Wire panels ripped apart, buckets smashed and tossed to the far corner, and that stinky-ripe stench of the big boy in rut… nothing is more charming about life on a goat farm than being the person in charge of feeding the bucks. From September through March just about everything movable inside a buck pen becomes the “enemy.” Or else it is a challenge to prove masculine prowess in hopes of attracting does in heat. Either way, finding a way to feed what has often been referred to as “50 (or more) percent of a successful herd,” a.k.a. the buck, is something of a dilemma for backyard and larger scale goat enthusiasts alike. That is, of course, unless you are Betty McCorkle, Oroville, California and/or are married to a carpenter/husband named Larry, who has the genius for building buck barn/feeding accommodations that allow stress-free (and stink-free!) feeding times.
“What my husband has done for us has held up well to time, even with the Alpine bucks,” McCorkle said. “He (Larry) built a shelter with the feeder inside on one wall so you can feed from the outside, without going into the pen. The feeder and the goats are all protected from the weather, and since the base is made from plywood, we can feed grain without any waste.”
McCorkle said that in the 25 years she and husband, Larry, have raised dairy goats, mostly Alpines and Oberhasli under the herd name, Rebel-Winds, they have tried many types of feeders and shelters for their bucks.
Feeder with lids to keep kids from escaping.
“Let’s face it,” she said. “Bucks of all types can be very destructive. This current design of barn/built-in-buck feeder is the only thing that has stood up to the abuse. And the best part is that it allows me to feed very quickly and without having to go in with the bucks.”
McCorkle said the most recent feeder/shed built by her husband was 8′ x 10′ and divided into two shelters. A V-shaped opening for the plywood base feeder keeps the bucks from pulling feed out and wasting it because they have to lift their heads to get in or out. For legs and side supports on the feeder building, 4″ x 4″ lumber is cemented down to keep the whole structure stable.
“Others have come over and taken a look at his designs for their own construction,” McCorkle said. “It’s so nice because I can feed six pens of goats in about 15 minutes and I never have to go into the pens. It is a real time saver.”
Though the cost of lumber is likely much higher than when her buck/feeder barns were built, McCorkle said the initial $200 investment in supplies was well worth the savings in time, labor and feed waste.
“A normal feeder, such as bucket or hanging feeder, allows grain to fall on the ground,” she said. “There was also waste whenever it rained because uneaten hay would get wet and ruined.”
For frugal goat breeders, like the McCorkles, this type of waste was unacceptable.
All feeders are under shelter and the McCorkles feed from outside the pens. The feeders have solid bottoms so they can be fed grains or pellets.
“Our dairy goats are the hub of our life,” McCorkle said. “The goats provide milk which we drink, cheese from the milk we eat, extra milk feeds calves and pigs, and any extra hay from the goat feeders is given to the calf as well.”
Stems and other parts not eaten by the goats might go to waste in most operations, but because of the plywood bottom feeders the McCorkles use, they can salvage uneaten fodder for the calf to eat.
“Wood might be a little expensive, but you can find scraps and second pieces that work just as good,” McCorkle said. “The savings to us in terms of time, labor, and efficiency of feed is so much better with this type of feeding system.”
The McCorkles currently own 19 does and three bucks, and all are housed in simple but sturdy and efficient wooden structures built by Larry McCorkle, a union carpenter by trade. Rebel-Winds feeding program currently revolves around twice daily feedings of alfalfa, oats once a day, and free choice Purina Minerals offered in PVC pipe trays, split lengthwise.
“We’ve done a lot of things through trial-and-error through the years,” McCorkle said. “But these buck barn/shelter feeders have been the best invention yet.”