The next year, the sheep stuck their heads through livestock panels loaded with hay tilted out at the top. That meant they did not get under the hay when the feeder was filled, but they ended up pulling hay down on the backs of others as they fed.
Take number three is a vertical wall feeder with slanted slats and the livestock panel on the other side of the feeder, again tilted out from the top to ensure the hay filters down as the sheep eat. But there are problems with this design as well. The sheep stick their heads in the feeder under the hay and hunt for the tastiest morsels, thereby getting the head and neck area disasterously contaminated with hay. Cleaning the stems that the sheep leave behind has to be done every second day. If I toss them into the sheep pen, the sheep for sure will get right under the hay. If I load them on the outside, then I must remove them to another location. I do not have a wagon and trailer so it is done in the toboggan with a fork in winter…a lot too much work.
The debris built up in three months, September to December's end, was 1.5 feet of wasted hay. That is a huge amount. What the sheep pull out of the feeder, they will not pick up and eat and once is it is stepped on, they will not touch it. That also means that I have to fork out that hay, which is wet with urine and feces as well, so it is heavy and matted and extremely difficult to move. I can attempt to get the skid steer in there to move it, but the sheep have to be moved first.
I have also tried the metal cages from the 1000 litre totes as feeders. They work if they are never more full than half. When over half, the sheep will climb them and feed from the top, again pulling hay down. The feeders do not hold much and have to be emptied often, again of the straws left behind, and the taller sheep pull hay down over the small sheep. Currently the small sheep are separated from the larger ones, and that is better, but the system is still not good enough.
Hay nets might be worth a look. I don't think they would work very well, because if the hay has a lot of coarse stems and materials, they will leave it and not get into the hay inside, making more work for me again. There has to be a way to feed them which keeps them clean and wastes less hay. There has to.