Winter is fast approaching, and that means feeding time is just around the corner. Right now, feeding in bulk can save $20 per ton. I am going to go over three of the bulk feed delivery systems used on the Noble Research Institute farms.
The first is a Trip Hopper-Range cattle feeder made in Jermyn, Texas. It has a 750-pound capacity and can be pulled by a large 4 x 4 four-wheeler. We dispense feed on the ground at the Coffey Ranch, where this feeder is used. It puts the feed in piles, cutting trampling of the cubes considerably. The feeder is a self-contained unit on wheels, allowing us to pull it just about anywhere on the ranch and the electrical system runs off of our four-wheeler just fine. It is set up to dispense the feed from the feeder on a chain conveyor system, which keeps the cubes intact. We have used this unit for about four years and have had minimal problems. I would like to see a more dependable feed counter and a speedier feed delivery system, but overall it has been a good unit.
Another delivery system we use is made by 3-C Cattle Feeders in Mill Creek, Okla. We purchased their 2,500-pound aluminum feeder a year ago and I like a lot of its features. For one thing, it's made out of aluminum. The units also come in steel, but you can save a lot of wear and tear on your truck by going with aluminum. The feeder we bought weighs 360 pounds. Compare that with the weight of the same feeder in steel, 670 pounds. It is equipped with a six-inch auger that turns at 60 rpm to cut down on the crushing of feed. Each unit comes with a digital counter that is accurate to within two pounds per hundredweight. Our feeder is mounted on a trailer with another feeder, which allows us to carry two types of feed if necessary, so we don't need the sight hole that comes with the feeder. When mounted on a truck, the sight hole is useful for hooking up a gooseneck or spearing a round bale. It is a chain-driven system, which eliminates belt-slipping problems. It also has a large opening for filling the feeder, cutting down on spillage. So far, this has been an excellent unit for us.
I built a free-flow feeder a few years ago to pull behind a small four-wheeler. It works well if you are not in a hurry or feeding a lot of cattle. I made it to demonstrate how producers with small operations could benefit from bulk prices like producers with big operations do. It holds about 500 pounds of feed and it's a little tricky to get the entire contents out. But if you're not in a hurry what's a little time? I built this feeder for $350 six or seven years ago and don't recommend it for use with more than thirty cows. Pound accuracy has to be determined by filling the 50-pound sacks the first time to get marks in the feed compartment at different levels. Hey, it's the poor-boy way, but it beats handling sacks all winter.