Blog By Nikki Alvin-Smith
Hay is probably one of the most expensive items on your horse care budget list. Amazingly, there is a simple way to minimize your dollar spend on this forage commodity the outdoor equine hay feeder.
Scientific studies suggest that you can save a whopping 30-40% of your hay spending just by utilizing a horse hay feeder. This fact does not just apply to the use of large round bales or large squares bales of hay, it also applies to those flakes of small squares you’ve been tossing over the fence. We’ve all suffered the agony of watching our horses soil and trample the expensive hay that has taken us a lot of time, money and effort to provide.
To address an increasing need for horse hay feeders Horizon Structures LLC, has recently added a range of four different horse feeders to their line-up of product offerings. While you may know Horizon Structures well as providers of shelter for ‘all creatures great and small’, and this new product range steps outside of their usual barn door. We asked Mark Zook, Project Manager at Horizon Structures, why equine hay feeders have been added to their product line:
“We have had a lot of requests over the years for hay feeders and now we have partnered with a shop that builds high quality horse feeders for very good prices. We believe that the more we can serve our customers the happier they will be, hay feeders and horse barns go hand in hand. We want to provide them for our customers so now they can get their barn and feeder all in one shipment.
If the customers are local we can ship them fully assembled. If they are located in farther locations we can ship them in a kit for that is very easy to put together and it saves a lot on shipping since they are in kit form.”
You can also purchase feeders separately from a barn, kennel, coop or run-in shed purchase and the range of four styles provided address both small and large square bales as well as the increasingly common large round bales of hay.
Should you use a hay feeder and if so, which style should you buy? Here are a few tips based on proven scientific research and a few caveats about use and design based on my personal experiences.
Horse hay feeders have been around for eons. Hay is a valuable forage ingredient in the equine diet both in terms of nutrition during colder months and cost to make or purchase.
Research from the University of Minnesota, authored by Amanda Grev, Emily Glunk, Marcia Hathaway, William Lazarus, and Krishona Martinson, proved that outdoor feeders can indeed save the horse owner considerable money on hay and slow down the ingestion pace of hay rations.
Their research objective was to analyze the following: “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. It is common knowledge that many horses are fed small square-bales in outdoor paddocks; however, no research exists to characterize hay waste of small square-bales fed in outdoor paddocks.”
The results of the study conducted in October 2016, are showcased in this table:
With clear evidence hay wastage is significantly reduced (30-40%) by the use of an outdoor hay feeder and additional research that was also included in the study that detailed horses ate at a slower pace with slats included in the hay feeder design, the decision to invest in a hay container may be clear cut. There is another benefit to the use of the feeder, the time and labor it can save the horse caregiver as the hay feeder can be filled with more than one day’s supply of rations at a time.
Set up of the hay feeder is very straightforward as you can simply place it anywhere in the pasture that you like. There are a few things to consider before you go ahead.
- Ideally place the horse hay feeder on level ground in a well-drained location. If you expect a high volume of traffic then preparation of a large pad of rolled stonedust over a gravel base, will prevent muddy mayhem of your paddock. Remember that if you don’t move the feeder around periodically, then the grass beneath it will die off.
- It may be wise to avoid placement close to fence lines, in case of arguments between horses at feeding time and the need for a horse lower in the pecking order to escape a bullying herd mate. Placement away from fence lines will also ensure an animal does not become trapped between the feeder and the fence.
- The feeder you purchase should be specifically designed for horses, as cattle feeders are often too low to be safe for horses and their design may contribute to a horse becoming entangled in the feeder and suffering serious injury as a result. Foals, ponies or other equus with small hooves and heads should be carefully monitored if a pasture hay feeder is utilized. Ideally, feeders should not be available to the inquisitive foal to protect it from damaging itself on the container. We have all seen the videos of horses standing in the center of an empty hay feeder, so keep your feeder full!
- Remove string from all bales placed in the feeder to prevent accidental ingestion of twine by horses. I have seen horses caught up in loose uncut round bale twine left on the ground, that have resulted in serious rope type burns. It is also imperative to remove all halters, headcollars or cribbing collars from horses that have access to a hay feeder to prevent them becoming ensnared on the unit.
When making your choice of feeder, consider not just the type of bale you feed, but also the size of your herd. All animals need to have access to the hay ration at the same time. Placement of two or three feeders in a field for a large herd is a good idea to minimize stress between pasture mates and maximize 24-hour availability of hay to all horses.
As the use of slats in a hay feeder encourage a slower pace of hay ingestion, our feeders also provide an option to include slats on large square or large round bale feeder designs, to encourage healthy eating habits by your horses.
Make certain that the hay feeder you choose is sturdy and secure and will not be easily knocked over. The hardware for closing a gate on the hay feeder should of good quality hardware and be of such design that a horse may not ‘Houdini’ it open. You’ll note that the feeders in the Horizon Structures line up all over a superior quality latching system to prevent such mischievous equine behavior.
For any questions you may have concerning hay feeders offered at Horizon Structures, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. You can find the hay feeder selection here and there is a size and design suitable for every horse farm need.
For more information or to request pricing check out our Equine Hay Feeder webpage.