Hay Is for Horses

— Written By and last updated by Emily Cope
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If you haven’t already, it’ll probably be time to start feeding hay soon. Both round and square bales are popular choices for horses, but for many feeding a mixture of cattle and horses, round bales are the shape of choice.

One of the most contentious points when discussing feeding hay to any species is reducing waste. University of Minnesota Extension recently summarized findings of a study concerning feeding horses using round bale feeders. 

The biggest takeaway from this research is that using a round bale feeder decreases hay waste by at least 22% as opposed to not using one. So, let’s do some quick math:

If hay is purchased for $150/ton (which is a low estimate based on current market conditions), that equates to about $0.08/lb. If using a round bale feeder decreases hay waste by 22%, or 440lbs, that comes out to a prevented loss of $35.20. While this may seem low, if feeding several animals, high tonnage of feed is required, which can bring this number up very quickly. There is variation in hay waste based on the type of round bale feeder, as unrestricted access allows horses to pull hay out of the bale with their head, increasing waste.

Forage intake will also decrease when hay is fed without a feeder. Generally, it is recommended that horses consume 1.5 to 2.5% of their bodyweight (BW) daily. The above research reported that horses fed using a hay feeder consumed 2.0 to 2.4% of their BW daily, while those without a feeder consumed 1.3%. This resulted in overall weight loss in the herd.

For more information on types of round bale feeders included in the study, including information on payback, visit the link above.

As always, please contact the Extension office at 336-593-8179 with any questions.