The types of hay feeders available today are more plentiful than ever. With so many choices, it is hard for cattle farmers to decide which type is right for their livestock and budget.
If you have never used a hay feeder, investing in one – no matter what design – is a step up from allowing cattle to access hay bales directly. In fact, any type of hay feeder will save about 20 percent in hay costs. That savings is realized by preventing hay from being trampled and destroyed by cattle when it is placed on the ground.
Hay unrolling results in approximately 15 percent more waste when compared to using ring feeders. While hay waste can be minimized by unrolling only what cattle will eat each day, hay feeders are still preferable because of money lost through destroyed hay and labor costs. It also is difficult to know exactly how much hay should be unrolled each day.
The standard bale feeder is a ring with an open bottom. In general, these feeders have 16 to 18 feeding stations and are so light that they can be easily placed over the bale. Bale feeders with less defined feeding stations and fewer bars lead to more hay waste.
Improvements to the basic feeder allow for decreased bottom ring spacing and more bars or solid sheeting to prevent hay from being lost out the bottom. A hay feeder with a solid skirt around the bottom is always an improvement because it prevents cattle from moving hay outside the ring and trampling it.
Another improvement to the round-skirted feeders are bars arranged in a cone shape and attached to the solid ring at the top of the feeder. Some feeders have chains that support the bale. Bars or chains that support the bale allow cattle room to consume hay in a natural grazing position once the hay is pulled from the bale above. These feeders decrease hay waste when compared with open bottomed rings.
Square and round bale feeders with a full-size base and tapered top rings or rails also allow cattle to eat in a natural grazing position after hay is pulled from the bale. Like ring feeders, square and round feeders can be open or skirted. These feeders provide the same restriction of the cone feeders without having to lift the bale into the cone.
If you can’t afford a sophisticated bale feeder, it is still important to use one if possible because any bale feeder will provide for a decrease in hay waste. And even a small decrease in waste can save you big money in hay costs.
The Hay Manager, LLC
24064 478th Avenue
Trent, SD 57065