Archive for the ‘Hay feeders’ Category

by Sharyl Stockstill |

Fresh grain and hay are crucial to livestock health. Using a hay and grain feeder reduces waste and contamination by keeping the feed off the ground and in a position where it is less likely to be contaminated by dust and defecation. carries a wide selection of corner stall hay feeders. Visit us at:

Things you will need

  • Feeder
  • Pencil
  • Drill

Mounting instructions

1. Choose a feeder that does not have sharp edges. This will reduce the possibility of injury if the animal kicks or spooks while in the barn.

2. Find a suitable location in your stall. The ideal location will be easily accessible to both you and your animal. It should not be near the water trough; this will keep the water from being contaminated with grain dropping from the animal’s mouth

3. Hold the feeder against wall and mark mounting hole locations with a pencil. Vets recommend mounting the feeder in the horse stall as low as possible to mimic natural browsing. Beware of mounting too low, however, as the risk of contamination from defecation will increase.

4. Drill pilot holes in the stall wall using the drill. This will make mounting easier.

5. Hold the feeder in position and use bolts to mount the hay and grain feeder in your stall. Tighten the bolts with the wrench or ratchet until the feeder is secure.

Tips & warnings

  • Clean the feeder between feedings by disposing of leftover grain and hay. Wipe with a dry cloth to remove any dust or debris.
  • If there is another stall on the other side of the wall to which you are bolting the corner hay feeder and you do not want the bolts and nuts poking through, use lag bolts that are shorter than the wall’s thickness; these bolts are like heavy-duty screws and do not require a nut.


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Many horse owners are diligent about their mount’s nutritional needs. They search for the right combination of forage, grain, and supplements. The result, they hope, is a horse or pony that lives healthier, runs faster, works longer, and moves sounder. But there is more to your horse’s health than the perfect diet. In fact, how your horse is fed can influence his health almost as much as the types of foods he eats.

Types of equine feeders

There are a variety of horse feeders and horse hay feeders available. Hay racks, mangers, feed bins and bags, concentrate feeders, and more are each designed to help your horse get the nutrients and variety he needs for a healthy life. Each style of feeder has its advantages. Some, like wall feeders, elevate food to help prevent fecal, dirt, and bedding contamination. Others, such as hay bags, are perfect for use in trailers while traveling to competitions or shows.

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But care needs to be taken with all feeder types. Hay bags that are hung too low, for instance, can tangle your horse’s feet when empty. Similarly, metal concentrate feeders can wear over time and the resulting sharp edges can cut your horse’s neck, chin, tongue, or lips. However, it is the height at which most of these feeders are installed that poses the greatest health risk for your horse.

Hay racks, suspended concentrate feeders, and others are often installed above your horse’s withers. This helps prevent him from becoming tangled in the feeder or wounded by its components should he panic while in the stall. But when feeders are elevated to this height, horses are forced to reach upwards to obtain their food. This posture causes an increase of inhaled dust and hay particles, which can cause respiratory distress. It also puts unnecessary strain on your horse’s neck. Worse, this position can cause your horse to choke, may contribute to colic, and helps decrease the amount of nutrients your horse obtains from his food.

The natural feeding posture

Wild horses graze vast grass and pasturelands for food. As a result, most of their food is consumed in a heads down position. Floor-level feeding mimics this natural posture and has many health benefits, including:

Slowed consumption – Horses are more relaxed while eating off the ground. As a result, they take smaller mouthfuls of food, more thoroughly chew it, and better mix it with saliva, which helps reduce the risk of choking and impaction colic.

Improved nutrition – Since horses chew more and the hay or grain mixes better with saliva, food is better prepared for breakdown in the digestive tract. As a result, more vitamins, minerals, and nutrients are absorbed from the food.

Reduced irritants – Your horse inhales less irritants when he eats with his head down. He also reduces the risk of irritants falling into his eyes. A lowered head also promotes airway drainage, which helps flush out any inhaled dust or hay particles.

