View Full Version : Teach me about round bales...

Heinz 57
Jul. 18, 2012, 06:29 PM
It's unusual to find local round bales around here, so I'm relatively uneducated.

Let's say they are 14-1600lb round bales - how long would it take two horses to go through one? Storage? Wastage? Placement? You see a lot of those metal roundbale feeders out here for cattle, but how do the horses do with them?

I've found a local farmer with good hay that is selling these large roundbales, and if it's going to be a viable method of feeding my two horses at home, I'll happily figure out a storage arrangement at our place. Neither should have a problem with free-choice hay, no air ferns here.

How *does* one unload a 1600lb roundbale? :lol:

AZ Native
Jul. 18, 2012, 06:57 PM
If you have a couple of strong guys available, as I do, they put their backs up to the bale and push it off of the flat bed. Of course, if you have a skidster that is the easiest. 4 horses and one bale lasted me about a month, free choice. I don't recommend it because of the waste. Lots of waste, even in a round bale feeder. I could roll it into their pen by myself if I needed to. I prefer, though it's harder work ( but it's a good workout:D) to fork what I need.
One cool thing about feeding free choice is if you leave, say on vaca, your house sitter or whomever is taking care of the ponies, doesn't have to deal with hay.
If they are wrapped, which is how we get them, they are weather proof. Just feed what you need. We had several out all winter and they were all fine.

Jul. 18, 2012, 06:57 PM
My hay man delivers two 1200 lb. round bales at the time. I have hay sheds, he unrolls them under off the trailer. The horses can stand around and eat, hay stays dry. Two of these rolls last my 4 big and 4 little equines 10 days to 2 weeks. If you get a metal hay ring, make sure it's one made for horses, the ones made for cows horses can get their heads stuck in, and get hurt bad. My horses don't waste much hay at all, not at all like I was told they would when I first went to round bales. Given a choice I'll never go back to square bales.

Jul. 18, 2012, 07:13 PM
We recently took 8 round bales up north on a trailer. They were approximately 1200 lbs. SO, by himself, leaned his back on them and pushed. Down they went! Easy as pie. We also loaded one into the horse trailer a few weeks ago by backing it to a slight hill that the bale was on. As soon as it got to the lip of the step up trailer, it took us 3 running pushes to get it on there. That was just the two of us, going up into a trailer. It's easier than you think!

Is there a way you can store and peel hay off a few times a day? That way, you waste a lot less.

Jul. 19, 2012, 09:57 AM
I have 2 older, large ponies who eat one 700lb bale every 15 days or so. I don't have storage, so we go to the farmer, who puts them in the back of our truck, we drive it on the pasture and push it off.
I do not use a metal feeder, b/c I worry about them getting a hoof stuck or somehow injuring themselves.

My guys are older and their teeth are wearing, so they waste about 50lbs of the "course stuff."

Jul. 19, 2012, 10:05 AM
Let's say they are 14-1600lb round bales - how long would it take two horses to go through one? Storage? Wastage? Placement? You see a lot of those metal roundbale feeders out here for cattle, but how do the horses do with them?

How *does* one unload a 1600lb roundbale? :lol:

Something to consider is what kind of hay are we talking? Various types of hay will determine how long it will take horses to go through them as well as waste.

As for metal roundbale feeders? I realize many people use them, but just a few months ago a horse in the area had to be euthanized because it got its leg caught in the hay ring and dislocated its hip beyond any sort of repair.

There are several options out there such as hay huts, and ChocoMare uses a net of some sort for her horses. You will have to ask her about them.

It's not the unloading of the round bale that is tricky ;) It's the moving of the round bale after it's unloaded. You had better have it unloaded where you want it because once it's there, it's there (unless you have a tractor with forks or some other form of heavy equipment.)

When we used to unload Tift hay round bales to the cattle, we would load it in the back of a pickup truck, drive it to the pasture, park on a slight incline, open the tailgate, and give it a good shove. It rolled out on its own and to the herd.

If you have particularly messy horses, expect them to tromp around it and use it as a place to potty which leads to a lot of waste as well.

Round bales is about the only method people use for haying horses in the Winter in this area. Square bales are too expensive and only used as a "back up" method for feeding.

mzm farm
Jul. 19, 2012, 10:05 AM
My horses are trained to electric fence. I line up my net wrapped round bales in a "wind row" and fence them off. Horses have access to the bale intended as the fence is moved closer to the bale. Minimal waste, free choice eating.

Jul. 19, 2012, 10:07 AM
Without some version of a feeder, you will have an enormous pile of peed & pooped in wasted hay in a few days.

When we got them delivered or we picked them up a bunch at a time on a flatbed trailer, we did what others have mentioned, just push them off.

