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Best on-farm fix: Homemade acidified milk replacer feeder

Progressive Dairyman Editor Peggy Coffeen Published on 11 March 2014

Ryan lee and his homemade acidfied milk replacer feeder

Ryan Lee
Edgerton, Wisconsin
Best on-farm fix: Homemade acidified milk replacer feeder



Each year, Ryan Lee and his wife, Karen (editor for Progressive Dairyman ), raise about 100 Holstein bull calves, from 3 days old up to roughly 300 pounds.

To ease the task of feeding as many as 40 calves on milk at one time, they purchased an acidified milk replacer feeder in 2011. Pleased with the calves’ response and better labor efficiency, they were interested in a second unit. This time, however, Lee made his own – a customized design to suit his particular operating needs.

Lee constructed his homemade feeder with his handyman skills and some “basic” materials. He customized an agitator from an old milk bulk tank to fit a 55-gallon drum. PVC pipe, hoses and controls were purchased from hardware stores and dairy equipment suppliers.

The original feeder is not insulated, which prompted Lee to come up with his own way to combat cold Wisconsin winter temperatures. He found walk-in cooler panels for sale online and fastened them together to form a 4-feet-wide by 4-feet-long box that stands 7 feet tall.

Homemade acidified milk replacer feeder


A residential-style exterior door allows for easy entry and seals in heat. He uses a digital space heater to keep the box a constant 70ºF. The drum, agitator and hose connections are all housed in this enclosed box to prevent freezing. On the exterior of the box, Lee drilled six nipple holes for group feeding.

“This is very simple, and if something goes wrong, it is easy to fix,” Lee says. He purposely chose materials he knew could be easily sourced to prevent downtime during repair.

Both Lee’s version of the feeder and the purchased unit provide the labor efficiency and milk availability he desires; thus, he continues to operate both.

“Calves drink whenever they want, as much as they want,” Lee says. “I couldn’t see any difference in the calves’ performance from one version versus the other.”

We want to feature your best on-farm fix

An on-farm fix is a solution engineered by the farmer or employee to make a task faster, friendlier, easier or more efficient. It may be a newly constructed item or an improved version of something that already exists.


Ideas should be from the farmer, but they may have enlisted some help in bringing it to life. The farmer should not be looking to sell a product based on this feature.

Send a photo and description of your “fix” to us by email and we may choose to feature you in Progressive Dairyman’s next quarterly issue. PD

peggy coffeen

Peggy Coffeen
Progressive Dairyman