Encourage safe floor-level feeding

The best way to encourage your horse’s natural feeding posture and promote better health is to feed him at ground level. However, your horse’s health can be compromised if hay or grain is simply placed on the stall floor or ground where it can mix with waste, sand, and parasite eggs. Instead, use a ground-level feed tub to help protect your horse’s food from contamination and promote a more natural grazing posture.

To further protect your horse from insect and parasite eggs, use an appropriate insect control and dewormer regimen. Also keep in mind that the best feed pans are constructed of durable, yet flexible, crack- and chew-resistant reinforced rubber. This helps prevent injury should your horse become agitated while in the stall or run-in shelter, but withstands years of use for added protection to your pocketbook.

If you still prefer to elevate your horse’s food with a wall feeder, install the feeder at a lower height to ease access for your horse and retain more of a natural feeding posture. Also, look for designs with smooth, rounded edges and reinforced mounting holes for added safety.

Of course, the simplest way to encourage ground-level feeding is by offering your horse access to an appropriate lush pasture or paddock. Thankfully, today’s economical electric fence kits and accessories permit you to build a pasture or paddock that suits all of your horse’s grazing needs.


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This section is from the book “The Stable Book: Being A Treatise On The Management Of Horses”, by John Stewart. Also available from Amazon: The Stable Book.

Ordinary horse hay racks are made of wood; they are wide as the stall, have the front sloping, and the back perpendicular. Racks of this kind are giving way to others made of cast-iron, and much smaller. As far as the horse is concerned, it matters little whether iron or wood be used. It is said that his lips are apt to receive injury from splinters which occasionally start on the wood; but this happens very rarely. Iron racks are at first more costly; but in the end they are the cheapest. They require no repairs; at the expiration of ten years they are nearly as valuable as at the beginning, and they are easily made clean, a matter of considerable importance when infectious diseases prevail. They are never well made. The spars are placed too far apart, and they all slope too much in the front. It would be easy to make them closer and of a more suitable form.

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The face of the rack ought to be perpendicular; in order that the hay may always lie within the horse’s reach, the back of the rack ought to form an inclined plane. The spars ought to be round, and two inches, apart. For fast-working horses, the rack is large enough if it hold seven pounds of hay. The largest size need not hold more than double or treble this quantity. The bottom of the rack should be eighteen or twenty inches from the top of the manger. The best situation is midway between the partitions. But in this place, a perpendicular front, flush with the head wall, can not be obtained without recesses.

In reference to situation, hay-racks may be termed front, side, and under racks. The first is that which is elevated on the wall in front of the horse; the second, that which is placed in one corner; and the third is on a level with the manger.

The Front-Rack usually has a sloping face; and sometimes the inclination is so great, and the rack so high, that the horse has to turn his head almost upside down every time he applies to it. When the stable is not sufficiently wide, or the walls sufficiently thick, to admit of a perpendicular face, the front of the rack must be inclined; but the inclination need not be great. A rack having the face upright and the back sloping When the spars are of iron, this is the best rack. It answers perfectly well for all kind of horses. It is thirty inches wide, twenty-four deep, and nineteen from front to back. The spars are round, one and a quarter inches thick, and two and a half inches apart. Each rack should have a ring at bottom for securing the horse’s head. When tied to the spars he is apt to bend or break them. Small racks are not good for large horses, though suitable enough for fast-workers.

The Side-Rack may be placed in either corner, on the right or on the left; but when filled from the stable, it is most convenient on the left side. When made of wood, the side-rack usually has upright round spars, arranged in a semi-circular form. The back is an inclined plane. The bottom on the outside is boarded up, so that the horse may not injure his head against the corner. This is the best kind of rack for narrow and low stables. It takes nothing off the width of the stable and allows the horse to stand quite within the stall when eating his hay. The front might easily be made of cast iron; the back and bottom of wood; or the inclined back might be dispensed with, and it would thus be both cheap and durable. As usually made, it has all the awkwardness of the old-fashioned sloping front, and it is gener ally too small.

