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Feeding round bales, reducing waste?

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  • Feeding round bales, reducing waste?

    To those of you who feed round bales, any tips to reducing waste? I’ve been looking into hay rings, nets, etc. Do you drop the bales directly on the ground or put something under them? How do you protect them from the weather? (I’m from upstate NY). Thanks for your advice!
    PS- none of my horses have shoes or halters when turned out (I know this can be a factor with using nets)

  • #2
    Since last winter I've been using nets on large squares and large rounds. I've had no issues just plopping them straight on the ground, only minor issue is if we get a lot of snow when the net is low then it may take some muscle to get unstuck.
    Due to the Chinooks we get (super cold, lots of snow, then warms up and it melts, freezes, turns to ice, repeat) I just place them on higher ground and move them around the 5 acre pasture. Very little waste. Even with 1-3 horses on a bale they never lasted long enough for them to spoil.
    ​​​​​​Don't be shy to spend a little extra on a better quality net. When it gets low enough they start stepping on it then I empty the net and let them pick out whatever good stuff is left.
    Another barn I boarded at used nets and had them placed on raised cement pads or packed lime, on a slight slope for drainage to keep them off the dirt/mud in paddocks.

    I didn't like how horses have to lean over rings or metal feeders. I also prefer the large squares to large rounds although we lack the storage space that squares absolutely need.

    Comment


    • #3
      I used a tombstone style hay ring for years with 3-4 horses in the pasture. It helped to eliminate the worst of the waste, but there was still some. I made a "roof" frame out of PVC pipe and PVC connectors and connected the "roof" frame to the hay ring. I used a tarp as the roof material. It kept the worst of the weather off the hay. I could still tip the ring to move the feeder and tip it back over the new roll. I also moved my hay ring around the high parts of the pasture so as not to destroy the field.

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        Thanks for the responses! Also meant to ask, how long do round bales typically last for you? The bales I am looking to buy are 4 x 4 if that gives any reference. Trying to decide how much to budget each month for them

        Comment


        • #5
          My BO lives with the waste and they are on the ground. There are currently 10 horses in the turnout where my horse is and they have 2 bales to share. Years ago she used the tombstone style feeder that I see in photos frequently. It is listed in an article on research done at the U of Minnesota which states that injuries are uncommon. It has the u-shaped uprights with the brace down the center.

          My horse got cast in one. It was Sunday morning, sunny, April Fool's Day 2007, and I was planning to head to the barn. I answered the phone and the BO's young daughter says "mom said to call you and tell you your horse is okay." She wasn't kidding. When I arrived he was standing and okay, other than being sore. He has always been the alpha and will snooze by his half of the bale. We think he tried to roll over and caught a hind hoof between the upright and the brace. I actually didn't hear all the scary details until last summer. He didn't panic or flail. We don't know how long he was cast but the DH got a sledge hammer and was able to break it apart. BO sat with my horse, kept him from moving around until his leg was free.

          I don't want to remember any more details. I don't like to think about what could have happened. He could have destroyed the fetlock and pastern. I'm thankful that it was Sunday and someone in the house looked out a window and saw him. BO and daughter have been special friends for a long time. DH was in the early years of transitioning to the farming life. He hauled feeders out of 2 turnouts and that was that.

          "With hardly any other living being can a human connect as closely over so many years as a rider can with her horse." Isabell Werth, Four Legs Move My Soul. 2019

          Comment


          • #6
            Southern Ontario here. I use the Hay Huts. The ones that look like igloos. My horses (OTTBs) live out 24/7 with access to the barn if they want. The huts keep the hay out of the elements and reduce some of the waste. Using a bale net would probably reduce even more waste.

            I put the bale on a tire to keep it off the ground, and actually have the hut tethered to the tire with rope. Keeps the hut from blowing away on those days when we have really bad winds.

            i have had my huts for probably 10 years. They have more than paid for what they cost in hay savings. They are getting a bit beaten up looking now, but we patch the cracks and carry on.
            What you allow is what will continue.

