Why Be Concerned with Hay Waste On Horse Farms?
Hay is commonly fed to horses and is usually the largest and most expensive dietary component for adult horses. Hay waste can occur during both storage and feeding, and can add up to ≥ 40%, depending on forage type, storage method, environment, and storage length. Horses are commonly fed large round-bales and small square-bales in outdoor paddocks; however, no research exists to characterize hay waste. The objectives were to determine hay waste and economics of small square-bale and large round-bale feeders when used in outdoor feeding of adult horses. Related: Managing Manure on Horse Farms
What did we do?
Large round- and small-square bale hay feeders were evaluated during two separate studies. Nine round-bale feeders, were tested, including the Cinch Net ($147; Cinch Chix LLC), Cone ($1,195*; Weldy Enterprises; model R7C), Covered Cradle ($3,200; SM Iron Inc.), Hayhut ($650; Hayhuts LLS), Hay Sleigh ($425; Smith Iron Works Inc.), Ring ($300; R & C Livestock), Tombstone ($250; Dura-Built), Tombstone Saver ($650; HiQual), Waste Less ($1,450; JSI Innovations LLC), and a no-feeder control (Figure 1). Twenty-five mature horses were used to form five groups of five horses. Each feeder was placed on the ground in an outdoor dirt paddock. The groups of horses fed in rotation for four days, and every fourth day, groups were rotated to a different paddock. Waste hay (hay on the ground outside of the feeder) and orts (hay remaining inside the feeder) were collected daily. Percent hay waste was calculated as the amount of hay waste divided by the amount of hay fed minus orts. The number of months to repay the feeder cost (payback) was calculated using hay valued at $200/ton, and improved efficiency over the no-feeder control.
Three small square-bale feeders were tested, including a hayrack ($280; Horse Bunk Feeder and Hay Rack, Priefert Manufacturing), slat feeder ($349; The Natural Feeder), basket feeder ($372; Equine Hay Basket, Tarter Farm and Ranch Equipment), and a no-feeder control (Figure 1). Two feeders of each type were placed in separate, outdoor, dirt paddocks. Twelve adult horses were divided into four similar herds of three horses each and were rotated through the four paddocks, remaining in each paddock for a period of seven days. Grass hay was fed at 2.5% of the herd bodyweight split evenly between two feedings. Waste hay (hay on the ground outside of the feeder) and orts (hay remaining inside the feeder) were collected before each feeding. Percent hay waste was calculated as the amount of hay waste divided by the amount of hay fed minus orts. The number of months to repay the feeder cost (payback) was calculated using hay valued at $200/ton, and improved efficiency over the no-feeder control.
What have we learned?
No injuries were observed from any feeder types during the data collection period.
Hay waste differed between round-bale feeder designs. Mean percent waste was: 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%. All feeders reduced waste compared to the no-feeder control. Feeder design affected payback. The Cinch Net paid for itself in less than 1 month; Tombstone and Ring, 2 months; Hayhut and Tombstone Saver, 4 months; Hay Sleigh, 5 months; Waste Less, 8 months; Cone, 9 months; and Covered Cradle, 19 months.
Hay waste was different between small square-bale feeder designs. Mean hay waste was 1, 3, 5 and 13% for the slat, basket, hayrack and no-feeder control, respectively. All feeders resulted in less hay waste compared with the no-feeder control. Feeder design also affected payback. The hayrack, basket, and slat feeders paid for themselves in 11, 10, and 9 months, respectively.
Future research investigating hay waste associated with outdoor feeding of adult horses should focus on different forage types and the optimum number of horses per feeder. Related: Small Farm Environmental Stewardship
Krishona Martinson, Associate Professor, University of Minnesota firstname.lastname@example.org
Amanda Grev, Research Assistant, University of Minnesota; Emily Glunk, Assistant Professor, Montana State University; William Lazarus, Professor, University of Minnesota; Julie Wilson, Executive Director, Minnesota Board of Veterinary Medicine; and Marcia
Grev, A.M., E.C. Glunk, M.R. Hathaway, W.F. Lazarus, and K.L. Martinson. 2014. The effect of small square-bale feeder design on hay waste and economics during outdoor feeding of adult horses. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science. 34: 1,269-1,273.
Martinson, K., J. Wilson, K. Cleary, W. Lazarus, W. Thomas and M. Hathaway. Round-bale Feeder Design Affects Hay Waste and Economics During Horse Feeding. 2012. J. Anim. Sci. 90: 1047–1055.
The large round-bale feeder research was funded by a grant from the MN Horse Council and manufacturer fees. The small-square bale feeder research was funded by a grant from the American Quarter Horse Foundation.
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