The Under~Rack is sometimes nothing but a large deep manger, having a few spars across the top, placed so far apart that the horse’s head can pass between them, and let his muzzle to the bottom. This is used when the stable is too low to admit an elevated rack. It is a poor substitute, troublesome to fill, and permitting the horse to waste his hay by scatter ing it among his litter, and spoiling it with his breath. Sometimes the under-rack differs not in form from the ordinary wooden one. It is three feet long, occupying half the breadth of the stall, and having its upper border level with the manger, which occupies the other half of the stall. It is sometimes sparred across the top, but most usually open; its front is sparred, sloping, and reaching to within a foot of the ground The object of this is to permit the horse to eat while lying. Few appear much inclined to take advantage of the contrivance. Some do; but most horses eat what they want before lying down. It allows the horse to breathe upon his hay, and to throw it on the ground; and when sparred at top, he can not get to the bottom of the rack, except from the front, and the front he can hardly apply to without, lying down.

The under-rack, though generally made of wood, and with an inclined face, is sometimes of cast-iron, and upright.

In some stables there are no racks. The hay is thrown on the ground, or it is cut and placed in the manger. The first is a wasteful practice, and not common; the horse destroys more hay than he eats. The second, that of cutting the hay into chaff, is advisable only under certain circumstances. At times hay is so cheap, that the quantity saved does not pay the cost of converting it into chaff. Whether that be the case or not, it is proper in large establishments to have racks in some of the stalls. This will be understood by referring to the article on Preparing Food.

The usual mode of filling the hay-rack is none of the best. When the loft is over the stable, as it always is in towns, the hay is put into the rack by a hole directly over it communicating with the loft. For certain reasons these holes ought to be abolished, and in a great many stables they are. The moist foul air of the stable passes through them; it mingles with the hay and contaminates it. The dust and the seed which are thrown down with the hay, fall upon the mane, into the ears and the eyes, and annoy the horse as well as soil him. Hence, he learns a trick of standing back, or breaking his halter; and horses have been seriously injured by the hay-fork slipping from the hand of a careless groom and falling upon the head or neck. There should be no communication between the loft and the stable. The hay can be rolled into a bundle and put into the rack from the stable. It can be thrown in at the top. The upper spars of low racks, when they have any, should be fixed to a frame opening on hinges; it saves the time consumed in thrusting it through the spars.

The other racks are all quite open at top, and the hay is thrown in by a fork.

The most common method in America is, to construct the barns with a space or hall of about fourteen feet in width between the stalls which face each other, and running through the whole width of the building. The hay is then thrown from the loft on to the hall floor, and thence into the racks This space acts as an admirable ventilator, and is otherwise useful for a variety of purposes. The floors of the lofts over the stables are made so close, either by double layers of boards or a single layer grooved and tongued, as to prevent the seed and dust falling on to the horses below. We think this arrangement better than any we saw in England. In cities, however, in consequence of the high price of building lots, this plan can not so well be adopted. Yet this need not prevent stables being made much higher between joints than is usually practiced, and giving windows and cross gauze-wire holes sufficient for ventilation, constructed on the same principle as the respirator for the human subject.


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by Claude Villeneuve |

The main problem with feeding hay outside to horses is that they like to spread hay around, use it as bedding and spoil it. And as you know for sure is a big waste of hay especially if you paid for quality hay. And to make things worse, all that spoiled wasted and compacted hay has to be cleaned up around the feeder or feeding area. Also, spoilage and waste from all weather conditions has to be considered in designing horse hay feeders.

Of course a solution to this problem, would be to feed only the quantity of hay that your horses are hungry for at the time of feeding, so they eat it all and not waste any. But it also implies you being around when needed, nice weather or not. Since most people want more and more leisure time, there is a need for a feeding method where the hay could stay inside the feeder when not in need, and stay protected from rain, snow and sun. This way one could go from feeding a few times a day to a few times a week.