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              Originally posted by walktrot View Post
              My BO lives with the waste and they are on the ground. There are currently 10 horses in the turnout where my horse is and they have 2 bales to share. Years ago she used the tombstone style feeder that I see in photos frequently. It is listed in an article on research done at the U of Minnesota which states that injuries are uncommon. It has the u-shaped uprights with the brace down the center.

              My horse got cast in one. It was Sunday morning, sunny, April Fool's Day 2007, and I was planning to head to the barn. I answered the phone and the BO's young daughter says "mom said to call you and tell you your horse is okay." She wasn't kidding. When I arrived he was standing and okay, other than being sore. He has always been the alpha and will snooze by his half of the bale. We think he tried to roll over and caught a hind hoof between the upright and the brace. I actually didn't hear all the scary details until last summer. He didn't panic or flail. We don't know how long he was cast but the DH got a sledge hammer and was able to break it apart. BO sat with my horse, kept him from moving around until his leg was free.

              I don't want to remember any more details. I don't like to think about what could have happened. He could have destroyed the fetlock and pastern. I'm thankful that it was Sunday and someone in the house looked out a window and saw him. BO and daughter have been special friends for a long time. DH was in the early years of transitioning to the farming life. He hauled feeders out of 2 turnouts and that was that.
              wow that is very scary! Thank goodness your horse was okay. That is my worry too with those hay rings

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                Originally posted by mht View Post
                Southern Ontario here. I use the Hay Huts. The ones that look like igloos. My horses (OTTBs) live out 24/7 with access to the barn if they want. The huts keep the hay out of the elements and reduce some of the waste. Using a bale net would probably reduce even more waste.

                I put the bale on a tire to keep it off the ground, and actually have the hut tethered to the tire with rope. Keeps the hut from blowing away on those days when we have really bad winds.

                i have had my huts for probably 10 years. They have more than paid for what they cost in hay savings. They are getting a bit beaten up looking now, but we patch the cracks and carry on.
                yes! I have looked into these and they look awesome. Right now out of my budget unfortunately but something to consider in the future for sure! Thanks!

                Comment


                • #9
                  My two had a netted round bale last winter. The bales were 4x5 and lasted about ten days each for the two horses.

                  After the net froze to the ground we put a wood pallet down and dropped the bale on that.

                  I built little 2'x5' fence sections and fenced the round bale to prevent it sprawling all over the ground after the time I spent three days peeling it up far enough to empty it. This might not be a problem with more horses eating it as they wouldn't have it spread out for as long.

                  Comment

                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    Originally posted by RedHorses View Post
                    My two had a netted round bale last winter. The bales were 4x5 and lasted about ten days each for the two horses.

                    After the net froze to the ground we put a wood pallet down and dropped the bale on that.

                    I built little 2'x5' fence sections and fenced the round bale to prevent it sprawling all over the ground after the time I spent three days peeling it up far enough to empty it. This might not be a problem with more horses eating it as they wouldn't have it spread out for as long.
                    that’s a great idea, to put a little fence around it to avoid it getting spread everywhere. When you had your bales in nets, did you put anything over top to cover it? I’m wondering how well the bales hold up once they get wet if I don’t cover them.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Depends on how many horses you are feeding, and how they are living. A large bunch of horses can eat a round bale per day. Or a half a round bale. Depends on how many horses, and how big the round bale is (can vary between 600 lbs to 1500 lbs). To know how much to feed, you need to know the weight of the round bales you are using, and how much hay your horses need daily, which also depends a lot on the type of horses you have. Many TBs can simply free feed on hay. Many other types of horses will kill themselves if they do that. So you have to figure this out for your own situation.

                      As walktrot describes, there are dangers in using many of the metal round bale feeders available. Most are actually made for cows, not horses. Some people get away with using them for years, no problems. Other times, problems happen. Pay your money and make your own choice.

