Hay Feeders: How to Reduce WastageChris Beerman
Hay wastage accounts for more than 3 billion dollars lost by U.S. farmers every year. This amount does not even include the further losses bound to happen during the storing and moving processes.
With hay scarcity at a high this year, it’s important to do everything you can to waste as little as possible.
Hay loss occurs when animals trample or defecate on the hay. Hay can also physically and chemically deteriorate with age. Sometimes animals plain refuse to eat it at all. All and all, hay loss can range from a meager 2% of the total load to up to 60%.
Farmers can save a lot of money by minimizing the amount of hay lost during feeding. Read on to learn how to lessen hay wastage by making just a few changes to your feeder setup.
Most Common Methods for Feeding Hay
Farmers generally use one of the following three methods for feeding cows hay.
Loose Round Bales
Probably the most common method of feeding hay to cattle, loose round hay bales, also produces the most waste. Farmers may set the massive round bale in the pasture on its side, cut the strings and roll out the bale to spread it around. This method can result in a 12% loss of hay every day and almost 43% throughout the week.
Loose Square Bales
Horse owners use loose square hay bales more often than cattle farmers. They come in smaller bales held together with twine or wire. Their smaller size allows them to stack, store, and transport with ease.
These smaller square bales work best when feeding a small amount at a time at frequent intervals. They also tend to be 2-4 times more expensive than buying a large, round bale. Both of these reasons make loose square bales impractical for large-scale cattle farming.
Hay feeders work with both round and square bales, by containing the hay to a smaller area, sometimes suspended or otherwise separated from where the animals stand while eating. This results in less hay that can get trampled, spread around and otherwise ruined.
Minimizing Wastage When Using Hay Feeders
Hay feeders provide the best method for conserving hay. Keep in mind the following three tips to further minimize hay wastage.
1. Feed in Smaller Amounts
By providing less hay at one time, farmers give their livestock less opportunity to soil or trample the hay. Using less hay and a hay feeder results in about a 5% loss of hay over a day versus nearly 13% when not using a hay feeder.
2. Choose a Well-Drained Area for Feeding
When hay falls out of your hay feeder, sometimes animals will eat it and sometimes they will not. The ground the hay falls on has a lot to do with whether or not it will go to waste.
If you place your hay feeder in a single location for a long period of time, the cows will trample the earth around it. The dirt mixes with rainwater, urine, and feces to form mud. If the hay falls into this mixture, it is much less likely to get eaten.
Moving your feeder to well-drained areas on a regular basis can help minimize the loss of hay in the mud. If you do not want to deal with moving the feeder, consider providing a protective layer between the feeder and the ground to prevent mud from forming.
A layer of crushed gravel or a concrete slab will greatly minimize hay wastage in a wet field.
3. Feed Outside-Stored Hay Before Inside
When feeding cows hay, you should always choose hay stored outside before you start feeding hay stored indoors. Hay spoils much faster when stored outside because it is exposed to all the elements.
Hay stored outside also loses flavor more quickly when under the baking sun. This could lead to animals refusing to eat the hay and a greater loss.
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