While an efficient hay feeder would cut down on expenses for one who buys hay, it would sure cut down on work for those who produce their own hay. Most users estimate that a minimum of 30% and up to 40% of hay can be wasted both by the horses and weather conditions.

Other problems such as wounding of horses caused by the feeder and a better social behaviour at the feeder should also be taken into consideration.

Fortunately, such a horse hay feeder exists. It keeps the hay inside the feeder protected from weather. It is completely safe as far as wounding animals and it greatly ameliorates social behaviour around the feeder. Overall this hay feeder will save a considerable amount of time, work, hay and money.

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For more information about cattle guards, cattle scales, and saddle pads, please visit our Barn World informational site.

For more information about hog feeders, grain weight conversion, and hay feeders, please visit our Barn World informational site.

For more information about livestock scales, bulk feed bins, and radiant under-floor heating, please visit our Barn World informational site.

Owning a horse is a time-consuming yet rewarding experience. Horses are sensitive and intelligent creatures that require a lot of attention and maintenance from regular vet visits to routine grooming. However, for people who truly enjoy owning a horse, the maintenance becomes second nature and grooming becomes another act of bonding between horse and owner. By following the proper steps involved in caring for a horse, you ensure that your horse stays happy and healthy.


1. Get a veterinarian. Contact a veterinarian in your area that specializes in horses. Set up your vet appointment before you get your horse. Horses need regular shots for rhino flu every 8 weeks, rabies and Potomac fever shots twice a year and past wormer every 4 to 6 weeks. Getting a veterinarian involved before getting your horse ensures that your horse receives the proper care from the beginning.

2. Set up your stable. Provide the horse with a stable that features stalls that are at least 10-by-10 feet. Get rid of any exposed electrical wires. Place straw bedding in the horse’s stall. Provide ample ventilation in the stable, as well as feed and water buckets. Clean the horse stalls and stable every day. Provide fresh straw daily.

3. Provide a large pasture. Horses need at least one and a half acres of land for roaming and grazing. Fix any fence holes or broken gates before allowing your horse in the pasture.

4. Feed and keep your horse hydrated. Place feed and water buckets in the pasture and in the stable. Provide plenty of oats, grains and commercial feed on top of the pasture grass the horse grazes on. Feed the horse according to its needs. Observe the horse’s feeding habits during the first couple weeks after bringing it home. Adjust the feed according to how much your horse consumes. Provide clean, fresh water to the horse several times a day. Clean out the hay feeder, feeding buckets or troughs at least once a week and the water buckets every day.

5. Groom the horse. Regularly groom the horse after each ride. Brush the horse. Keep the tail and mane untangled. Use the proper brushes when brushing the horse. Wash the horse with horse shampoo or soap at least once a week.


For more information about cattle guards, cattle scales, and saddle pads, please visit our Barn World informational site.

For more information about hog feeders, grain weight conversion, and hay feeders, please visit our Barn World informational site.

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by Dr. Kathleen Crandell |

Using round-baled hay is attractive to horse owners because this forage form is less labor-intensive, more convenient, and less expensive than feeding hay in square bales. Some of the drawbacks are excessive hay waste, overconsumption, and weight gain among horses. Several round-bale hay feeders have been designed to address some of the drawbacks, especially wastage of hay, but to date there have not been any published comparisons.

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Researchers in Minnesota conducted an experiment that would measure hay wastage from nine round-bale feeders of differing designs as well as the economics of how long it would take before the feeder would pay for itself in savings related to less wasted hay.

Twenty-five mature Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred mares and geldings with free-choice access to water and a trace-mineralized salt block were fed orchardgrass round bales in nine different commercial round-bale feeders. To test the feeders, the horses were divided into groups of five and then exposed to one of nine different round-bale feeders, or the control of no feeder, for four days. When the horses were switched to a different feeder, they received a new round bale. During the time each group was housed with the hay in the feeder, all the hay on the ground was collected daily, and at the end of four days all the hay left in the feeder was dried and weighed. Care was taken not to include manure and dirt when collecting waste hay. From the savings in hay waste over the control bales, the researchers calculated the number of months it would take to pay for each feeder, using a figure of $112/metric ton for the hay.