                      For only one, or a few or couple of horses, the way to have the least wastage when using round bales is to unroll it in your barn, and load the hay into a wheelbarrow to deliver it to the individual horses, just like it was flakes off small square bales. Just feed by weight. This is the "high maintenance" of regular horse care, and some people want to reduce work load by using round bales, and want to put the bale out with the horse/s once a week, then limit the intake physically, with nets etc. If you are in a high rainfall area, then a roof over the bale, and a platform to keep it from sitting in a puddle are necessary, plus the tractor to bring the bale out of the barn. So high demand for infrastructure and machinery to produce less daily manual work, but not cheap. For one or a few horses together, I personally go for the manual method, twice a day or whatever you need to do, with a wheelbarrow rather than the wastage of having the whole bale out there for days. With many horses living together, I take a whole bale out, and unroll it on the ground (but I have NO mud issues, ever. I have packed snow in winter, and semi arid weather year round) and all the hay is gone by the next day. I have horses who can eat hay in an unrestricted manner, so this works for me. May not for you. I will not use metal feeders, because of the risk of injury. I do use tire feeders, big ones, both for the loose hay (I feed outdoors on sand) and sometimes for small groups of horses. These tires are BIG, like 6' diameter, and 3' high, from logging equipment. An entire 600 lb round bale will fit into one, when you take a saw to one side of the tire and cut that side off, enlarging the opening. The intact side on the bottom holds the bale off ground contact. They are high enough to hold that bale in there snugly. You take the strings off the bale and just drop it in there from the tractor bucket. You figure out how long it will last in terms of "number of horses X number of days, at 30 lbs of hay per day for each horse". You can do this and put a net over the tire if you like, and if you can figure a safe way to attach the net to the tire. Get creative. There are instances of horses getting INTO big tires like this, and finding a way to kill themselves by doing this, but, IMO, this is less of an issue than with the metal feeders. If you have sand paddocks like I do, I think that the risk of death by sand colic is greater than the risk of death by rubber tire feeder. But your mileage may vary.

                      If you are new to using round bales, know that many round bales are made for cows, not horses. They may not be horse quality, and you won't know that until you get into the center core of them and find mold. You may find fermented grass in the center too, which is less of an issue than mold is. But be careful where you buy your round bales from, make sure that the farmer round baled horse quality hay, under low humidity conditions. It has to be VERY dry to round bale and not ferment or mold, drier than for small square baling. Hay made in high humidity environments may not be dry enough to be horse quality in round bales, when it may be just fine in small square bales. Moisture in small square bales can still escape after baling, whereas the round bale centers can be so tight that any moisture can not escape, and rot or fermentation may occur.
                      www.cordovafarm.weebly.com

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Horse-style ring feeder.

                        Bale in a hay net

                        Bale is set on a pallet in a well draining part of the pasture.

                        A round bale would last 3-4 horses and my muzzled donkey about 10 days.
                        Last edited by TMares; Dec. 28, 2019, 09:38 AM.

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          Originally posted by NancyM View Post
                          Depends on how many horses you are feeding, and how they are living. A large bunch of horses can eat a round bale per day. Or a half a round bale. Depends on how many horses, and how big the round bale is (can vary between 600 lbs to 1500 lbs). To know how much to feed, you need to know the weight of the round bales you are using, and how much hay your horses need daily, which also depends a lot on the type of horses you have. Many TBs can simply free feed on hay. Many other types of horses will kill themselves if they do that. So you have to figure this out for your own situation.

                          As walktrot describes, there are dangers in using many of the metal round bale feeders available. Most are actually made for cows, not horses. Some people get away with using them for years, no problems. Other times, problems happen. Pay your money and make your own choice.

