Why Didn’t My Horses’ 1,200-Pound Hay Bale Last Longer?

Get tips on how to keep hay in front of your horses 24 hours a day while minimizing waste.
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Why Didn
Round bales are notorious for feeding losses when fed loose or in simple ring feeders. | Photo: iStock

Q. I have three horses at home and try to free feed them hay, which until recently consisted of me filling and feeding haynets at least four times a day. In an attempt not to spend my whole day running back and forth to feed horses, I decided to try feeding them from a large round bale. This bale was sold to me as weighing 1,200 pounds. I placed on the ground in my dirt paddock. They have had access to it now for seven days, and the whole thing is just about gone. How can they possibly have eaten the whole thing in a week? The horses are a 17-year-old Quarter horse who weighs 1,250 pounds, a 20-year-old Hanoverian weighing 1,375 pounds, and a 9-year-old Hanoverian/Anglo-Arab who weighs 1,010 pounds.

S.A.

A. First of all, I want to commend you on trying to keep hay in front of your horses 24 hours a day.  Whenever possible, this is ideal for nonpastured horses, because it gives them the best opportunity to eat for most of the day, which is how they evolved to live. Achieving this can be challenging, though. Providing access to the round bale was a good idea, and at first glance it does seem that big of a bale should last far longer than a week. But let’s see if that is the case

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Written by:

Clair Thunes, PhD, is an equine nutritionist who owns Clarity Equine Nutrition, based in Gilbert, Arizona. She works as a consultant with owners/trainers and veterinarians across the United States and globally to take the guesswork out of feeding horses and provides services to select companies. As a nutritionist she works with all equids, from WEG competitors to Miniature donkeys and everything in between. Born in England, she earned her undergraduate degree at Edinburgh University, in Scotland, and her master’s and doctorate in nutrition at the University of California, Davis. Growing up, she competed in a wide array of disciplines and was an active member of the U.K. Pony Club. Today, she serves as the district commissioner for the Salt River Pony Club.

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