During the study all the feeders were found to be safe, although one of the feeders left rub marks on the sides of the horses’ faces. No feeder restricted intake and intakes were similar for all the feeders, ranging from 2% to 2.4% body weight per day. Hay waste differed between round-bale feeder designs and ranged from 5% to 19%, while the waste for the control no-feeder was 57%. There was no significant difference in hay waste among four feeders that had a circular design. In general, more restrictive feeders led to less waste, while feeders that provided more access to the hay resulted in more waste.

Hay-waste savings necessary to pay for feeders varied from less than 1 month to 19 months. This variation was due to the wide range in prices for the feeders ($147 to $3,200).

The results suggest that using round-bale feeders definitely cut the wastage of hay, but the reduction of hay loss for the differing feeders and the time to recoup the cost of the bale feeder is highly variable.


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Baled hay is available in various sizes, including round bales varying from 1.2 m x 1.5 m to 1.8 m x 1.8 m (4 ft x 5 ft to 6 ftx 6 ft), or large rectangular bales. These larger bales are being used to feed horses more than ever before, for several reasons:

  • Harvesting ease — A much larger tonnage of hay can be handled per hour.
  • Labour saving for harvest and storage — Less manual labour is required to handle the hay. It is easier and cheaper to use tractors and mechanical means.
  • Storage — Mechanical handling makes it easy to store large volumes of hay, and storage facilities can be as simple as bale tarps.

Offsetting these are several significant disadvantages that include:

  • The need for a tractor with a front-end loader for storing the bales and transporting bales during the winter feeding period.
  • The need for the feeders to be accessible year round regardless of the weather conditions, e.g., snow or mud.
  • The dustiness of round bales — Dust can be associated with the growth of mould on hay pre-baling and, with too high a moisture level in the bales and/or improper storage (moisture or humidity wicking up from below the bales), post-baling. See the information sheet Using and Feeding Round Bales to Horses on the OMAFRA website.
  • The design of round bale feeders, meant for cattle, which can be dangerous when used with horses.

Requirements of a Good Round-Bale Feeder for Horses

A well-made feeder should incorporate the following design characteristics:

  • A smooth-surfaced, solid-bottom pan that allows rain and snow melt to drain but catches the leaves, which the horses can vacuum up.
  • Partially restricted access to the bale so there is less selection and less wastage. This is achieved by using a design with an inner basket to contain the bale.
  • Sufficient overall height so the horses can’t reach over and pull the hay from the bale.
  • Sufficient chest height so the horses can’t get a foot caught in the feeder when they paw.
  • Easy to move with a tractor.

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Advantages of Using a Feeder

Considering the substantial effort required to produce high-quality hay, an equal effort should, in turn, be made to minimize the losses from contamination and waste during the feeding process. Too often, a round bale is dumped into a field and, within a few days, the horses tear the bale apart, defecate and urinate on it, tramp it into the ground and use the remainder as expensive bedding. Hay fed on the ground is quickly contaminated with sand and parasites. Without the protection of a bale feeder, 50% of the dry matter content of bales can be lost. In addition, a huge clean-up job awaits you in the spring. The removal of this compacted, wasted hay, manure and ice necessitates a major effort with a tractor with a front-end loader.

Well-constructed hay feeders reduce the waste hay to less than 10%. The inner basket keeps the hay off the ground and prevents the wicking of moisture from the ground. This is a major benefit over feeders that allow the bale to contact the ground.

