Using Rubber Mats with feeders – more benefits than first thought
Experienced feeder users place rubber mats around feeders for the immediate benefits of allowing for easy cleaning of the feed access area, repositioning of the Lower Adjuster and avoiding hazards of erosion around the feeders.
On the Advantage Feeders farm, we hadn’t been using rubber mats consistently in all applications. By comparing feeders with and without rubber matting, we have discovered the additional benefits that may have a big impact on profit.
- Reduction in sore feet. In a containment area, we had feeders without rubber matting, and conditions changed from very dry to wet in a couple of days. As a result, 3-4% of twin bearing ewes started to limp within a week. This can be treated and managed, however, in addition to causing unnecessary pain to the sheep, it was time-consuming and therefore expensive.
- Stock can use their legs to tap the side panel in the hope of getting feed to flow into the side lower panel. In muddy conditions, when they tap, mud from their feet can go in the trough and the feed access area. Cleaning may take 5 minutes per feeder. However, using rubber matting avoids this entirely.
- When it became wet in a containment area, the ewes with the lower condition score in the mobs had to use a lot of their energy to squelch through the mud. 2-3% of ewes had to be separated out and managed closely until their condition and soil condition improved.
- The pasture where rubber mats have been used recovers far quicker than areas that have eroded.
Other practical tips:
- You can avoid making a second trip to collect the rubber mats when they are placed on the feeder before transport.
- Before putting the feeder in position, place the rubber mats on the ground with a 900mm or 3 foot gap between them (which is easy measured out with a size 10 or 11 boot) so when the feeder is put down, the outer legs are on top of the mats and securing them in position.
Using rubber mats may appear at first glance like an unnecessary task. However, we have found that they eliminate or reduce a considerable number of issues, so much so that we are now having a set allocated for every feeder on the farm.