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”Repurposed” materials can be practical and fun

The current theme in urban life seems to be repurposing. To rural folks this isn’t at all new. In fact, looking back at my childhood, recycling has always been alive and well down on the farm.

In this theme our family would like to share a few of the livestock supplies that we built out of what some might consider junk. Some of these projects are not born out of lack of money. To be completely honest they usually come from lack of planning. Many farmers can relate with the recurring theme of our farm. We all of a sudden realize that we need something and it is either not available for two weeks, or what you could purchase ready made isn’t quite like what is needed. So, what does a farmer do? We build it of whatever supplies are at hand because we are too busy to go to town.

A lamb creep feeder

A good example of this would be our lamb creep feeder. We, as a rule, do not creep feed. Therefore we were not prepared to creep feed our winter lambs last February. Then we started to realize, quite quickly actually, if we wanted them to use their shelter we had to entice them into it. Food is a wonderful item to lure small animals with.

But right in the middle of lambing was not the time to be building a creep feeder. So, we repurposed a ready-made mineral feeder for the lambs creep feeder and it worked excellently. It held about 50 pounds of grain at a time and easily mounted in a three-sided calf shelter. We hung it at lamb level on a cattle panel, which was angled across a corner of the shelter to keep the ewes out.

This absolutely would not work with goats though. Does would easily figure out how to crawl through a cattle panel but ewes just behaved and stayed out of the creep area.

  • From the Manitoba Co-operator website: They’re big and unwieldy, but farmers urged no to burn grain bags

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Jug hangers

Then there was the problem of not being able to hang the gates (or panels that open) on our lambing jugs. These are small, usually portable pens erected just prior to lambing. Jugs provide a safe and private place for ewes to birth, as well as a comfortable and protected area where the lambs and ewes can bond to each other.

We had the panels, but my husband just couldn’t find the perfect size or strength of hangers to serve as a hinge to fit his own mental image of what was needed. So, he made them out of two lag bolts welded together at right angles to form an “L” shape (see slideshow).

One side of the lag bolt was screwed into an anchor post, leaving the other bolt upright. He then cut a length of metal tent pole to slide over the top of the upright lag bolt as a sleeve, drilled a hole through it, and wired it to the galvanized stock panel creating a hinge (see slideshow). The panel can be swung like a gate, and lifted off the hanger as needed. They didn’t break last year so we are already one step closer to be ready for lambing!

Feeder ideas

Over the years another thing we are continually building is feeders for small animals and poultry. Those we have utilized many things for. Last year we were pulling out old fluorescent light fixtures in our kitchen and my son and I thought they would make excellent troughs without much work. All we had to do was add ends (see photo at top).

He traced the shape onto half-inch boards, and then used a mitre saw to cut them out. They were attached to the fixtures by drilling a pilot hole through the metal, positioning the wooden end, and then nailing them together. If they need to be more stable a wooden cradle can also be made to support them.

Another trough we needed was one to feed milk to our young goats in. For these we actually had to buy supplies. We got six-inch diameter PVC pipe and cut it in half lengthwise (see slideshow). We allowed about four inches per goat and made the pipe the appropriate length. We used food-grade materials for the glue, pipe and ends. To secure them in the pen we used broken rake teeth and pegged them into the ground. The idea was to have one end poke through the fence enough to be able to pour the milk in and the kids feed at the trough. They worked but we did have a problem with the goats crowding to the front and not utilizing the whole length of the trough. Due to being made of PVC material, they wash out very well.

The men and women that pioneered the Canadian countryside were much better at making do with what they had than we will ever be, but it is fun to try. All you have to do is let your imagination loose and a great many useful items can be born out of things other people would consider clutter, reaffirming the old phrase “necessity is the mother of invention.”

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