Disadvantages of Using a Feeder

Feeders should not be accidents waiting to happen. They need to be well constructed and capable of withstanding the rough-housing of horses, including the rubbing of bums and necks. Areas around feeders are high traffic areas. They quickly become soupy, muddy places in the fall and spring of the year, especially in areas with high amounts of rainfall, poor drainage and heavy clay soils. When a feeder remains in the same location for most of the year, provisions should be made to improve the footing around the feeder. Options include moving the feeder regularly, constructing a cement pad extending distances of 3–4.6 m (10–15 ft) around the feeder or using landscape (geotextile) cloth. See the information sheet Management of Mud and Holes Around Gateways and High Density Areas on the OMAFRA website.

Feeder Placement

Feeders should be easily accessible year round. When the snow flies and the drifts build, driving a tractor into a field with a 227-kg- (500-lb-) or-more bale mounted on a front-end loader can be a problem, unless you have 4-wheel drive. By placing the feeder perpendicular to the fence and adjacent to a driveway, which is kept open year round, the bales can be lifted over the fence and dropped directly into the feeder without entering the paddock. A feeder placed perpendicular to the fence divides the horse group in half and reduces the feed competition.

Round-Bale Feeder Construction

The bale feeder described in this Fact-sheet is to be used with 1.2 m x 1.5 m (4 ft x 5 ft) round bales. It is best constructed with 25-mm (1-in) square tubing, welded so that there are no rough edges, corners or welds. The feeder consists of:

  • An inner basket with staves (uprights to hold the hay and bale in place). The distance between inner staves can vary from 140 mm (5.5 in.), if a lot of small, square bales are being used in addition to the round bales, to 305 mm (12 in.). The wider spacing allows a person to crawl into the feeder from the side instead of over the top to remove waste material. However, a larger amount of hay will be pulled from the inner basket, increasing the wastage. The narrower spacing reduces the hay loss when using small, square bales but makes it a little harder for horses to eat a round bale that fits tightly into the basket.
  • A tray that has sides angled upwards. Plastic PVC puck board (of at least 13 mm (1/2-in.) thickness) is attached to the frame of the base. This is much easier for horses to keep clean.
  • An outer frame with staves that support the structure and separate the horses when feeding
  • The measurements are nominal, meaning that they are approximate sizes and are given in on-centre distances (O.C.).

This feeder is built for the typical, mature 15-hand horse and could be increased in size to accommodate draft horses. Quarter horse weanlings have had no problem eating from this bale feeder.


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by Bob Coleman |

While feeding hay to horses is certainly a common practice, what can horse owners do to control waste? It is certainly easy to just throw the hay on the ground and let the horses clean it up. However, this method of feeding can result in significant amounts of wasted feed due to trampling and soiling of the hay.

How can horse owners reduce waste? The simple answer is to use a suitable hay feeder. One feeder that can be used for 2-3 horses at one time is a simple box. The feeder is made with a 2 x 4 lumber frame covered with ¾ inch plywood. The dimensions for this feeder are 4’ wide, 6’ long and 2’ high. If you lay this out carefully, you only need two sheets of 4’ x 8’ plywood. Horse owners can cover the edges of the feeder with something like sheet rock strips to reduce the incidence of wood chewing. Make sure the metal strips have no sharp edges.

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With this box feeder, be careful to only feed what the horses need for a day. This regular feeding schedule can also aid in controlling waste as the amount of hay in the feeder at one time will not exceed the capacity of the feeder.

Will horses still root out some hay while feeding? Yes, that does happen but in general, using a suitable feeder results in 5-7% waste while no feeder results in 20-35% waste. Hay is expensive and controlling waste results in saving feed and reduced feed costs. With three horses being fed 20 lbs of hay a day, they waste 30%; that is 6 lbs of hay per horse per day. The horse owner will need to either feed more hay to meet requirements and account for the hay being wasted or the horses will lose weight because their requirements are not being met. Common reasons for feeding on the ground are because it is natural for the horse to eat from the ground and they clean it all up before I feed more. While the feeding at a low level may be similar to the natural grazing of the horse, cleaning it all up does not happen as much as we would like it to.

Controlling hay loss because of waste helps reduce feed cost and in no time, the feeder is paid for with those savings.


To get more information on cattle scales, cattle guards, or saddle pads, please visit Barn World.

