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How to Build a Cattle Hay Feeder

| Updated September 26, 2017

Things You'll Need

  • 80' 2-inch pipe

  • 20' 3/4-inch pipe

  • 50' X 4' 6-inch wire mesh

  • 1 catch trough

  • Welding machine

  • Metal braces for corners (optional)

Hay feeders can save money by reducing wasted hay and keeping hay clean and available to browsing livestock. Hay feeders should be designed with the general size of the cattle in mind. Calves will need a hay feeder that is lower to the ground than an adult cow, and mature cattle will need larger head stalls to access the feed.

Hay feeders can be constructed from wood or metal and even a combination of materials. Select what is best for your area and pocketbook.

Build the frame of the hay feeder. The frame is the foundation for the hay feeder. Determining the type of catch trough and whether there will be a roof for protection in inclement weather will be factors in where the trough will be located and its size. Portability is another consideration. If you will be not be moving your hay feeder, you may want to embed upright posts in concrete to anchor it. Otherwise, plan on reinforcing all corners and supports with metal braces, bolts and washers for durability.

Install the catch trough, which will catch any hay that slips through the rack while cattle are feeding. The catch trough should be installed below the hay rack. The catch trough will collect leaves, seeds and small stems, which are high in nutritional content.

Build and install the rack frame. The rack frame of your hay feeder will be where you deposit the hay. It should be durable and easy to reach with the type of hay bale you feed. Keep in mind that small bales will work best for this type of feeder, though you can use a pitchfork to feed out larger bales.

Space slats equally for even distribution. When attaching your slats to the hay rack, mark and space them evenly. The cattle will be reaching through the slats to get the hay. Slats can be made of wood or metal rebar. Space the slats so that the hay will come out fairly easily, but not so easily that it all falls out when the animals tug on it. Most plans call for a gap of about 3 inches between slats. The 3 inches allows the cows to pull hay through without sticking their heads in. You can also use woven wire in place of the slats.


  • If you live in an area with high humidity, consider placing a roof over your hay feeder. This will protect the hay from moisture, which can cause rot, mold and mildew and injure a cow or calf.

    Always wear gloves and safety equipment.

    Be sure that curious livestock are penned away from the area you are working.


  • If you choose to make your hay feeder from wood, treat the wood with a safe preservative to prevent rot.

    Be sure the feeder is free from sharp edges to prevent injury to cattle and their handlers.