                          For only one, or a few or couple of horses, the way to have the least wastage when using round bales is to unroll it in your barn, and load the hay into a wheelbarrow to deliver it to the individual horses, just like it was flakes off small square bales. Just feed by weight. This is the "high maintenance" of regular horse care, and some people want to reduce work load by using round bales, and want to put the bale out with the horse/s once a week, then limit the intake physically, with nets etc. If you are in a high rainfall area, then a roof over the bale, and a platform to keep it from sitting in a puddle are necessary, plus the tractor to bring the bale out of the barn. So high demand for infrastructure and machinery to produce less daily manual work, but not cheap. For one or a few horses together, I personally go for the manual method, twice a day or whatever you need to do, with a wheelbarrow rather than the wastage of having the whole bale out there for days. With many horses living together, I take a whole bale out, and unroll it on the ground (but I have NO mud issues, ever. I have packed snow in winter, and semi arid weather year round) and all the hay is gone by the next day. I have horses who can eat hay in an unrestricted manner, so this works for me. May not for you. I will not use metal feeders, because of the risk of injury. I do use tire feeders, big ones, both for the loose hay (I feed outdoors on sand) and sometimes for small groups of horses. These tires are BIG, like 6' diameter, and 3' high, from logging equipment. An entire 600 lb round bale will fit into one, when you take a saw to one side of the tire and cut that side off, enlarging the opening. The intact side on the bottom holds the bale off ground contact. They are high enough to hold that bale in there snugly. You take the strings off the bale and just drop it in there from the tractor bucket. You figure out how long it will last in terms of "number of horses X number of days, at 30 lbs of hay per day for each horse". You can do this and put a net over the tire if you like, and if you can figure a safe way to attach the net to the tire. Get creative. There are instances of horses getting INTO big tires like this, and finding a way to kill themselves by doing this, but, IMO, this is less of an issue than with the metal feeders. If you have sand paddocks like I do, I think that the risk of death by sand colic is greater than the risk of death by rubber tire feeder. But your mileage may vary.

                          If you are new to using round bales, know that many round bales are made for cows, not horses. They may not be horse quality, and you won't know that until you get into the center core of them and find mold. You may find fermented grass in the center too, which is less of an issue than mold is. But be careful where you buy your round bales from, make sure that the farmer round baled horse quality hay, under low humidity conditions. It has to be VERY dry to round bale and not ferment or mold, drier than for small square baling. Hay made in high humidity environments may not be dry enough to be horse quality in round bales, when it may be just fine in small square bales. Moisture in small square bales can still escape after baling, whereas the round bale centers can be so tight that any moisture can not escape, and rot or fermentation may occur.
                          Great points! Sorry should have included in my original post. I will have 3-4 horses on the hay daily. (One might be leaving for lease soon but at the minimum we will have three eating it) They go outside for around 10-12 hours per day. The farmer said the bales are 4 x 4 and weight 600#. Thanks for the tips!

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Originally posted by TMares View Post
                            Horse-style ring feeder.

                            Bale in a hay net

                            Bale is set on a pallet in a well draining part of the pasture.

                            A round bale would last 3-4 horses and my muzzled donkey about 10 days.
                            okay great! That’s what I was thinking as well, around 10 days. We have 4 horses currently that would be eating them. The bales are 4 x 4 and weight 600# per the farmer

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              For the last several years I’ve been feeding round bales in hay nets. The nets sit on a plastic pallet and are surrounded by a plastic hay ring. This keeps the net out of the mud and prevents it getting frozen to the ground (hard lessons learned there). I patch holes in the nets with zip ties, which has allowed me to use the same two nets for over four years. My horses have gotten really good at eating from the nets so it has not helped with weight management but there’s basically no waste and I get about one more day out of a bale in a net vs. no net.

                              I love the plastic ring because it is lightweight to move without a tractor and will give if a horse gets in there. It’s worth every penny.

                              in the winter, one approx. 900 lb bale lasts my 3 horses 7 days.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I have used almost every combination of round bale feeding tools over the years. IMO, the biggest factor to consider is the amount and nature of precipitation you get in the winter. Another important consideration is whether or not you have a tractor with bale spear of skid steer with forks because some things are a lot easier to use if you do.

                                Bale Buddy - love this, with two caveats. It's difficult to get on and get the bale set up properly without a tractor with bale spear. If you get rain during the winter, it absolutely must be kept under cover to keep the rain out.

                                Hay net - I used one of the Chix nets. Didn't love it. If you don't contain it inside a bale ring or box or something, it turns into a giant mattress of hay that the horses will walk on, lay on, and poop and pee on. Then, if it's not under cover and it you get a day of solid rain, it turns into a soggy hay mattress that is an absolute B**** to clean up. Also much easier to handle if you've got a tractor with bale spear. Best used under cover, sitting on a big rubber mat, and inside a ring or box.

