Trail Tails – Slow Feeding Hay Net Round Bales

If you’re a small farm owner like me you know that managing work, chores and ride time is often hard and come winter riding at all practically stops.  Just like humans horses get chunky and my 3 are all overweight.  Ok 2 are overweight and one is REALLY pregnant but probably fat too.

To help keep chore times to a minimum I’ve been feeding round bales.  Having to only worry about putting out food once a week vs. 2-3 times a day is very appealing to my busy lifestyle.  Unfortunately like lush green pastures, 24/7 hay access can make for some rather fat horses.  I’ve been researching slow feeders.  A slow feeder can either be hard (wood/metal frame with wire mesh) or soft (netting).  Since my horses are barefoot I opted to find a hay net to use on my round bales.   Buddy Inc is working on a full size hay net for round bales and I got my hands on one to test out.

Since netting isn’t processed in food grade factories I opted to put the net through the washing machine before putting it out.  It turns out it was a good idea for a few reasons.  1) Nylon shrinks 2) there was a white film that was on the net that I didn’t know was there until I washed it. 

With my nice clean net I stabbed a round bale and pulled the net on like a big sock.  I dumped the bale where I wanted it and used their nifty securing tool to weave the open end shut.  The netting layout was really thought out.  The manufacturer put a big ‘X’ at the bottom center so you knew you were pulling it on evenly.  The securing tool is made of hard plastic with a screw ‘T’ end and I was able to easily use it with thick winter gloves on.  Buddy Inc tells me they will be making the tool blaze orange in the future so it can be easily found in snow.  Good thing too, I had a rather interesting adventure last week. (read story here)

Does slow feeding actually work?  In my experience, yes, even putting out a bale wrapped in netting made that bale last almost 6 hours before the 3 horses.  When feeding my round bales through netting it drastically reduced their consumption per day.  Here’s my math.

600lbs Round Bale vs 3 hungry horses.

Bale fed with  no netting (in Big Bale Buddy)
1 bale lasted 7 days
86lbs per day
29lbs per horse per day

Bale fed with slow feed netting
1 bale lasted 10 days
60lbs per day
20lbs per horse per day

My vet tells me to feed hay at 2% of body weight.  Assuming my horses weigh 1,000 lbs that’s 20lbs per day.  Tada! Look my horses are getting their daily recommended hay when using the slow feeder and I don’t have to go out and constantly throw hay at them!

Another great thing about feeding this way is it keeping the horses from getting bored.  Bored horses chew wood and get into trouble at my place and since they now have to work at getting their food it’s keeping them occupied. 

When “mud season” gets here I’ll use my Big Bale Buddy in conjunction with the netting to keep the bale dry and mud free.

For more information about slow feeding your horses check out this link.

As for the horses, they took to it rather quickly as you can see. 

Trail Tails
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3 comments to Trail Tails – Slow Feeding Hay Net Round Bales

  • hi there, thanks for your comment on my blog. if you have time i would love for you to follow, do you have a followers gadget so i can follow you? my grandparents are from vermont and lived in rochester vermont for awhile… i love the fact that you were thoughtful enough to wash the netting prior to use. i love my horses too and would have done the same thing. oh and i design blog buttons for $35 in case you were interested.

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  • Hi there!
    I sure appreciate your visit today and the invite for your fun meme!
    I may have messed up…my link for the ” KK” was bad. I’m sorry.

    I am certain the slow feeding is the way to go…many different purposes for that, I read. I am a bit suspect of the round bales though…maybe you get to sort through yours.
    A blogger friend jsut posted about 8 horses lost sadly, due to an animal that was in the round bale as they ate it.

    Don’t want to be a downer, but that scares me with those!
    Thanks again for the invite!!