The conventional feeder made from car tyres had too many challenges, according to Mr Hannes Esterhuyse. With a bit of brainpower he designed a handy, affordable self-feeder in 2008. It was so popular that he’s since made hundreds of them, selling them to other farmers.
“I’ve been using creep feeders for a few years with great success, but they lacked something – an effective self-feeder at an affordable price.”
The car tyre feeders worked well, but it bothered him that the lambs would climb into the feeders and leave their droppings in the feed, which made the sheep refuse the feed. Another problem was that the harsh sun would burn the pellets pale within a day, which meant they didn’t stay fresh. When an unexpected rainstorm hit, he would have unnecessary wastage of the pellets. In addition, the birds saw the feeders as a pantry they could raid when they felt like it.
Farmers in the area often drill holes in an old bin and stack it on top of a large truck tyre to hold the pellets, but this method means a lot of pellets end up on the ground and it’s difficult to clean the container. Hannes decided that with some modifications, it could work better.
“I turned the idea around and instead of feeding the pellets outwards, placed a funnel inside the bin to feed the pellets into a tyre feeder directly below the bin.”
A space of about 200 mm is left between the bottom of the bin (an old oil barrel) and the top of the tyre feeder bowl at the bottom. This way the lambs can’t climb in. The size is adjustable, but Hannes says 200 mm is the ideal distance.
“It’s big enough for the larger sheep and small enough to prevent the lambs from climbing in and spoiling the feed. The smaller the opening, the less pellets are exposed to the elements. I try to set the funnel in such a way that there are as little as possible pellets in the feeding bowl below.”
Hannes says his patent’s secret lies in the funnel.
“I make it by bending a piece of flatbar measuring 25 mm x 3 mm into a ring on the inside of the bin. This ring is then welded onto a 101,6 mm pipe of 300 mm with four pieces of flatbar that each measure 25 mm x 3 mm x 250 mm.”
It’s then covered with fine chicken wire, and after that with fibre glass. Around the pipe is another, bigger pipe that doesn’t fit as tight, to make it adjustable. The funnel is welded into the bottom of the bin and three legs (40 mm x 40 mm x 3 mm of angle iron) are also welded onto the bin. The tyre bowl at the bottom is bolted onto it.
The bottom and the cover of the oil barrel is used as base for the tyre feeder bowl at the bottom. It works well with a 365 mm tyre cut open on the one side, but not flipped inside out. The plate can be bolted in place on top.
“For the bowl a 215 mm x 381 mm tyre, flipped inside out, works best,” says Hannes.