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Feeding Round Bales

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  • Feeding Round Bales

    I have two Thoroughbred geldings living out on an 8 acre pasture right now. The grass is dieing, of course, and I'm currently feeding small squares. I'd like to keep hay in front of them 24/7 and found a great deal on some horse quality orchard grass round bales however I am concerned that two horses will not eat it before it goes bad.

    Does everyone here use a round bale feeder? I have a friend who fed round bales, and she used them with and without the bale feeder, but she had a lot of horses to eat them very quickly.

    Would you put the bale inside the run in shed, or leave it out in the weather? The run in shed is 10 x 20.

    How long do your round bales typically last you?

    I'm sure it's been done to death and I did look for information and learned a lot... but had a few more questions =)

  • #2
    Last question first - how long they last depends on how big they are. Round bales can weigh anything from 400 pounds up to 1500 or more, depending on forage crop. I get about 35 days per bale but i also don't let them eat non-stop until it gets colder but even in -40 weather, the bale still lasts 25 days or so.

    No feeder here, and stuff I feed outside, I just drop over the fence. pull the netting off and let them have at it. Inside feed, I peel off and dole out. Don't know what to say about feeding in the shelter. Might work, might not, depends on how well your horses get along eating from the same pile of hay. It can work but it can also make one horse very hungry and thin and if that is the case, feed out in the open so the horse at the bottom of the totem pole can get away and snatch feed on the run
    Founder of the Dyslexic Clique. Dyslexics of the world - UNTIE!!

    Member: Incredible Invisbles


    • #3
      We have two tb geldings and get almost 3 weeks out of a large (4x5) mixed grass round bale. We keep them on pallets and covered with a tarp until we use them so they're only exposed to the weather once they are in the feeder.

      Most definitely use a round bale feeder or half will be wasted, pooped and peed on and spread about in a huge mess within days.

      Compared to a good sized small square bale a day ($5/bale), the $40/round bale is inexpensive and they can eat all they want. I'd be spending about $100 in hay in the same amount of time.

      If we had a way to put them under a roof, I'd do that but it gets eaten up pretty quick. We don't worry about spoilage.

      Our Tb's are rather fat...
      "If you would have only one day to live, you should spend at least half of it in the saddle."


      • Original Poster

        Fat is what I am looking for! Going to start looking into some RB feeders!

        SK, do you find that the bottoms of the bales get nasty and wet or do you not have any issues with it?


        • #5
          I find that there will always be al little waste with round bales but it is worth it to me to have hay available to them all the time. We got a calf and put him out with the horses so I am sure he will be in charge of cleanup when the bale gets low. I have five OTTBs on this bale and it should last me 2-3 weeks. We use the metal hay rings as it does cut down on waste and mess.
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          • #6
            Because I just have two horses, I will often keep the round bale in their run-in shed, where it will be somewhat sheltered from damp. However, I mostly just resign myself to the idea that there will be more waste than if I had a larger group eating the bale. I do try to purchase smaller bales to minimize that waste.
            Equinox Equine Massage

            In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was in me invincible summer.
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            • #7
              I keep mine in their sheds. The shed for two horses is 12 by 18 and the shed in the three horse field is 12 by 56 (runs the length of the barn). The two go through one in about three weeks and the three boy field is done with theirs in 8 - 10 days... that field has one piggy Tb who stuffs his face 24/7. I'd be too scared to try a traditional roundbale feeder, but I can't say enough good things about the Big Bale Buddy. They're awesome! Absolutely no waste and I don't worry about anyone beating themselves up on a feeder, plus they're really affordable!
              Please don't try to be a voice of reason. It's way more fun to spin things out of control. #BecauseCOTH - showhorsegallery


              • #8
                I keep my big round bales in the barn and dole it out by the wheelbarrow load. Otherwise my filly would be the size of the goodyear blimp because she is a big pig.

                I've found that the load will last them about 2 hours, and then they will leave and nibble at grass, then come back and pick up the scraps they left behind the first time. In winter I feed 5 loads a day, and they also get fed alfalfa cubes for breakfast and dinner. It keeps them eating almost full-time, without wasting anything. Because contrary to popular belief, horses do rest during the day instead of eating 24/7. Except for my piggy filly anyway.


