Away in the Manger

October 31, 2008 07:00 PM

To conserve hay and simplify feeding, Eric Blanford built a 6½'x30' hay bunk in his pole barn that holds six round bales and can be easily reloaded.

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but Eric Blanford will tell you that simplicity is the father of function. When the Slaughters, Ky., cattleman built a new pole barn, he incorporated a four-hole, freeze-proof waterer and concrete bunks along the sides of the building to make dumping ground feed a breeze.

Still, the new feeding shed begged for a better way to offer hay to the cattle. "Traditional round hay rings had to be moved to one side of the building or moved outside every time I needed to scrape manure,” Blanford says. He also found them wasteful—the round rings needed to be nearly empty before he could replenish them if he wanted to avoid wasting hay.

To get around these inconveniences, Blanford drew up plans for a 6½'x30' hay bunk that won him $500 in the livestock category of Farm Journal's 2007 "I Built the Best” contest. With the help of his brother Dustin, a construction worker with good welding skills, he cut and constructed the feeder from 2" and 1¼" square tubing. The brothers used a chop saw and a wood template to cut the side sections of the feeder.

Blanford placed two 30' oilfield pipes at the bottom of the feeder. He already owned the pipe and knew it to be heavy and sturdy. The pipes sit 18" off the barn floor. One end of the feeder faces the outside of the building, and the bales are loaded into the feeder by scooting them along the pipes.

Easy reloading and cleanup. "Each time I set a new bale into it, I push the rest of the bales forward along the pipes until I have loaded six bales,” Blanford explains. "When I reload it with new bales, I can load from outside the building. I don't have to open any gates and can stay on gravel in front of the barn. I also don't have to run the cows out of the barn.

"Cleaning is a breeze,” he adds. "It only takes two passes on each side of the feeder to clean the floor, and it can be done anytime—with hay still in the feeder and without wasting any hay.” Because the feeder is 18" off the floor, the cattle have access to hay in the bottom of the feeder until he can reload with new bales.

The feeder is anchored in PVC sleeves that were set into the floor when the concrete was poured. "I was actually thinking of the feeder when I was putting the building up,” Blanford says.
Labor-saving devices are important since Blanford works full-time as a coal mine engineer. He and his brother put the feeder together at night using a MIG welder.

Blanford's feeder cost about $1,000 for metal and supplies. Then, he and his brother added a new wrinkle this summer. They installed a pipe across the back of the feeder at the bottom and cut an old mobile home axle in half to slide inside the pipe welded in the feeder. They drilled a hole through each end of the pipe and through the axle to bolt them in place.

"When I need to clean old hay out of the feeder, I can jack up the back end of the feeder or pick it up with a tractor front-end loader and slide in the two axle halves,” Blanford says. "I can then pick up the front end of the feeder with my tractor forks and roll it out of the barn.

"We're always looking for ways to make life easier.”

You can e-mail Pam Henderson Smith at

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