To get more information on grain weight conversion, hog feeders, and hay feeders, please visit Barn World.

To get more information on bulk feed bins, livestock scales, and radiant under-floor heating, please visit Barn World.

by Ed Haag |

Extension beef specialist Dan Faulkner admits that when he and his colleagues from the University of Illinois and Iowa State University began collecting data from 225 commercial herds in an effort to better understand what factors had the greatest impact on profitability, few would have predicted that one factor would emerge heads above the rest. “About 56% of the variation in profitability was attributable to feed and hay costs,” he says. “It was a huge factor in determining profitability.”

For Faulkner and others who reviewed the survey results, the data was telling. “To me, if feed costs explain over 50% of the variation in profit, it is the one producers should really focus on,” he says.

One beef scientist who took notice of what the Illinois and Iowa survey revealed was Dan Buskirk, department of animal science, Michigan State University (MSU). For him, there was an obvious follow-up question: What was the specific reason for the variations in profitability in relation to feeding costs?

Buskirk then recalled one of his school’s livestock educators saying that he had observed a marked difference in how effective specific types of round hay feeders were at controlling waste.

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After checking the existing literature, Buskirk discovered very little had been published on the subject in recent years. But one study completed in the 1980s showed that losses of hay due to the way it was fed could reach 20% to 30% of the dry matter fed.

New research needed

With several unique designs for large bale feeders in use (with more than one claiming reduced waste potential), Buskirk was curious to see if those claims would stand up under scientific scrutiny. He was particularly interested in how cattle behaved when they were accessing the different feeders. He believed that a better understanding of the relationship between feeder design and animal behavior could provide an opportunity for more efficient feed use and also enhance animal performance and well-being.

Based on his initial findings and the encouragement of his colleagues, Buskirk formed a research team to evaluate four of the most commonly used round bale feeders: the cone feeder, the ring feeder, the trailer feeder, and the cradle feeder. The team would also monitor the feeding behavior for each feeder design and the relationship between feeding behavior, feeder design, and feed loss.

A group of 160 nonlactating, pregnant beef cows from the MSU herd were used to evaluate the quantity of hay loss and feeding behaviors from different round bale feeders.

These animals were split into eight groups of 20 and assigned by weight and body condition score to one of eight pens with the four feeder designs being evaluated. All feeder types provided approximately 37 cm linear feeder space per animal.

Prior to feeding, the round bales were weighed and sampled. During the study, the hay that fell onto the concrete surrounding the feeder was considered waste and was collected and sampled daily. After seven days, each hay feeder type was assigned to a different pen for seven more days.

Because Buskirk felt any discrepancy in waste between feeders would probably be traced back to cattle interaction around the units, he added an animal behavior component to his study. “I knew if we had differences, the next question would be why,” he says. “So at the onset of the project, working with our animal behaviorist, Adroaldo Zanella, we set up video cameras to record the cattle interaction around the feeders.”

No shortage of surprises

For Buskirk and his team, there were surprises once the data was processed. The feeder to receive the highest marks was the cone feeder with a dry matter hay loss of 3.5%, followed by the ring feeder with 6.1%, the trailer feeder with 11.4%, and the cradle feeder with 14.6%.

“My guess before the study was that the cradle feeder would prove the best at reducing waste because any hay that wasn’t consumed over the feeder would drop back down to the bottom of the cradle,” says Buskirk. What he hadn’t calculated when making his prediction was that boss cow behavior would even trump what seemed like a well-designed system.

“We found that with the cradle feeder cows tended to walk alongside of it and butt several cows out of the way at the same time,” he says. “When that happens a cow backs up and drops half of what she is eating on the ground.”

He points out this behavior was observed with both the cradle and the trailer feeder but was nearly absent with the cone and the ring feeders.

Researchers found cattle interaction wasn’t the only reason for excessive waste. Individual cow feeding behavior could result in increased hay loss if it wasn’t controlled by feeder design.