When we go get them ourselves with the pickup, we drive in to the paddock and drop the first one where we intend to feed it, then shove the second one on to a pallet by our fence and cover it with a tarp. When we needed to put out the second bale, we'd run a rope around it and drag it into the paddock with the truck or car. Obviously, you need to utilize this method when the ground is dry. ;)

If you have a difficult time getting the second bale out of the truck, back up to a tree or fence post and run a rope from the tree around the bale and drive forward slowly until the bale is at the rear of the bed, then push it off.

Back when we had 3 - 4 horses eating off the bale at once, it would last 1.5 - 2 weeks. Now we're down to just one horse and a pony and stopped feeding round bales as they didn't eat fast enough to prevent mildew from rainstorms and the beasts were coughing. Might have been different if our feeder had a roof.

Jul. 19, 2012, 10:27 AM
Given our wet weather, I would forget "free feeding" a round bale here. Unless it is in a stall/run in where it cannot get wet, then it would be feasible. Put it in the barn and peel off what you need. You can use a tractor to simply push it around, if you have one.

Another issue is that if you put it in a 'hay hut' or something similar is the MUD that accumulates around said hut. I've seen horses (and cows, poor things) standing belly deep in a mire of rotting hay, mud and crap trying to eat. Not good.

I'm with you on seeing these gorgeous round bales being made...they intrigue me...but I'll stick with squares. There is a wildlife refuge here in town that hays off a thousand acres or so, and gosh it's nice hay! They do makes squares....3 x 4 x 8 foot ones!! Sigh...cow hay...

Jul. 19, 2012, 10:27 AM
You might find these threads helpful :)


How long a bale lasts depends on how much they eat, which is somewhat directly related to how big they are :) It's also dependent on whether you dole it out daily, if it's just plopped in the field, or in a feeder, or under a roof, etc.

Jul. 19, 2012, 12:43 PM
If you have a tractor they sell a bale spear, you back up to the round bale and stick the spear into it and then off you go, unless your tractor is too small, in which case it lifts up in the front and you have to rethink your options.
We haven't chosen to use round bales but the neighbor did. He had the flatbed drive up outside the fence and they rolled the thing right off and over the fence. There were two horses and it lasted quite some time but IMO there was a lot of waste. I know they had three out at one time but I can't say if they had to put out more, so it was a minimum of three over the winter, more likely six or nine.
The Klene-pipe people make a covered feeder but I don't know if it's made for round bales. I think that a hay shed, if it's well drained and built like a run-in, is a great idea, because I too have seen cattle belly deep in muck at the feeder.

Jul. 19, 2012, 01:27 PM
double post

Jul. 19, 2012, 01:28 PM
The bales we get are about half that size and are of Coastal Bermuda. We bought a small trailer and now go pick-up three at a time (one in the truck bed, two on the trailer). The trailer has side rails about a foot high and a ramp/gate and two bales fit on it nicely and don't move around much. We had a big flat bed trailer previously where I would strap the bales down but they still moved around more than I was comfortable so we sold it. We just push/roll them off the back of the truck and trailer then my husband spears them with a hay spike that attaches to the 3pt hitch on the back of our tractor. I listened to others who recommend the hay huts and bought two and couldn't be happier. Not much waste at all and the hay stays in good condition in all weather. Sure there is mud around them in winter but that's inevitable, so we didn't move the huts around so we wouldn't have multiple bare spots where they had been sitting. 3 or 4 big horses go through one bale week easy during winter and within about two weeks during the summer when we've had stretches without rain and I wanted to give the grass a break. Definitely more economical than square bales. I keep one in the barn and just peel layers off of it for feeding in the stalls via small weave hay nets.

Jul. 19, 2012, 02:23 PM
I'm new to round bales this year too. I tried my first one just a few weeks ago and love the $avings so much I just finished putting away my third one today.

My horses are far too fat and have too much pasture still for free choice, so I store the bales in my hay storage areas and serve daily, a combo of loose from a wheelbarrow and stuffed in hay nets.

My first bale was a 5x4-ish, not quite 4' wide, and I assume around 650-700#. They are currently on a light ration of hay from this round, a few flakes daily of 2011 hay I still am working my way through, and the pasture they still have available. I'm not even halfway through this round yet at 3 weeks in. I expect it last me about 8 weeks. Two 1000# horses.

If you don't have the heavy equipment to help you, yes drop it as close as possible to where you ultimately want it, because its a challenge to move around. I struggled with the 900# bale I picked up today. It bounced out of the truck and fell on its flat side (I had tied off to a tree and drove away). Fortunately my plan was to take it apart and stack it loose in a hard to access spot anyhow, so peeling it apart was quick and easy, but had my intentions been to put it into the storage tent I have nearby I would have been royally screwed :lol:

Ambitious Kate
Jul. 19, 2012, 04:30 PM
I think from what I have been reading here I would build a hay hut.

