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How to Build a DIY Hay Feeder for Cattle for Under $60

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Recently, we’ve been in need of a hay feeder for our cattle that will protect their round bales from the rain. While there are plenty of nice hay feeder options out there, they can also be very pricey, which is why we decided to make our own DIY round bale hay feeder for our herd! 

To build a DIY round bale hay feeder for cattle, you’ll only need an IBC water storage container, a screwdriver, something to cut plastic, and some manpower. To make the feeder, you will remove the plastic tote from its metal caging, cut the plastic, then sit it on top to form a roof. 

And that’s it! It’s just that simple! 

However, in creating our Hey Hay Hut, we discovered some tips and tricks for making this project a piece of cake. Want to hear them? Well, let’s walk through the steps to recreating this DIY round bale hay feeder for cattle (or horses and sheep) together, then!

Why Build a DIY Round Bale Hay Feeder for Cattle?

If you are not using a round bale hay feeder right now, you’re probably wasting a lot of hay. According to the Montana State University Extension: “without a feeder, up to 45% of a round bale can be wasted, typically by being trampled.” That’s a lot of money and resources down the drain!

You could always purchase a round bale hay feeder to remedy all those hay-related losses. However, round bale hay feeders:

  • Are very expensive. The most efficient round bale hay feeders are cone feeders. These guys generally go for around $1,200 and up.
  • Don’t have rain protection. Most mass-marketed round bale hay feeders don’t come with a cover to protect the hay from rain. That means your hay will eventually become moldy and musty, which is not healthy for your cattle, sheep, or horses.

So, most commercial round bale hay feeders come with their cons.

However, making your own DIY hay feeder for cattle, horses, or sheep can allow you to get your hands on a feeder that’s inexpensive and comes with its own rain protection.

How to Build a DIY Round Bale Hay Feeder for Cattle

Building a Round Bale Hay Feeder for the Cows for $50 - They Love It!

Are you looking to make a cost-effective round bale hay feeder for your cattle, horses, or sheep? Then look no further!

This DIY uses an old IBC water storage container to make a little house-shaped, square feeder, perfect for protecting your round bales from the rain.

Since the bottom is elevated and made of solid metal, you won’t have to worry about mucky bales anymore, either.

It’s worth mentioning that this hay bale feeder is not a great option for goats. Goats’ horns might get stuck in the IBC metal frame that we’ll be using for our feeder. If you are looking for a goat hay feeder, check out this article: 

Homemade DIY Hay Feeder for Goats [17 Designs and Plans!]

Otherwise, let’s get straight into this DIY round bale hay feeder tutorial!

1. Get an IBC Water Storage Container

To make the frame and roof of your DIY hay feeder, you’ll need an IBC tote (one of those plastic water reservoirs with the metal frame). 

If you are like me, you already have an IBC container. However, if you don’t, don’t worry. These containers are easy to come by, especially secondhand. I recommend checking eBay, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace, as they often have great deals on used and reconditioned IBC tanks.

Since I already had one, the cost of creating this homemade hay feeder was precisely $0! 

Now, as you might have seen in the video above, I originally chose to use an older one that had seen better days. Rusted frame and dirty interior, this guy was ready for a new purpose in life – or so I thought. Turns out, the plastic barrel was far too brittle for this project. 

So, if you are using an older IBC container, test the plastic first to ensure that it isn’t super crispy like mine was! 

2. Secure the IBC Container to Something Sturdy

Next, before we attempt to remove the plastic tote from the metal frame, we’ll want to secure it onto something sturdy. 

To do so, tie it to a tree or post with rope, clamps and straps, a winch, a bungee cable, or a chain. Anything will do as long as you make it secure. 

3. Check the IBC Frame for Dents and Dings

bent metal frame on the ibc container
See the bend on the corner piece of the IBC frame? We’ll need to fix that if we want the plastic barrel to come out easily.

You can skip this step if you bought a new IBC container. However, if you are using a pre-loved IBC container, you’ll want to check for dents and dings in the metal frame. 

That’s because we will be removing the plastic tote from the frame, and any bends or warps in the metal could prevent the plastic from sliding out easily. 

If you find dents and dings, you can take one of several courses of action

  1. Take the easy way out a get a brand-new container. 
  2. Cut the metal frame and pull away the dented part. 
  3. Use brute force to remove that bent metal. 

We took options two and three! 

How to Bend the Metal Frame to Make Your DIY Round Bale Hay Feeder

cutting and unbending the bent bars on our hay feeder
Here, we cut the metal and pulled it back using plenty of leverage and some straps.