“Round feeders were set lower, which allowed cattle to put their heads directly in the feeder,” says Buskirk. He notes that this offered a more natural grazing position and encouraged the cattle to keep their heads in the feeders throughout much of the process.

“In contrast, with flat-sided feeders, they tended to reach in, grab a mouthful of hay, and pull their heads out to chew it. In the process, some hay ended up on the ground,” he says.

Similarly, feeder designs that required cattle to access hay from under a top rail were far less likely to waste hay since cows didn’t toss it over their backs or along their sides.


To get more information on cattle scales, cattle guards, or saddle pads, please visit Barn World.

To get more information on grain weight conversion, hog feeders, and hay feeders, please visit Barn World.

To get more information on bulk feed bins, livestock scales, and radiant under-floor heating, please visit Barn World.

by Eleanor Richards |

Horse owners are discovering a trip to the feed store requires an armed guard.

But once the edible “gold” is safely transported to the stable, how is it protected and stored?

As with anything of value, the chances of it being stolen is very high. In this case the thieves are usually horses and rodents.

Commercial feeds, grain and supplements must be stored in a secure location. A room, such as an extra stall, with a locking door is best. Within that room, storage containers with lids that can be locked or fastened securely should be provided. This double protection helps insure the thief will have trouble accessing the treasure.

Several types of containers are available. An old chest freezer with the latch removed (to insure a child does not become trapped) works well. Other popular containers are trash cans. Galvanized metal trash cans work best, as the steel also deters the other thieves – rodents (rats and mice).

Secure containers will also help prevent Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis. Opossums, skunks and raccoons may have the organism which causes EPM in their feces. Horses may acquire EPM when they ingest grain, forage or water contaminated with the feces.

Regardless of the type of container you choose the lid must fasten securely and be hard for a horse to remove. There is always a chance the feed room door will be left open. Bungee cords may help secure the lid.

Extra bags of feed that will not fit in the secure containers may be stacked on a platform a few inches above the ground. A wooden pallet works well. This allows air circulation around the bags. It is imperative the feed room be securely closed at all times if exposed feed bags are stored.

Feed should be purchased fresh every 30 days and rotated. This means the containers should be cleaned completely and the oldest feed used first.

High humidity can cause spoilage and increase the chances of insects. Even feed stored in containers is susceptible to moisture. If the containers are sweating or show signs of condensation, it is possible the feed will spoil or become contaminated with insects. Insuring proper ventilation and setting up a fan will help. During the summer, when nights are cool and the days are hot and humid, purchasing and storing less feed at one time is smart.

Stables with 20 or more horses may consider buying bulk feed bins. While this can be cost effective, you still do not want to store more than a month’s supply at a time.

Clean the bulk feed bin out completely before refilling. Poorly constructed bulk bins allow the buildup of moisture resulting in spoiled feed. This spoiled feed can hang-up on the sides and may break loose at any time – contaminating the feed and causing sick horses.

Bulk feed bins, available at

No matter what type of storage you chose the area must be kept clean. Spilled feed and broken bags will attract unwanted guests.

When buying anything of value, make sure you are buying quality. The feed should not be more than a month old.

Do not be shy at the feed store…you are the customer. Check the date and refuse it if it is old or does not meet your expectations. Refuse dirty or damaged bags.

Date of manufacturing will be stated on the feed tag, stamped on the bag, or printed on the tear strip along one end of the bag. Many companies use the Julian Date Calendar. For example the date code may read: 08121. The “08” is the year – 2008; the “121” is the 121st day of the year – May 1st.

Even if the date of manufacture meets your requirements refuse or return the feed if it seems questionable.

Horses can be their own worst enemy. It is up to us to protect them from temptation.


To get more information on cattle scales, cattle guards, or saddle pads, please visit Barn World.

To get more information on grain weight conversion, hog feeders, and hay feeders, please visit Barn World.

To get more information on bulk feed bins, livestock scales, and radiant under-floor heating, please visit Barn World.