Big Bale Buddy – Round Bale Feeder

Re-Post permission from AlpacaBytes.com

This year (Fall 2009) I decided to feed round bales to the horses to help keep my chores to a minimum and to make sure the skinny boys have hay 24/7 so they fatten up for me.   Last year I fed the bales as is and had a ton of waste.  One bale would only last me 6 days for 3 horses and the waste I had to clean up in the spring was horrendous.  I thought about traditional round bale feeders and some newer models that resemble doll houses if you ask me. 

The biggest problem I had with almost every single feeder was the ability for a horse to get a leg stuck.  I have 2 horses who insist on putting their feet on or into anything they possibly can so that ruled out almost every single round bale feeder I found.  Expect for one, the Big Bale Buddy.

I purchased the “Large” size which is said to fit a 4’5” to 5’2” diameter round bale.  Good thing too because the ultra bargain 700lb round bales I got for $12 each were 5 footers.   Note: this product ships from Canada and does take a full 10 days or so to make it to you.

Putting on the Big Bale Buddy:
Reviews I read said the first time putting it on would be a real chore.  Well if you have a helper it isn’t so bad.  My hubby and I managed to get the Big Bale Buddy on in 2-3 minutes or so.   I’d imagine putting it on by myself would have been a lot more involved.

We hauled the bale out to the field and flipped it upright and finished pulling the Buddy snuggly up to the top so it fully covered the bale leaving the top open. 

The horses were a bit confused by it at first and cautiously approached the Big Bale Buddy.  Once they figured out it was a food dispenser it didn’t take long for them to warm up to it.  Of course it instantly turned into a scratching post and everyone took turns doing neck and butt scratches on it. 

Since there’s still a tiny bit of grass left in the pasture the bale isn’t overly interesting as a food item yet.  I’ll be sure to keep this post updated as the bale gets eaten.

5 Horses vs 700lb round bale in a Big Bale Buddy
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Day 1:
So far the bale is holding up really well.  Instead of it unraveling and the horses digging through it, trapling, peeing, and pooping on it the bale looks just as good as when I first put it out there.  The only waste is nothing more than a handful scattered around the edge.  No rips or tears in the Buddy either. 
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Day 3:
I’m amazed on how much hay they’ve eaten and how little waste there is.  They have been eating around the core and all the slack just falls into the bag. The little waste that has fallen out of the bag I picked up and tossed over the fence to the alpacas.  They happily ate the rest.  Last year 3 horses would eat through a 700lb bale in 6 days.  Now without all the waste the same size bale is easily feeding 5 horses.
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Day 6:
Rain in the forecast today.  I decided to move the bale into the run-in shed to keep it dry.  Oh yes I said move it.  The Big Bale Buddy has kept the bale in tact enough that we were able to tip it over onto the carry-all and relocated it.  The bale is about 2/3 eaten, I’m guessing theres about 300lbs left.  There’s hardly any waste, just a small ring of hay around the bale.  Funny observation…. There was a ring of poop 1 horse length all the way around the bale.  Without the buddy the bale would have been ripped apart, spread around and all that poop would have been on good hay.
6 Day Old Round Bale
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Day 7 & 8:
Well the bale fully collapsed on itself and there was just loose hay left in the bottom.  I picked up the buddy and dumped the rest of the hay in an empty stock tank I use to feed flake hay in. By morning all the hay was gone and it was time to put out a new bale. I totally love this product, so easy to use, and the only hay feeder that I’ve seen that actually allows the horses to eat all of the hay without wasting any of it. 
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2nd Bale:
The 2nd bale I put out lasted 7 days with the 5 horses eating it 100% without access to the pasture any more.  They emptied every ounce of hay from the bag.  When the bag is empty they walk on it and dig through the folds looking for that last little leaf. None of my horses will be afraid of tarps after feeding with the bale buddy I’m sure! 
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12/4/09:
It’s that time of year where the paddock is solid shoe sucking mud. YUCK.  Good news though. Dry hay! My bale buddy is no longer green and is caked in brown mud but the hay inside it is clean and dry.  Hay was eaten right down to the last little nibble again.
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12/31/09
Well my only worry about the Big Bale Buddy came to light the other day.  When the bale gets to the end you have a mostly empty bale and the horses poke through it for the last bits.  I was worried that when they step in it they could get a leg caught and I was right, kind of.  My new spookie horse “The General” wanted to come over for a treat and wasn’t smart enough to pick his feet up when walking out of the bag so the bag came with him.  Normally this horse bolts at the sight of a plastic bag but he seemed totally unconcerned about the buddy stuck to his hoof.  About 3 steps later he fianlly got annoyed with his shadow and picked his foot up and out of it.  I’ve decided not to think of it as a scary posibility any more but more of a Bale Buddy training aid! :o )

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1/8/10

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3/6/10
Spring thaw.  The pasture is off limits and the buddy is now in the middle of our “mud” paddock.   With the snow pack melting during the day and freezing at night the mud is DEEP. The buddy looks to be sunk in 4-6″ into the mud.  The good news, the hay inside is dry as can be.  This time last year the hay would have been stepped on and squished into the deep mud making even more of a mess and wasting more than a 3rd of the bale.  

We had a really cold winter and when it got down to -11 at night the horses ate double time and I had to feed 1 bale every 5 days for a few weeks.   I decided to pick up a few more bales today just in case.  These new bales are HUGE 5×5 1,000lbs guys and are way to big for my “Large” size buddy.  I’m seriously thinking of buying the XL Buddy so I can easily feed these few bales.  I don’t even want to think about feeding hay without my buddy any more.
 

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