Introduction: Bale Feeders for Stock - Cheap & Quick

About: Yep, That's me in the photo. I'm done with hiding.
These are lucerne bale feeders. You just drop the bale in the top, remove the baling wire or string. Result : less waste than just throwing the bales onto the ground.

You'd think that it wouldn't be too hard to achieve a rainfall of 6" in a year - but no. As a result the farm is moving onto a drought footing and the need for these has arisen.

Thanks to Kiteman for constructive criticism, - much appreciated!

The Idea is to make them as cheaply as possible. They can be made really fast if you do not suffer from perfectionism. Personally, sloppy joins irritate me every time I look at them, even more so if they give way. Since I am incredibly lazy nothing drives me totally bonkers faster than having to do the same job twice. Which is why these took me longer than perhaps is normal.

There are many 'Ibles on welding on this site check 'em out. I however am totally self taught without the aid of books, meaning that I been happily making the same mistakes for years now. The only things I've been taught / shown is how not to burn through thin metal by the weld and pause method and how to fill a hole caused by burn through. Both of which from a retired welder who had come to the Karroo searching for relief from the dry air for his chest caused by a working lifetime of breathing welding fumes.  His eyes were pretty buggered too from using a glass that wasn't tinted dark enough. Be warned. Good quality gloves are a bonus. Often you can hold red hot things for short periods of time, then slip the glove off till the leather cools down. Do NOT wet them to cool them down! I did that - only once.

Just say NO to cheap welding rods, they are hard to use, the flux is poor quality, prone to flaking off, poor striking qualities and frustrating in almost every way - leading to teeth grinding with every rod. Buy small quantities of different rods till you find the one that works for you. Keep the box that the worst rods came in, so when someone comments on a bad bead (hey, it happens) you can trot out the box with a nice long excuse. I've been using the same bad box for about 10 years now!
My boss just bought me the cheapest 5KG box that money could buy. "Really deep sigh"

As I said there are tons and tons of great Instructables on welding. I really advise you to have a look at them. Especially the safety ones.  [ See in the last step - "20/20 Hindsight " ]

Step 1: Sire! Sire! the Peasants Are REVOLTING !!!

About sheep & Zombies. True story.

Kiteman suggested I say something about the Sheep, which is how step 1 came into being.

Well they're called Dorpers and are a mix between the the Persian Black head and the Dorset horn. They are very hardy, and when they're taking strain you know that either your Veld management is up to shit or you've had no rain.

By the way - don't believe that sheep are are stupid, they are actually very clever. Quaddruply  so if hand reared.

Goats are clever too, the difference being that goats are evil incarnate.

Once in the '70s during a really bad drought we were feeding sheep in a particular camp in the middle of nowhere. We'd go there once a day with the bakkie (pick up truck / Ute whatever)  (the sheep would lie in wait) toot the horn to call them. Then we'd would pour X amount of maize onto the hard ground calculated by the flock size all the while calling (verbally this time) and the sheep that were caught napping would then also come at the run.

As luck would have it, Uranium prospectors from ESSO were sniffing around the area and when they arrived in this particular camp - there was a flock of sheep lying down chewing cud quietly. They tooted to try and get through the resting sheep, damned if the whole flock doesn't jump up and start stalking them! So nervously they start hooting in earnest and - yes- shouting, at which point the flock metamorphs into a PACK. So they turn around and start driving away, and the pack of sheep see their daily ration driving away and start chasing them in deadly earnest!  Those guys must have thought they were in a sheep Zombie Movie! [Do you drive away? Shoot? Is it contagious? Do they want to eat your brains or the lettuce in your sarmies?] 

When we saw them that evening they were still genuinely rattled! 

Step 2: Materials

They are made entirely out of scrap iron, lorry rims are the best for a base, but anything will do. The rods are 1 meter long consisting of 4 * 16mm rods and 8 * 12mm rods. All the rods are old windpump rods. I imagine that even thin pipes would work as well. The rods are 150mm apart. It can go up to 160mm but after that, the feed starts to fall out too easily through the gaps. The support ring in the middle is essential. The top ring I made by putting the tip of a rod in the rim's valve hole, holding the rim securely and wrapping the rod around the rim.

Step 3: Bending Rods

For the top of the feeder a ring is required. Kiteman suggested I put in a bit regarding the bending of the rods. Since I haven't built my Vince Gingery pipe bender yet I decided to just bend the rods around the rim since that was already the right size. It's much easier with a helper.
In the beginning I put the tip of the rod through the rim's valve hole, hammered it down then wrapped the rod around the rim and cut the bent tip off (picture 2). Later I found that if the valve hole allowed   it was much easier to hold the rod with a vice grip, leading to a smother bend and less wastage (picture 3). Then using 3 vice grips I laid the rod in the rim, the first one not being removed. The next two leapfrogging each other so as to pull the rod into a nice ring correctly (picture 4&5). Cut off the extra bit, clamp it and weld (picture6). Take it off the rim and smack it till all the kinks are out.(7)

Step 4: Assembly

Spot weld the rods onto the rim. Give enough spot so that they are adjustable and not immobile. Put the ring on the top and spot. This is where the magnets are needed, or a second pair of hands. Once spotting is complete adjust the structure on the eye till it's true. Ha - make sure the rim is level first or it'll throw the lines out and then you'll be sorry. Like me. Burn 'em all in place.

Step 5: Supports

Large bases do not need supports, just a big rock inside is enough. But these rims were not flat underneath and a bit smaller than the other one. The pipes came from decommissioned and dismantled telephone poles. They had to be slightly notched to fit under the rim's lip. The middle ring is important, the rods start to concertina after a while. In the beginning I heated them up in the course of welding them on the vertical bars and bent them around like that (see pic in intro). It quickly became apparent that it is much easier to bend a second ring and not join it when doing the top ring, and it's much neater.

Step 6: Feeding Time

I have found that it's better not to remove the baling wire, it takes the sheep longer to eat the bale, but they still get done before the next feeding, They don't pull huge chunks out which then fall on the ground and get trampled on, and there's much less pushing and shoving since they all know the bale will be there longer.

Step 7: Worked!

Working OK. Still a bit of a mess, but far better than just chucking the bale on the ground.

Step 8: 20/20 Hindsight

If I had known how many of these things I would have had to make I think I would have first made a Lazy Susan type turntable to put the rims on at waist height so as to be able to sit and weld. The turntable would have taken the earth clamp as well as an arm coming out of the bottom with a  90° bend rising perfectly vertical which one could use to check how true the rods are when spotting them on.

There are tons and tons of great Instructables on welding. I really advise you to have a look at them. Especially the safety ones. I usually don't bother with those 'cause more often than not it starts with something dumb like "DO NOT IMMERSE IN WATER"  and of course I think Sheesh..... and tune out. A contributor on Instructables (alas I can't remember whom, 'cause he deserves a link) said amongst many other interesting things - "Do not wrap the cable around yourself 'cause the resulting generation of magnetic field  can stop your heart !" (How do you think a motor / electro magnet works?)  Oddly enough I read this the very night that after I'd been working on the feeder - moving around and around the frame getting my super long cables more and more tangled around my body. Obviously it didn't stop my heart, but it did totally erase every shred of information on my cell phone's SIM card, and render it incapable of storing information. The only one I've ever had, and not backed up at that either.

So I guess I got off lightly.

The Lazy Susan  would also have stopped me from going round and round the feeder while welding.
Perhaps I would have modified the lazy susan bracket so as to make the feeder cone shaped with the wider side at the top, I did that once and it definitely is easier to chuck the bale in but much, much harder to make owing to the lack of right angles.

It's true about the goats though.