A Simple Cattle Mineral Feeder

In everything we do on our farm we are always looking for simple, inexpensive and functional methods to accomplish a task. Constructing a basic mineral feeder has been on my to-do list for quite a while. With winter comes the slower months on the farm and I finally got around to tackling this much needed project. When I set out to build a mineral feeder for our cattle, the first thing I did was to perform a quick image search to see what others were doing. That search was very productive and generated a bunch of ideas for me to consider. As per usual, I employed elements of several different designs to generate my own solution. I created a quick, basic isometric sketch along with a material list and dove in. What we came up with has worked very well so far (with limited use), was very inexpensive, and should last for many years to come. In short, I’m thrilled with what we built and it only took about 3-1/2 hours to complete with two men.

Our feeder is complete and ready to head out to the pasture!

This feeder is servicing 24 cattle currently and has two compartments. While I have considered building and using a mineral feeder with up to 16 different compartments as a free choice “buffet” for the cows, I just can’t bring myself to spend that much money on minerals. I’m not saying they aren’t worthwhile, just that they are expensive and thus far we have had really good results without doing anything fancy. Many times, we haven’t even had mineral out for our stocker cattle at all, but just a basic mineral salt. That coupled with good grass in the grazing season, and decent quality grass hay (again, nothing great) has served us well. All that said, I should have built this feeder a long time ago, but I could say that about a lot of projects on my farm! A basic 1:1 mineral mix from Helfter Feeds and Redmond mineral salt are not super expensive, and do provide a lot of benefits for the cattle.

It took the cattle all of about two seconds to begin using the feeder. 

Now that we have our first cow-calf pairs on the farm (and the cows should be bred back) I’m getting more serious about making sure we don’t have any deficiencies, especially for the mamma cows. Growing babies is serious business! On that note, once the ladies are within 60-90 days of giving birth we’ll be segregating them so that we can put them on a grass based organic feed for good development and nutrition. I’m certain I’ll be building another one of these feeders soon, but perhaps with some dividers in the barrels to make it a four compartment setup. For now, two compartments is fine and works great.

Our mineral feeder is constructed out of treated 2×4 material. We screwed it together with anti-corrosive coated screws (both 1-1/2” and 3” long) and bolstered everything with some 3” long galvanized lag bolts. The metal was secured with some rubber gasketed roofing screws to keep moisture out of our compartments. The lumber ran us about $50 at the local 84 Lumber store and the lag bolts about $4 at our Rural King farm store. All of the screws were left over from other projects as were the anti-tip boards (2×6 treated scrap) on the bottom of the legs. The metal that was used was new, but was free (it came as a protective layer on some new metal we custom ordered for a small deck on our house). The barrel that was used cost around $12 a few years back, but should you buy one today I don’t think it would cost much more than that if any. All together, we had less than $70 in this project thanks to the free metal. Had I purchased the metal, it probably would have cost nearly $125 but would still be a very worthwhile project as it serves a really important function.

The basic framing for our mineral feeder is complete. Using all 2×4 treated lumber, it is approximately 6′ long, 2′ deep and 5′ tall in the front.

Overall our feeder is approximately 6′-0” long, 2′-0” deep and 5′-0” tall in the front. We made the rear about 4′-6” tall to shed rainwater with the back facing West. I’m not listing specific dimensions however for the simple fact that the horizontal framework is based entirely upon the size barrel one might use. The only critical dimension I will mention is that we set the top of the feeder at 2′-0” from the ground so it would be an easy reach for our smaller calves. We’ve settled upon Lowline Black Angus as our breed of choice to build our herd with, and with their smaller frames we didn’t want to make this difficult for them to reach. That dimension was a really a guesstimate on my part, and it seems to be working just fine but I’m glad we didn’t make it any higher. If all else fails I can always make it shorter!

Two 3″ coated screws as well as one 3/8″ diameter x 3″ long galvanized lag bolt were used on nearly all joints.

We secured our two barrel halves with 1-1/2″ long coated screws. Each side got 14-16 screws so that the cows can’t knock it loose. Note that the top of the feeder is set 24″ above grade.

Some scrap 2″x6″ treated material leftover from another project provided the anti-tip support for the legs.

If you are in need of a mineral feeder, you will be hard pressed to find a simpler design for the basis of what you build. This style could also be easily modified to work for smaller livestock like sheep or goats and could even be used to feed small amounts of hay. Just be sure to have a friend lend you a hand when constructing this as it really speeds up the process. Good luck!

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