Round-bale feeder design affects hay waste and economics during horse feeding

J Anim Sci. 2012 Mar;90(3):1047-55. doi: 10.2527/jas.2011-4087. Epub 2011 Oct 7.


Many horse owners find round bales convenient, less labor intensive, and more affordable than other hay types, but report an inability to control horse BW gain and excessive hay waste. The objectives were to compare hay waste, hay intake, and payback of 9 round-bale feeders and a no-feeder control when used during horse feeding. Nine round-bale feeders were tested: Cinch Net, Cone, Covered Cradle, Hayhut, Hay Sleigh, Ring, Tombstone, Tombstone Saver, and Waste Less. Each feeder design was placed on the ground in a dirt paddock. Five groups of 5 horses were fed in rotation for a 4-d period with each feeder. Every fourth day, groups were rotated among paddocks and a new round bale was placed in each feeder. In the 5 paddocks used, 5 feeders were installed for d 1 through 20, and the remaining 4 feeders and no-feeder control were installed for d 21 through 40. Groups of horses were sequentially assigned to feeders using two 5 × 5 Latin squares, the first for d 1 through 20, the second for d 21 through 40. Horse groups of similar age, BW, breed, and sex were formed from 25 Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred geldings and open mares (means: 11 yr; 541 kg of BW). Hay on the ground surrounding the feeder was collected daily, dried, and weighed. The total amount of hay removed around each feeder for a 4-d period was considered waste. Dry matter intake was estimated as the difference between hay disappearance and waste. Number of months for the reduction in waste to repay feeder cost (payback) were calculated using hay valued at $110/t, and improved feeder efficiency over the control. Feeder design did not affect hay intake (P > 0.05); all feeders resulted in an estimated hay intake of 2.0 to 2.4% BW; the no-feeder control resulted in a reduced intake of 1.3% BW (P = 0.001). Mean percentage of hay waste differed among feeders (P < 0.001): Waste Less, 5%; Cinch Net, 6%; Hayhut, 9%; Covered Cradle, 11%; Tombstone Saver, 13%; Tombstone, Cone, and Ring, 19%; Hay Sleigh, 33%; and no-feeder control, 57%. Feeder design also affected payback (P < 0.01). The Cinch Net paid for itself in less than 1 mo; Tombstone and Ring, 2 mo; Hayhut and Tombstone Saver, 4 mo; Hay Sleigh, 5 mo; Waste Less, 8 mo; Cone, 9 mo; and Covered Cradle, 20 mo. Round-bale feeder design affected hay waste and payback, but not estimated hay intake or BW change during horse feeding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed*
  • Animal Husbandry / economics*
  • Animal Husbandry / methods*
  • Animals
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Horses / physiology*
  • Male
  • Poaceae*
  • Weather