Finding a one-man feeder that would be safe and flake rather than process big square bales was a challenge from customers that Denzil Robbins didn't take lightly.
When he couldn't locate a feeder that filled those needs, he made one.
“I had an idea of how to build a bale feeder, but struggled with a design for the mechanism that would flake off hay with the least amount of leaf loss, especially in alfalfa,” says Robbins, of Robbins Farm Equipment, Inc., Baker City, OR. “I laid awake nights trying to figure it out, then it finally came to me that it didn't need to be power-driven.”
He designed a set of heavy-duty spinners that are set in motion by the momentum of a bale as it's pushed through them. The spinners grab about a 6“ section of hay and gently fold it over to the ground like a slice of bread being carved from a giant loaf.
Flaking instead of processing not only saves alfalfa leaves, he says, it also reduces waste because hay is less likely to be trampled.
Robbins began developing the feeder, called the Fodder Flaker Feeder (FFF), in 2007 through a local manufacturer, Bootsma LLC. The feeder and its unique flaking system are patented under Robbins' Robbco Designs brand.
The FFF has been tested successfully on several types of hay, including grass, alfalfa and bluegrass straw. It will handle 3 × 3', 3 × 4' and 4 × 4' bales and hold from one to nine bales, depending on the model. The trailer bed tilts to easily load bales for hauling to the feeding area. Bales can be positioned with the strings vertical or horizontal.
The top half of the bale's strings can be cut at the storage site. Once a bale is conveyed into position behind the hydraulic pressure plate, the remaining strings are cut before being pushed through the spinners.
Since bales can be conveyed onto the feeder trailer, Robbins says the FFF can double as a retriever, transporting hay from fields to storage.
The FFF operates off the tractor's hydraulics, and the speed at which hay is flaked off is controlled from the cab. Robbins says the FFF requires very little maintenance since he has eliminated the drivelines and other power-driven devices.
The feeder is available mounted on a new trailer or on a used stack mover. He says it can save money in hay and livestock, as well as prevent injuries associated with feeding solo. Too often, he says, ranchers put tractors in low gear, then hop on trailers to feed hay by hand while moving.
“Many ranchers have accidentally run over young calves feeding when no one is behind the wheel,” he says. “I've also heard horror stories of people falling under tractors while trying to make it to the trailers to feed.”