Small Square Bale Feeder Economics, Hay Waste Evaluated

Using a hay feeder produces less waste and will save horse owners money in the long run, researchers say.
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Some owners prefer their horses from small square hay bales over round bales for a variety of reasons, one being that horses seem to waste less of it. But if you’re feeding hay from small bales on the ground, your horses might be wasting more than you think. Fortunately, there’s a fix: Researchers from the University of Minnesota (UM) recently determined that using a feeder designed for hay from small square bales produces less waste and will save horse owners money in the long run compared to feeding on the ground.

The month-long study aimed to evaluate the effect three different small square-bale feeders and a no-feeder control had on horses’ hay intake, hay waste, and body weight (BW). They also evaluated the time it would take the feeder to pay for itself by reducing hay waste.

The feeders used in the study included:

  • A basket feeder (Equine Hay Basket, Tarter Farm and Ranch Equipment, $372);
  • A hayrack (Horse Bunk Feeder and Hay Rack, Priefert Manufacturing, $280); and
  • A slat feeder (The Natural Feeder, $349).

The team employed 12 mares separated into four groups of three, and each mare tested each type of feeder (there was also one control group that did not use a feeder). Researchers fed grass hay twice daily at 2.5% of the herd’s BW in two feeders of each type for seven days. The mares had access to shelter, water, and a salt block and consumed a ration balancer daily to ensure their vitamin and mineral requirements were met. The team collected and weighed wasted hay from the ground twice daily, and they calculated the number of months it would take for waste reduction to pay back feeder cost using a hay value at $250 per ton

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Written by:

Casie Bazay is a freelance and young adult writer, as well as a certified equine acupressure practitioner. She also hosts a blog, The Naturally Healthy Horse. Once an avid barrel racer, she now enjoys giving back to the horses who have given her so much.

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