Because of their affordability and convenience round bales of hay are a popular feeding choice for horses, but controlling horses’ hay intake is difficult, and feeding round bales can result in excessive hay waste. Several round-bale feeders are available for horses, but how well do they prevent hay waste? And are they cost-effective?

A group of researchers from the University of Minnesota recently put nine different round-bale feeder designs to the test.

"The objectives of this study were to determine hay waste, hay intake, and economics of nine round-bale feeder designs and a no-feeder control when used in feeding horses," said Krishona Martinson, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Animal Science and lead author of the study.

Using 25 mature, nonworking Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds, the researchers rotated five groups of five horses among outdoor paddocks, each containing one of the nine feeder designs or the no-feeder control.

Feeders used were:

  • Cinch Net ($147; Cinch Chix LLC);
  • The cone ($1,195; Weldy Enterprises);
  • Covered Cradle ($3,200; SM Iron Inc.);
  • Hayhut ($650; Hayhuts LLS);
  • Hay Sleigh ($425; Smith Iron Works);
  • The ring ($300; R & C Livestock);
  • Tombstone ($250; Dura-Built);
  • Tombstone Saver ($650; HiQual); and
  • Waste Less ($1,450; JSI Innovations LLC).

Researchers collected, dried, and weighed excess hay surrounding the feeders (or not attached to the core bale in the no-feeder control) daily. After a four-day period, all consumable hay left inside a feeder also was