The extra and hidden costs of bringing in feed can often mean increased milk production, but not increased operating profit.
Alistair Hay farms 1000ha near Fairlie, Mid Canterbury, rearing deer and beef and offering dairy support.
Using traditional steel and sheet metal ring feeders, he found they were heavy, awkward to handle, suffered a hard life when getting moved around with tractor frontloaders, and quickly fell apart.
Looking to build something that was lighter, easier to handle and ultimately more durable he built a bale feeder from alkathene water pipe.
Trial and error through five or six prototypes resulted in the unit he sells today; it uses medium density pipe for the main support rings and polypropylene uprights that started life as risers for irrigation systems.
Now after five years he has 600 units in service.
The 1.8m diameter units are the most popular, accommodating 16 cattle yet weighing only 35kg; they are easy to roll or slide about and a breeze to flip over bales.
Says Hay, “We had to mess around a bit to get the first units right, but it all came together when we discovered fusion butt welding for the main support rings”.
Feeders are available in several sizes for cattle, sheep and horses, and are said to be extremely durable, even in mobs of bulls, and are likely to outlast similar size conventional steel units.