PVC feeder would not easily be knocked over and if always full the poultry wouldn’t be affected by feeder space.
This summer there will be plenty of opportunity to calculate if these feeders save us as much as we are hoping. Now to investigate how to do the same for the cattle!