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Cattle feeders help keep stock happy and healthy, especially during winter. However, you can spend hundreds or thousands of dollars purchasing a state-of-the-art cattle feeder. In the end, they all accomplish the same simple task – holding feed, such as hay, for cattle to eat when there isn’t enough grass.

If you’ve been exploring DIY options, you might have come across the idea of using old worn-out tractor tires as feeding stations. They’re the right size and an appropriate shape to protect feed from being blown away and holding it at the right height for cattle to graze as they wish. However, tire feeders require maintenance to avoid negative and, at times, deadly health complications.

Let’s explore some of the main conveniences and dangers of cattle feeders made from tires.

Pros:

Cheap

Let’s be honest. Likely the most significant reason tires are used for feeders is because they are free or, at least, extremely inexpensive. Living on a ranch or farm means tractor or car tires are almost always readily available. Reusing old tires is a great idea since otherwise, they can cause problems in landfills or dangerous fires.

Customizable

Partly because end-of-life tires are no longer worth much, you can feel free to customize the feeder as you wish. Here are some ways people have made tires into a superior cattle feeders with just a little extra effort:

  • Propping it up on a box
  • Stacking two tires on top of each other
  • Creating two half-moon slices by cutting them in half
  • Trimming one rim back to create a bowl shape

Durable

Tires are made to withstand all kinds of wear and tear since they are used on and off roads. And, tires are often changed before they are entirely ragged anyway so that the vehicles don’t suffer from a lack of traction or have a blowout. Even used tires often have a lot of life left in them. Additionally, tires don’t decompose, rust, or become mossy or moldy very quickly. They are also heavy enough that stock won’t push them around or flip them over. For all these reasons, tires are a fantastic choice for a long-lasting, low-maintenance feeder.

However, part of what makes tires so durable, the tire wire, is also one of the most significant dangers of using tires as cattle feeders.

Cons:

Risk of Hardware Disease

Hardware disease occurs when cows, bulls, or calves ingest pieces of metal that get stuck in their digestive tract and cause health complications. Sometimes the symptoms are minor. However, in the worst case, metal can puncture the heart and kill the animal.

Tires can be a source of hardware disease because steel wire has been added for extra support and strength within the tire rubber, especially near the rims. Tires wouldn’t function for nearly as well or long without this wire. As the tire wears down from weathering and cattle nibbles, the wire can become exposed and mixed in with the feed.

Requires Maintenance

Hardware disease isn’t a given though, if you have tire feeders. You can minimize the risk of your stock ingesting metal from feeders by keeping an eye on the condition of the tire feeders. Clip off or grind down the metal as it begins to pop through the rubber to keep it out of your cattle feed. Another option is to replace tires when the metal starts to show through since they’re so easy to come by. How often maintenance is needed depends on your climate and how much the feeders are being used. At least twice a season is a good minimum.

Difficult for Calves

While tires offer a perfect-sized feed container for full-grown cattle, a large tractor tire can be too large for calves. Of course, tires can be cut up and modified to be the perfect size for all sizes of stock.

Some Final Tips:

Beyond feeders, you can also use tires to hold water. These save that cattle energy walking to a stream further away. Salt licks can generally be left on the ground or on a stump, but old tires have been used to keep the salt lick from being moved too much by the cattle.

In the end, tires are a fundamental part of life for almost everyone in the agricultural sector. Extending a tire’s useful lifespan as a feeder is a good step towards sustainable tire use; however, understanding the underlying dangers of this practice helps you make informed decisions and stay on top of that metal wire. Some practical tips include:

  • Checking regularly for exposed pieces of metal
  • Using magnets to remove metal from feeders
  • Grinding down the exposed wire

Using your tires responsibly around your livestock is essential. Disposing of tires when they are no longer useful is too. Make sure you dispose of your tires in the right way by dropping them off at a rubber recycling plant or investing in tire recycling machinery yourself. Either way, your tires, no matter what their size, can be used for more than just driving through the mud.

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