Small square-bale feeder design affects the following when used for feeding adult horses in outdoor paddocks.
Estimated hay intake
Herd bodyweight change
These factors can aid horse owners and professionals select small square-bale feeders and estimate hay needs.
Hay is usually the largest and most costly part of a horse’s diet. Hay waste can occur during both storage and feeding. It can add up to over 40 percent depending on,
Most horse owners feed their horses small square-bales in outdoor paddocks. So, we looked at the effect of small square-bale feeder design on hay waste, feed intake and cost when used outdoors
Testing small square-bale feeders
We looked at three different feeder designs and one control.
Slat feeder ($349)
Basket feeder ($372)
No feeder, hay fed on the ground ($0)
We placed two feeders of each type in separate, outdoor dirt paddocks. We divided 12 adult horses into four similar herds of three. We then rotated each group through the four paddocks after a seven day feeding period.
We weighed the horses before and after each rotation with the difference being herd bodyweight change.
We fed grass hay at 2.5 percent of the herd bodyweight and split it into two feedings at 8:00am and 4:00pm.
We collected waste hay (hay on the ground outside of the feeder) and orts (hay remaining inside the feeder) before each feeding.
We calculated payback on each feeder using hay valued at $250 per ton and improved efficiency over the no-feeder control.
Weather conditions were ideal during the trial period. No injuries occurred from any of the feeders.
There was a difference in hay waste between small square-bale feeder designs (table 1). The slat feeder had the lowest hay waste (1 percent), while the control had the most (13 percent).
All the feeders provided a physical barrier between the horses and the forage. This helped contain the hay and limit waste related to trampling and soiling.
The hayrack, basket, and slat feeders paid for themselves in 12, 11 and 9 months, respectively (table 1). The slat feeder resulted in the shortest payback period compared to the other feeders.
The basket and hayrack feeders had increased hay intake compared to the slat feeder and control (table 1). The slat feeder had the greatest barrier to eating hay compared to other feeders. Thus, observed hay intake was likely from higher amounts of remaining hay.
Given an equal amount of time between feedings (i.e. 12 hours), the horses would likely have been able to eat their entire hay meal from the slat feeder.
Higher hay waste likely contributed to the lower hay intake for the control.
Herds gained small amounts of bodyweight when feeding from the basket feeder and hayrack. They lost small amounts of bodyweight when feeding from the slat feeder and control (Table 1). Changes in herd bodyweight reflect hay intake for each feeder and the control.
Table 1. Hay waste, estimated hay intake, herd bodyweight change, and payback of three small square-bale feeders and a no-feeder control used to feed adult horses in outdoor paddocks.
|Feeder Design||Feeder Design Hay Waste (%)||Estimated Hay Intake (% BW)||Herd Bodyweight Change (lbs)||Payback (months)|
a,b,c Within a column, means without a common superscript letter different (P < 0.05).
Reviewed in 2021