                • #9
                  We feed round bales mostly under a shelter I built especially for it and in rings. I buy a variety of different type, quality horse hay and switch around. They also have Ryegrass to graze on. They average about 5 or 6 days for 7 horses and there is little waste when fed in the rings. Under the shelter, I push the ring aside with the front-end loader, clean it all out with the landscape rake kept on the back of the utility tractor in winter, slide the ring back in place, a helper cuts the net off over the ring, and the bale is dropped in. No handling of hay other than with the front-end loader.

                  If the weather is going to be nice for a number of days, I'll unroll one on a hill in the pastures.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by magicteetango View Post
                    SK, do you find that the bottoms of the bales get nasty and wet or do you not have any issues with it?
                    No real issues with that because I live in a dry area and winter here produces heaps of white crap, and no mud. At any rate, the hay goes in the barn so that when 40 below hits, I can just turn the horses loose and let them at an unwrapped bale. Anything I feed outside, never a problem and they don't waste much except for a few weeds, cattails, and some grasses they don't care for.
                    Founder of the Dyslexic Clique. Dyslexics of the world - UNTIE!!

                    Member: Incredible Invisbles


                    • Original Poster

                      Thanks everyone for their insight. This looks like it may be a very economical and fattening solution for my boys. I think I'll order one for next week and see how it goes, I still have plenty of squares left worst case!


                      • #12
                        Feeding round bales has changed my life....I love it! I always had ideas that the horses would eat too much, there would be too much waste, and the silly notion that it was a little too...hmmm...redneckish? You have to admit, you don't exactly see many nice farms that feed round bales.

                        However, I breed also, and want the mares and babies to be able to eat free choice grass hay. So before foaling this past spring, I went searching for the "perfect" round bale feeder. I found something called a poly ring that is very horse friendly. It is all plastic but very durable, has fairly high sides, and doesn't have any spaces or metal for foal legs or feet to hit or get stuck in. The babies have reared on it, fell in, kicked it, etc, without a hair getting out of place.

                        I don't feed in the sheds. I also don't have a problem with the hay going bad. When it rains or snows, only the top few inches get wet, and the horses will eat that in a day or two. I live in a relatively dry climate.

                        One small problem we've encountered is that one of the mares loves to bury her head as deep as she can in the hay. For a little while she was getting a little wheezy and coughed during work. This disappeared as soon as we switched her to a round bale feeder that was more open at the bottom, to allow for better airflow. The horses all look....um, healthy, but not fat by any means.

                        Winter chores have been the best they've ever been. No lugging small bales, no hay stuck in my hair or socks, and no foul words directed at my husband as we unload a few hundred small bales into the barn. For us, it's a bit more expensive, but well worth it just in time saved.


                        • #13
                          About 2 weeks ago I bought the poly ring that Krallen mentioned. The horses love the constant feed and the 1st 3 days didn't move from it.

                          So far I love not feeling like I have to rush home to feed and even skipping a meal won't kill them. I hope it holds up under our hot sun next summer.


                          • #14
                            I have a round bale feeder and I love it. Really keeps the wasting down. I want the poly ring, but its just out of the budget right now!

                            I wish my horses would take 3 weeks to go thru a round! Its more like 3 days around here But then again they are out on it 24/7 and they are all huge WBs!


                            • #15
                              I have the Better Than Nothing round bale feeder. It's basically a circle, made of 4 pieces of recycled rubber. I LOVE IT!!

                              it weighs 80 lbs., I can flip it on it's side and roll it, then drop it over a new roll by myself, you don't need a tractor to move it, It's great.I heard about it on COTH a few years ago and got one. You can also use the quarters in a corner ofa stall if you wanted.

                              I agree with many who stated that it seemd a bit "redneckish" to feed rolls, but once I realized that the rolls and the squares I thought were better came from the same field I got over it.
                              A roll lasts me about a week now with 6 horses on it, longer in the summer when I have grass. And it is much cheaper for me to feed a roll than it is squares, at least the way I feed. It's almost 1/3 cheaper.
                              I still keep squares for in the stalls and the trailers but in the pasture they get rolls. I haven't had a bit of problem with one yet.
                              "Perhaps the final test of anybody's love of dogs is their willingness to permit them to make a camping ground of the bed" -Henry T. Merwin


                              • #16
                                We feed round bales from Nov to the first of April. We go thru 6/month (5 horses). They have all day access to them. It's long strand clean pure grass hay, no weed, inside stored, never been weathered. $15/big bale!!! It really helps to get my expenses down and put the money where I more importantly need it.

