Round bale feeders are widely used in the livestock industry to provide forage to animals during winter or some dry months. Farmers with poor pasturelands also use these feeders to boost their production.
While every livestock keeper appreciates the value of bale feeders, finding the right one for your cattle or goats can be tricky. The sheer large number of brands available in the market makes the selection difficult, especially for first-time buyers.
But you still need to find one for your livestock anyway. So how do you go about it? Research and research. Here’s everything you need to know about round bale feeders before making a purchase.
Wastages in Feed
Traditional feeding methods result in a lot of hay wastage as farm animals trample or poop over it. Much of it also blows away in the wind. Moreover, farmers cannot control how much an animal is eating, resulting in excessive weight gain in some and malnourishment in others. More importantly, pasture grazing is not an option for all farmers, especially in harsh weather conditions.
When feed is readily available to cattle, there’s a high chance of it getting damaged or soiled. That way, it won’t be of use to you, and you’ll end up with a significant amount of wastage. When your cattle are allowed free access to hay bales, they might end up walking and sleeping on them. This can damage a good amount of feed.
This is where bale feeders come into play. They are particularly designed to fit a square or round bale in them. Horses and cattle can easily feed on them without wasting or walking over the hay, and you can monitor how much each animal eats. This efficient human creation comes in various types, sizes, and shapes today – which is why it may be difficult for you to choose one for your cattle.
Types of Round Bale Feeders
Round bale feeders provide an easy way of saving hay. However, the design you select will determine the payback you receive. According to a study done by Michigan State University, there’s a significant variation in the level of waste for each type of round bale feeder.
The tapered cone feeder had the least hay wastage of 3.5 percent, followed by the ring hay feeder. The rectangular types, trailer, and stationary cradle had the greatest wastage of 11.4 percent and 14.6 percent, respectively.
Besides the bale feeder design, hay wastage depends on other factors such as the type of hay, bale tightness, and density. For instance, tapered cone-feeders, the most efficient bale feeders, will not give substantial wastage reduction when the cows are fed with loosely tied oat hay. However, using the dense alfalfa-grass on the same feeder reduces wastage up to five times.
A hayrack is a wired rack that can be hung on any part of the barn or fence. You place the bale on top of it and feed multiple animals at the same time. Since they can be mounted anywhere, these types of round bale feeders are portable and lightweight. They are usually made of galvanized metal and are ideal for feeding goats and sheep.
Solid Hay feeder
Next in line are solid hay feeders. It is the most popular type as it can be placed anywhere in the barn and feed 5-6 animals simultaneously. Usually shaped like a carousel, solid feeders come in various sizes and can be made of different materials. You place a bale inside them, and the cattle gather around to eat from the outside.
The third most popular type of round bale feeders is those made of nets. They are also known as slow feeders as they allow the cattle to eat very slowly through the holes in the net. These are usually shaped like bags, and you place the bale inside them. You can then hang them at a height that matches that of your horse, sheep, or cow. They are particularly effective when your farm animals are eating too fast and gaining excess weight.
Portable Milking Machine?
Factors to Consider When Choosing the Best Round Bale Feeder
The different types of round bale feeders have been designed to cater to different needs. While the CountyLine Equine Pro feeder is ideal for horses, it may be too big or high for sheep and goats. Therefore, despite knowing the best brands in the game, you must consider the following before purchasing bale feeder for your livestock:
Number of farm animals
Each type of round bale feeder is designed for a specific number of animals. A hay net is ideal for 2-3 animals depending on its size, while a solid feeder can cater to 6-7.
Size of the farm animals
Big cows and horses will find eating from a hayrack difficult as compared to calves, goats, and sheep. You should consider the size of the farm animals you are buying the round bale feeder for.
Size of the hay bale
As mentioned earlier – different feeders can hold varying sizes of hay. A solid feeder can contain an entire bale, whereas a small hay net can only hold a couple of flakes.
Type of farm animal
While this should not be as big of a deal – you should still see which farm animal you are buying the feeder for. Some feeders (as mentioned above) are specifically designed for horses, while others are suitable for shorter animals. Your final choice should give them the best experience of enjoying their food in comfort.
In this post, we have covered our best picks from each category. So, without further ado, let’s get right into it.
Slant Bar Round Bale Feeder
Cashmans Cattle Round Bale Feeder
When we talk about solid round bale feeders, a couple of manufacturers are winning in this category, and Cashman’s round bale feeder is one of the few. It is the quintessential feeder you will expect to see in a pasture with its rounded structure and simple design. It comes in two sizes – 6 and 8 inches, both of which can easily fit an entire round bale.
Made of premium tubular metal, the Cashmans round bale feeder comes with nine bolts and nuts to help you fix it anywhere on the pasture or inside the barn. The frequent gaps between the bars provide easy access to the center and hence are ideal for multiple feeding cows, sheep, and goats
CountyLine Equine Pro
The second most popular name in solid hay feeders is that of CountyLine. They make some of the best hay feeders in the category, and we have included CountyLine Equine Pro to our list because of its massive popularity among horse owners. While theoretically, horses and cattle can feed on the same bale feeders – some of them are more ideally designed to cater to horses’ height and long necks.
CountyLine Equine Pro ticks that box. It is covered with a galvanized metal sheet on top and bottom to protect and conserve hay – minimizing wastage. Its staggered beam design is ideal for horses as they can bend their necks to reach the hay instead of fitting their necks through the bars. The feeder’s 18-gauge dividers mean it can feed multiple horses simultaneously.
Tarter Bale Feeders
The slant bar design is generally the most common round bale feeder. It is used more frequently than other designs, and it is also inexpensive when compared to other round bale feeders. As the name indicates, the bars of this feeder are slanted, connected to two rings at both ends. These slanted bars are spaced equally around the top and bottom rings.
