Everything on Dirk du Plessis’ farm near Koppies in the Free State province of South Africa is focused on saving labour – one of the plans he has made is to build a feeder that can be automatically refilled.
There are no frills in the workshop on the farm Verdeeld, where Dirk du Plessis and his son Ben farm with about 800 Merino veld sheep and Afrikaner cattle (both in studs), 250ha of maize and animal fodder. This is where the partners devise lots of practical plans aimed at helping them to carry out nearly all of their tasks on their own.
The success of Landbouweekblad’s Farmers’ Patents competition (an anual competition run by a South African farming magazine) has been proven time and again as farmers adapt and improve other farmers’ good ideas. The creep feeder idea devised by C.A. van Niekerk of Ratelfontein near Calvinia was adapted by Cradock farmer Zeiss Jordaan.
C.A converted 6m lengths of blue PVC pipe into feed troughs. Each length was cut into two, and holes with a diameter of 140mm were drilled into each side of the centre line so that lambs could easily put their heads in to eat.
To prevent the trough from rolling away he used a metal crosspiece as a base.
Dirk then refined this creep feeder idea to give his lambs a boost during times of drought. His version is a long static structure in a camp near the shed.
When he and Ben realised that it is tiresome to keep the feed pipe full, he added an automatic refilling mechanism that is driven by an 0,75kW electric motor.
He converted an old fuel tank to use as the bulk storage tank for the creep feeder. The grain in the tank is topped up by means of a homemade auger loader. It consists of a strip of height-adjustable irrigation pipe with an auger that feeds the grain from the hopper on the right, to the tank. The auger is powered by a three-phase electrical motor, and a winch adjusts the height.
The creep feeder grain flows through a butterfly valve in an old fertiliser spreader. From here the grain is fed along by a smaller auger with a white 50mm PVC pipe. The diameter of the feeding holes on Dirk’s feeder is 150mm as opposed to the 140mm on the original feeder.
From the horizontal auger pipe, shorter pipes with T-pieces are fitted into the blue pipe through holes that have been cut along the centreline. The length of these vertical pipes determines how much grain is loaded per feeding hole.
As the grain moves along the auger, the vertical pipes fill up as the falling grain forms little heaps, blocking the pipes’ openings. The shorter the pipe, the more grain is heaped up at the bottom before blocking the pipe, and the grain is transported further.
In this way, each feeding point is filled in sequence. The white drainage pipes are cut into lengths of 150mm and 110mm.
A 6m length of the pipe makes provision for 50 lambs on either side. Ewes can’t get their heads into the feeding holes of 150mm, but lambs of up to 40kg can still feed.
ENQUIRIES: Dirk du Plessis, tel. +2782 400 8283