To bend away bent metal on the frame, you’ll need a saw capable of cutting metal. We used a grinder which works perfectly. You know how much we love Milwaukee’s tools!

Isolate the section of the bars that are bent, then cut, slicing as straight as possible to prevent any jamming as you try to pry up the bar later. 

Then, using ratchet straps, a chain, or rope, put your body’s weight into pulling that bar out of the way! It should bend pretty easily, but it’s still metal. It will take some tugging and leverage. 

This method is tricky and requires some specialist materials, but the next option is a little more accessible: 

How to Use Brute Force to Bend the Bars Back In Shape

using an ATV to unbend the metal IBC frame
To bend the corner piece of the frame, we hooked the corner up to our ATV and slowly pulled the metal back into shape.

If you want to bend the bars of your IBC container’s frame, you can use a vehicle or pry bar. 

As you’ll see above, we attached our ATV to the bent section of the bars on our container and revved with all our might to get it back into shape. 

You can achieve a similar effect with a tractor, gator, or any other homestead vehicle you have at home. 

You may also be able to bend slight dings in the bars with a pry bar, but I imagine that would take a lot of strength and leverage. Still, if it’ll save you money in the long run, it’s worth a shot! 

4. Remove the Top Bars From the IBC Frame

unscrewing the top bars from the DIY hay feeder
Now, we’ll need to remove the top bars from the tank so we can get the plastic barrel out.

Once you have your IBC tote bend-free and ready to go, it’s time for the fun part! 

At this stage, unscrew the top bars from the frame, as shown in the picture above. We used a drill and wrench to unscrew the bars, but you can always use a screwdriver and pliers if you don’t have a drill. 

Then simply pull the bars away. You won’t need them again. 

5. Pull the Plastic Tote From the IBC Container

pulling the plastic tote from the metal frame
Removing the plastic tote was shockingly easy!

Now that we have the top bars removed, it’s time to get this baby looking more like a round bale hay feeder! 

To do so, we’ll need to remove the plastic container from the frame. 

It won’t take any tools to do this as long as there are no dents or bends in the frame. You should be able to just pull it out with one hand! 

6. Cut the Plastic Tote Into a Roof for Your DIY Hay Feeder

roof shaped cap for DIY round bale hay feeder for cattle
Here’s an example of how you want to cut the plastic tote to form the roof of your DIY round bale hay feeder. You’ll want to cut the whole corner out, leaving “caps” on each corner and side to give your feeder full-spectrum rain protection. 

Next, we’ll cut down the plastic tote (the one that was once on the inside of your IBC frame) into a triangular roof shape. 

To do so, I recommend using a permanent marker to trace your design, then a jigsaw to cut out the corner. The jigsaw makes quick work of this project!

However, if you do not have a jigsaw, you can use a dremel, some large, sturdy shears, a heavy-duty box cutter, a handsaw, or wire cutters to cut the plastic. It’ll just take longer with these tools. 

Once cut, just slide it on top! 

If you want to make it extra secure, you can always drill a couple of holes in one side of the plastic and use zip ties to secure it to the bars. Just don’t do both sides. Otherwise, you may never get the roof off! 

7. Add a Round Bale to Your New Hay Feeder

loading the round bale into the hay feeder for our cattle
Here’s how we loaded the hay feeder for our cows.

We’ve finished with the hard part! Now, it’s time to set up your DIY round bale hay feeder with, well, a round bale for your cattle, horses, or sheep

We found that a whole round bale doesn’t fit, so you may need to unroll a few feet or meters of hay before stuffing it straight into the IBC container’s frame.

To load up the round bale hay feeder for your cattle, I recommend preparing your hay, then rolling or sitting the metal frame on top of the bale. Then, just flip over the metal frame and stick the roof on top.

8. Place the Round Bale Hay Feeder

Now that the hay’s all loaded up, it’s time to get your hay bale feeder out to pasture. We used our ATV to haul it out, but you can use any sort of homestead vehicle to put it where you want it.

Then, sit back and watch your herd – whether you have sheep, horses, or cattle – enjoy the hay!

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Final Thoughts

I hope this guide to making your own DIY round hay bale feeder has inspired you to make your own! Aside from the mistakes we made at the beginning (namely, using an old, crispy container), it was a very simple and quick project.

Are you going to give it a try? Or have you made other DIY round bale hay feeders with other materials? We’d love to hear all about it in the comments down below!

Thank you for reading, and we hope you have a hay-tastic day!

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