Round-Bale Feeder for Horses
Table of Contents
Baled hay is available in various sizes, including round bales varying from 1.2 m x 1.5 m to 1.8 m x 1.8 m (4 ft x 5 ft to 6 ftx 6 ft), or large rectangular bales. These larger bales are being used to feed horses more than ever before, for several reasons:
Figure 1. Horses feeding from a round-bale feeder.
Offsetting these are several significant disadvantages that include:
A well-made feeder should incorporate the following design characteristics:
Considering the substantial effort required to produce high-quality hay, an equal effort should, in turn, be made to minimize the losses from contamination and waste during the feeding process. Too often, a round bale is dumped into a field and, within a few days, the horses tear the bale apart, defecate and urinate on it, tramp it into the ground and use the remainder as expensive bedding. Hay fed on the ground is quickly contaminated with sand and parasites. Without the protection of a bale feeder, 50% of the dry matter content of bales can be lost. In addition, a huge clean-up job awaits you in the spring. The removal of this compacted, wasted hay, manure and ice necessitates a major effort with a tractor with a front-end loader.
A well-constructed feeder, such as the one shown below, reduces the waste hay to less than 10%. The inner basket keeps the hay off the ground and prevents the wicking of moisture from the ground. This is a major benefit over feeders that allow the bale to contact the ground.
Feeders should not be accidents waiting to happen. They need to be well constructed and capable of withstanding the rough-housing of horses, including the rubbing of bums and necks. Areas around feeders are high traffic areas. They quickly become soupy, muddy places in the fall and spring of the year, especially in areas with high amounts of rainfall, poor drainage and heavy clay soils. When a feeder remains in the same location for most of the year, provisions should be made to improve the footing around the feeder. Options include moving the feeder regularly, constructing a cement pad extending distances of 34.6 m (1015 ft) around the feeder or using landscape (geotextile) cloth. See the information sheet Management of Mud and Holes Around Gateways and High Density Areas on the OMAFRA website.
Feeders should be easily accessible year round. When the snow flies and the drifts build, driving a tractor into a field with a 227-kg- (500-lb-) or-more bale mounted on a front-end loader can be a problem, unless you have 4-wheel drive. By placing the feeder perpendicular to the fence and adjacent to a driveway, which is kept open year round, the bales can be lifted over the fence and dropped directly into the feeder without entering the paddock. A feeder placed perpendicular to the fence divides the horse group in half and reduces the feed competition.
The bale feeder described in this Factsheet is to be used with 1.2 m x 1.5 m (4 ft x 5 ft) round bales. It is best constructed with 25-mm (1-in) square tubing, welded so that there are no rough edges, corners or welds. The feeder consists of:
This feeder is built for the typical, mature 15-hand horse and could be increased in size to accommodate draft horses. Quarter horse weanlings have had no problem eating from this bale feeder.
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