Shopping for Jug Hay Feeders

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Always as lambing season wears on I begin wishing I had a pair of jug hay feeders. For years I have been propping a flake of hay in the corner of each jug at feeding time. Invariably the ewes paw the hay, searching for the best leaves, and thus waste half of it into the bedding. Many times I have looked longingly at jug hay baskets online. This year I decided I would be disciplined and do some comparison shopping.

Here is what I found:

204Sydell makes two different hay baskets. The original is made of heavy 1/4″ rod. It hangs over material up to 1.5″ thick, i.e. a finished 2x board. (My stalls are built of rough-cut boards that are actually 2″ thick, so these baskets wouldn’t work for me without modification.) They are $39 apiece, a hefty chunk of change, but the real killer for all the hay baskets is the shipping.

Sydell’s site is so cumbersome you can’t find out shipping charges without entering your credit card information to purchase, but another dealer offering the Sydell baskets, Ranch Supply (by far the cheapest), indicated that shipping to New York would be $25.23. Total for two baskets, with tax, roughly $110.

GetThumbnail-1.aspx Sydell also makes a poly hay basket that looks a bit like a very well-ventilated trash can. These baskets are $47.50 apiece. Again, Sydell’s site is unhelpful for calculating shipping charges so I looked for another dealer.

Valley Vet sells the poly baskets in a 5-pack — you save fifty cents per basket! Unfortunately the shipping comes to $57.50. Total for five baskets, over $300.

North Star (with the motto, “Home of the Rednecks”) also makes a hay basket, below right. The North Star baskets , too, are available through Valley Vet, for $32.95 apiece.GetThumbnail-2.aspx Shipping for a pair, $43.14. Total for two baskets, roughly $120.

Fourth and finally, we come to my favorite sheep equipment company, Premier 1 Supplies. Many years ago, my friend John Morgan told me I could learn anything I needed to know about electric fencing by reading the detailed Premier paper catalogs. These days Premier also has a great website that offers a plethora of downloadable information on all aspects of equipment use. Moreover, Premier is a small, human-sized company.  Though I only shop there a couple of times a year, I know I can call and ask Brenda what I need, or have Gordon walk me through a tricky problem over the phone. Best of all, Premier is frank about the pluses and minuses of any product they sell.

Premier’s single hay basket (below left) is simple and looks much sturdier than any of the competition. Like Sydell’s feeder, it is made of heavy 1/4″ rod, but this X-Tuff feeder is reinforced with horizontal rods and can hang over a 2″ board. These feeders cost $33 apiece. Premier also sells a double-sided hay feeder (below right) designed to fit over the wire panel separating my jugs, feeding both jugs at once. (It appears that this option is going to be removed or upgraded, perhaps to all 1/4″ rods, as a note on the page says WHILE SUPPLIES LAST.) The double-sided basket, which would suit my needs perfectly, is only $24.

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The problem, again, is the shipping, and I am sad to report that it is also impossible to calculate shipping charges on the Premier site. I can learn that although the $24 feeder only weighs 6.90 lbs, due to its dimensions it will incur shipping charges based on 49 lbs. However, to find out what those charges would be, I’d have to email the company.  From reading other sites, it appears likely that shipping would be around $20. Thus, I could purchase a feeder to service two jugs for under $50. This is obviously my best deal.

So — what to do? It’s easy to see that I can’t spend over $100 to save a couple of flakes a day of hay that costs $3.75 for a bale of ten flakes. Does it make sense to spend even $50? Ewes are usually only in the jugs for 2-3 days at a time. The jugs are only in use altogether about six weeks a year. When I read discussions on sheep lists about jug hay feeders, the issue always comes down to the high cost.

51kC44Ln0YL._SX342_Some folks turn to alternatives. I read online about shepherds using milk crates or homemade racks nailed up from plywood. I myself even looked into old-fashioned metal bike baskets. I could buy two of the latter on Amazon with free Prime shipping at $12.99 apiece. However the bike baskets are short and look flimsy, and if I were going to spend $26, wouldn’t it make sense to pay for shipping and get Premier’s purpose-built item?

Most of the small-flock shepherds like me appear to decide to simply continue to put a flake of hay in the corner of the jug, ignoring the annual short season of hay waste.

As for myself, now that I’ve examined all the options, I think I will email Brenda at Premier and ask her to let me know shipping on the $24 double-sided feeder before it sells out. Two wasted flakes a day, at my current hay cost, comes to 75 cents a day, which means a $50 feeder would pay for itself in 67 days, or less than ten weeks.

I know I would use one for many years.
Edited to add:  Sadly, the two-sider feeder has sold out, and will not be returning. Rats! However I was quite wrong on shipping, which would have been $38.78!

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10 Responses to Shopping for Jug Hay Feeders

  1. Shawn Hoff says:

    how about just buying a 13 gallon kitchen trash can and cutting your own holes in it. You could put duct tape around the hole edges if they’re sharp and bolt them or wire them to the wall. A piece of wood on the inside would give a bolt or wire something more to hold on to. Shawn

  2. Morna Leonard says:

    I bought the $19 hay feeder from Hoegger Supply and paid for the shipping. It works well, but if I hang it on the stock panel door I have to block the back so the outside sheep don’t eat all the hay. Did I see a sheep chair in one of your pictures? If so, how is that working for you?
    Good luck.
    Morna in Montana

  3. Elaine Murphy says:

    Garden nurseries have hay rack style flower boxes made of wrought iron, might be worth a look….

  4. Elaine Murphy says:

    Clamming baskets are quite strong. Check out lobstering/clam gear or marine suppliers. Just a thought….

  5. viki barney says:

    they have hay feeders at the Tractor supply store in Plattsburgh for $59.

  6. Michelle Canfield says:

    I had the same dilemma. I ended up making some out of wood, as I just couldn’t justify the price of purchased ones for what little indoor feeding I do.

  7. Gillian Last says:

    I just bought 2 jug hay feeders from enasco.com they were $13.50 each and the shipping was about $10.50 total. Seemed a great deal for me as I will only be using them a few times a year at lambing.

  8. Jane McBean says:

    I wonder if a small horse haynet with fairly small mesh might do the trick? You would need to secure it top and bottom by running the neck cord through the bottom of the net, and tying it to the walls of your sheep pen (is that what you call a jug?) You would also need to secure it high enough so the ewes cannot paw at it and get their feet stuck in it. Just a thought. Here in England they cost about £4. Also useful for transporting an armful of hay. I found your blog about Mastitis comforting as one of my ewes has both “quarters” affected.

  9. Cassandra says:

    One of the ways to estimate shipping without calling a company (and even then they might have trouble telling you as it is determined at time of shipping by the shipping software), is to go out to the UPS site and use their estimator. You may need to set up an account. The UPS cost for you will be worst case. Any company that does regular business gets shipping discounts from the carrier. The more volume, the greater the discount. However, many companies give only some or none of that discount to the end customer, as the discount is used to offset the labor cost of the shipping department.

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