                                I absolutely LOVE the freedom they give us. I can sleep in some mornings when I can and not give it a thought. Sunday mornings with the paper and coffee and still in my pjs! We can safely be gone for a day, or more if I have someone just come to check on them (and we have Nelson waterers).

                                We put them in the corners of the run-ins. Gramps sets them up off the ground on a pallet. Then he ties two pallets around the fronts, they are set in a deep corner, and he ties them to the walls. As the rounds are eaten down he tightens the pallets. (have done this for the past 5 yrs and have never had a horse get hurt on the pallets, including babies, maybe they learned to be smart about it too) At the end we remove the pallets in front and let them finish off the bale. We do have a regular round bale feeder out in a field and we drop a bale out there after the ground has frozen for them to have pasture movement without badly tearing up the fields.

                                I feed higher quality alfalfa squares a.m/p.m to the growing youngsters. But the snack bar works to keep them happy and their systems moving 24/7. And move they do -- all that hay makes for a lot more poop .
                                Don't let anyone tell you that your ideas or dreams are foolish. There is a millionaire walking around who invented the pool noodle.


                                • #17
                                  How about round bales for horses that aren't out 24/7. Mine go out in groups of two (although the 2 yearlings do indeed live outside) for 10-12 hours a day. My fields are a bit of a walk from the barn and lugging hay down to them every evening is such a pain. Especially since one is blind and when she's trying to find the hay she'll walk all over it which leads to lots of waste.

                                  Do you think the bale would go bad too fast only being snacked on for part of the day? Do any of you have issues with it getting moldy when you have a really rainy season (like the one we're having). Mostly I'm just looking to reduce my waste, save time and money.
                                  Who needs wings when you've got a jumper?


                                  • #18
                                    Even if the bale is only snacked on for part of the day, they really don't seem to go bad very quickly. When we were out on the land, I had one horse and a pony, and they only went through about a round bale every three weeks (on pasture). Even if I threw them a new one before they were finished with the old, they would "clean up" the leftovers on the old one and only leave about a bale or so of "waste" that was mainly stem. Of course, my mare was a pig, and I fed on two different spots that were graveled since my guys were barefoot, so YMMV.


                                    • #19
                                      We grow and store our own hay. Squares are stored in the barn as are some rounds, but we just don't have room for it all.

                                      The rest of the round bales are stored outside and the outer layer of the round bale DOES get kind of gross looking. The inner layer is fine. Bales stored in the field last us a year for horses and more for cows. Cows are able to extract a lot more nutrients from foods than horses.

                                      When we put the bale in the field (without a feeder) the horses tend to "eat out of the middle" and ignore the gross/crusty outer layer. This eventually becomes a "bed" for them. Good hay is rarely wasted by the two OTTBS. They take a few weeks to go through a bale. The "bad" hay that ends on the ground is their "bed" that they lay and sleep in during the day. They are in at night.

                                      The other two horses (a large pony mix and an Arab) are much messier. They rub/itch/scratch/run through their round bale so that it is trampled down fairly quickly. They could use a round bale feeder! They take much less time to go through a bale and waste a lot more.

                                      I would say that for us the waste is not so much an issue; we like the fact that I'm not trying to drag squares through the snow/mud year round to feed outside. DH can just drop one in the pasture with the tractor.


                                      • #20
                                        I just put my outside-stored round bales on the ground- no feeder. They're somewhere in the 1000# range. My three 2-year olds will eat one in a week. I have two older mares in another paddock- they get a new bale about every 2 weeks. I don't mind the waste- it gives them a really soft place to lay down, and since I feed bales in the same place all winter, it builds up a pack that stays mud-free. I just clean up the old hay pile in the spring with the loader tractor.
                                        As someone else mentioned, if you want to eliminate waste get a cow. When I had both in the same pasture, there was hardly any waste- the cows ate what the horses wouldn't. And eventually I had a freezer full of beef!