                                Alternative use of hay net - "hang" the net from the wall. No, you can't really hang the bale up, but you can put the round bale in the net, set it on the ground against the shed/barn wall, and then hang the top of the net off a big hook (or use a carabiner and hook eye). This will keep it from turning into the aforementioned hay mattress. Best way to use the nets, IMO. Need a tractor or skid steer to get everything in place.

                                Hay rings - I had one of these: https://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/pr...se-bale-feeder and really liked it. I kept it under cover in a big open-sided shed. If you put it on a big rubber mat, it makes the clean up a lot easier.

                                One round bale would last my two about 2 weeks.

                                When I was ready to put a new bale out, I would tip the ring up on its side and use a wheelbarrow to carry the remaining hay to my burn pile, then roll a new bale off the back of the truck and tip the ring back down.

                                It just occurred to me that if you have plenty of manual labor to help, you can probably do more of this by brute force instead of needing the tractor.
                                "Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything
                                that's even remotely true."

                                Homer Simpson

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I am in north Texas, it really does not get cold much in the winter, even now we winter pastures that are green... I am feeding two real horses, one pony and three miniatures....

                                  a standard 700# or so pound round bale will last me at least a month to six weeks.

                                  None of the stock is starving, the yearling has been noted by daughter as fat. Vet is pleased with their weights (most need to loose weight)

                                  I do not put the round bales in the pasture but flip it over onto its side setting on a pallet on a large concrete pad we have then unwrap the bale. Just fill the cart, take it to the feeders and put hay in the feeders... what the horses chunk on the ground gets raked up, put in the cart to be hauled over to feed to the neighbor's always hungry herd of goats

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Best way to clean up wasted hay at the end of winter? Not using round bales but boy oh boy do my horses seem to think hay is one giant litterbox. I scoop the poop daily but I've been leaving the hay. Last spring I broke my muck fork trying to clean it up. It takes so many wheelbarrow trips to remove it too! Any better solutions?
                                    ~Veronica
                                    "The Son Dee Times" "Sustained" "Somerset" "Franklin Square"
                                    http://photobucket.com/albums/y192/vxf111/

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Hay Huts paired with HayChix nets. Virtually zero waste.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        I feed rounds to 3 horses who live out 24/7 with a shed. Sometimes I let them have free access, sometimes I limit it. A 650# 4x4 lasts 10 days with 24 hour access, limited access will stretch it to 15+ days.

                                        My climate is very wet year round. I could never let hay sit on the ground.

                                        I have two run-ins, one I use for hay storage, the other is protection for the horses. I can store 10 4x4 rounds inside the hay storage side. I made a removable chest-high half wall so the horses can hang their heads over the wall and eat free choice and the bales are completely protected. I leave the netting on the bale and peel it back each day, and the bale stays up on a pallet on rubber mats. That is by far the least time-consuming method for me, but still daily work as I have to clean up any chaff thats spilled around the bale out of their reach, or they dragged over the wall. Any chaff sitting inside the barn will mold quickly, any outside the barn will get wet and turn into mud.

                                        I primarily open up bales, unwind them and stuff them into big hay bags however. I usually bag up about 6 days worth at a time, it takes a few hours. Its much more labor-intensive, but there's very little waste and I have complete control over consumption for my easy-keeping herd. It also allows me to feed several varieties of hay per day, which is what I prefer.

                                        Currently, the boys have access to a mature timothy orchard bale so they can nibble 24/7 but won't gorge, and they're supplemented with bagged 2nd cut orchard, alfalfa, and a pasture mix that is primarily crabgrass.

                                        I'll also open up bales if I think the hay was baled on the damp side and might caramelize (or worse, mold) if left to sit. I can bag up almost half the bale which allows the inner core to cool down, dry out and cure up properly.

                                        A lot of things can be hiding in a big bale, even good looking ones can be molded inside due to a wet lap from a shady field edge or a chunk of damp earth, etc., things the farmer just can't always know. I inspect the hay my horses are eating daily. My climate is just too wet to trust on big bales.
                                        Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.

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