But first I would prepare a large round area, dig it out, lay down gravel, then sand, then crushed bluestone, in a wide arch around where the hay hut will go. then ideally, I would build an octagonal hay hut, open on (most) sides with a nice roof overhanging. The area where the horses would stand would not get muddy. The hay on that area would have to be raked routinely so as not to create its own muclch and mud, but if done regularly, you can keep the ground clean, on that crushed bluestone. Even consider like three mats for them to stand on around the open part of the bale - you could rake that up easier than digging out mud, fer sher.

Sounds like a no brainer to me - if you are willing to make a good area for the hut to hang, then I would go for it, if these bales are available. worth the effort, in my opinion.

Heinz 57
Jul. 19, 2012, 04:36 PM
Calvin makes a good point about the mud. In winter I'd like to be able to rotate feeding areas.

Maybe I'll just stick with squares - large ones, if I can find them, but if not, there are a lot of good deals on small squares right now.

Jul. 19, 2012, 04:43 PM
You don't know mud until you've experienced PNW mud!:lol: It lasts....from October to June, usually. It never, ever dries out here during those months and once the mud comes...it cannot be fixed until July or August.

I have a gravel (mud free)sacrifice paddock, and I've thought of putting in a couple of round bales (our neighbors have gorgeous ones!) and rolling them under our overhang for cover.

Heinz--I'd stick with squares, too. Buy as much as you can now. The SE OR fires are going to suck up any extra hay in the NW my friend--80,000 head of cattle with no winter grazing range:no:

Heinz 57
Jul. 19, 2012, 05:05 PM
I'm planning to.


Horses are still boarded until the end of July, because we can't move into the new place until then. And they are on full care - so I currently have nowhere to store all the hay I can get my greedy little hands on. I have a couple local growers that have nice stuff at good prices (including one young man with a good crush on me! :lol:) - now I just need Mr. Heinz to figure out a way to store a winter's worth of hay. We have two stalls, a small shed, and the "hay barn" which is, if I'm lucky, maybe 10'x15'. I've suggested he build me an overhang off the viable side, and we may end up storing some hay in one of the stalls if we get desperate for space.

I've also started thinking of what to do with the paddock footing outside the stalls - it clearly has had mud issues in the past, and I want to prevent that, so we may do some special gravel paddock areas just outside the stalls.

Ambitious Kate
Jul. 19, 2012, 05:10 PM
I would just lay down some contractor's sand and crushed bluestone over the gravel, so you can rake up any hayledge on the ground. Its hard to rake up large gravel.

Just sayin'.:)

Thoroughbred in Color
Jul. 19, 2012, 05:19 PM
There are a couple places down here (Eugene area) that sell nice alfalfa in the squares. $160 delivered for a 1500lb bale. Not sure how far they deliver or if they have other types, but if you want the number I can get it.

Heinz 57
Jul. 19, 2012, 05:20 PM
I would just lay down some contractor's sand and crushed bluestone over the gravel, so you can rake up any hayledge on the ground. Its hard to rake up large gravel.

Just sayin'.:)

PNW mud eats gravel for breakfast. :lol: We'll probably have to do a base underneath to not just be throwing money at the ground. Do dollar bills make good footing? :winkgrin:

Jul. 19, 2012, 07:40 PM
Hee hee...yup, gravel + PNW mud = knee deep, sucking, gravel-filled slime. The only way to keep gravel on the surface here is to put down geotextile cloth then base rock, then small gravel/screenings/sand or something. And that is expensive to do on any large basis (like a paddock). But...many of us private farm owners and conscientious boarding barns do that to provide proper turnout here.

Jul. 19, 2012, 10:25 PM
I have used round rolls for yrs with no problem. I pick mine up and I park with my trailer on a slight rise so I can push them off my self. Then I move them with my tractor and fork. I have the rolls in a huge lot that is fenced off from the rest of the pasture. In the draught yrs-----like this one-----they are not allowed free access to it. I taught them yrs ago to "get out" and they do when I say it and I close the gate. In times like this, they have access prob 10 hrs a day then out to the field they go.

Jul. 20, 2012, 02:23 PM
I have ZERO waste I successfully keep mine in Big Bale Buddies....2 per field 5 gelding in one and 4 Broodies in another...last me 3 weeks give or take...And my hay broker loves the bags, we put them on and push off track, he tells his clients to get them....

Jul. 20, 2012, 03:03 PM
To calculate how much hay you need, figure, depending on the size of your horses, about 20-25 pounds of hay per horse per day. Add some for wastage. If you really want to be sure, just calculate about 30 lbs per day per horse and you should have a good supply.