The slanted bar ensures that your cattle only keeps their head inside the feeder. They can’t grab at the hay within the feeder, which can needlessly damage a good amount of feed. Some slant bar round bale feeders can be stacked on top of each other, making the transportation process more manageable. There isn’t a need to transport each feeder separately.
Tarter is one of the best round bale feeder manufacturer’s out there. They have several slant bar bale feeders in their valu-line range that you can purchase for your farm. Their products are lightweight, durable, and have a galvanized finish.
Moreover, Tarter’s cradle round bale feeder is also popular for cattle. They are perfect for reducing wastages and have a clear-coat finish making them resistant to rust.
Priefert Bale Feeder
From Galvanized Economy to Heavy-Duty Hay Feeders, Priefert produces multiple designs of round bale feeders. Their unique structure of slanted top rail prevents hay wastage by keeping the cows’ heads in the feeder.
Whether you choose a feeder with or without skirted bottom, you will be able to dismantle and move the equipment around the farm easily. Besides, the feeder is composed of three curved parts that you can assemble quickly without the need for professional help.
Every piece of the equipment is painted with Architectural Grade Power Coat that is UV-resistant. Thus your feeder will stay rust-free without fading for many years.
Who Makes the Best Cradle Round Bale Feeders?
The cradle round bale feeder has a heavier construction as compared to a slant bar feeder. Because of their heavyweight, cradle bale feeders require a tractor or a forklift for repositioning.
Cradle feeders are designed to support the bale in a raised position above the ground. Cradle feeders are more on the expensive side. Because of its design, in the cradle feeder, the bale sits on its side.
A tray is placed beneath the feeder to prevent hay (from the bale) falling on the ground. This reduces wastage considerably. You can change the size of this round bale feeder to fit the size of the bale.
Cradle round bale feeders are versatile equipment that allows larger animals such as cattle and horses to access the bale from the top while allowing goats and sheep to feed on the hay at the bottom of the bale. The leading manufacturers of these feeders include Tarter, Farmco, and Century.
Tarter Cradle Bale Feeder
The galvanized Tarter cradle feeder features a clear coat finish that makes it corrosion and rust-resistant. This means you can use this feeder in all weather conditions without the fear of quality issues.
The removable gate on one side of the feeder allows you to load hay without any struggle. Plus, the 1.75-inch round tubing imparts maximum strength, making it suitable for use under harsh conditions and challenging terrains.
Since the cradle feeder keeps the bale inches off the ground, the risk of hay destruction or rotting due to moisture build-up is minimal. Thus the hay will last longer and reduce the overall animal feed expenditure.
Farmco Large Bale Feeder
The Farmco round bale feeders boast 12-gauge metallic troughs of premium-quality welds. The reinforcements are strategically placed to ensure the feeder lasts for years, even in the harshest conditions. A two-component polyurethane paint coating on each piece of equipment protects the feeder from elements like rust.
The bale feeder features a rear entry gate that you flip down to load bales or clean the troughs. As a farmer, you know how cleaning the hay feeder with forage stuck to the sides can be hectic. But the inverted V divider and slanted trough sides of Farmco round bale keep the scraps away from the sides and ensure you spend less time and energy cleaning.
Who Makes the Best Tapered-Cone/Cone Feeders?
Tapered-cone bale feeder increases your returns on investment by reducing waste and minimizing the amount of hay required per head of cattle. As a result, the cost per cow reduces while the ending weight and backfat depth increase.
For a long-lasting solution to your livestock operations, consider reputable manufacturers of cone feeders such as The Hay Manager.
The Hay Manager Tapered Cone Feeder
Featuring a heavy-duty 14-gauge sheet metal, The Hay Manager feeder can withstand all the abuses of bull pushing plus bale spear piercing. Its compact rod and chain design provide remarkable hay restriction to ensure your cattle don’t waste the forage
For greater efficiency, this tapered-cone feeder supports the bale off the ground reducing the incidence of hay sorting by the animals.
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Hay Rack Bale Feeders
This American-made hayrack is ideal for feeding goats and sheep. It is made of heavy-duty round steel and weighs only 13 pounds. It is 33 x 27 x 12 inches and can easily fit a third of a large round bale which is plenty for any sheep or goat. Manufactured by J. Mitton and Associates Inc., this hayrack enjoys an excellent rating among its rivals.
This round bale feeder is super sturdy and what makes it ideal for smaller farm animals is its portability. It can be easily mounted anywhere in the barn, and at least two goats or sheep can eat from it at a time. You can mount 4 or 5 of these hayracks at an even distance.
If you are looking for a sturdy solution to feed calves and goats – the Scenic Road Wall hayrack makes for an ideal choice. Made in the USA with heavy-duty, powder-coated steel, this hayrack is 25 x 27 x 10 inches. It can easily hold to flakes of a large square or round bale and is perfect for feeding shorter farm animals.
It has a high rating with good review, and most livestock farmers have been impressed by the build quality of this hayrack. It has been carefully designed with round edges to eliminate any risk of animal injury and can be easily mounted anywhere in a stall or barn. The only thing to be mindful of is that it does not come with the hardware, so make sure you have your own nuts and bolts ready to mount this hayrack.
Hay Net Bale Feeders
When it comes to hay nets, they are a simple and much cheaper solution. The Weaver Leather Slow Feed hay net is simple and classic in design. It is made of sturdy poly-nylon and has smaller holes compared to some other options. This is mainly to encourage slower eating and is ideal for those farm animals that have been eating too fast.
Users have found this bale feeder impressive in terms of quality and price. It can be hung easily anywhere in the pasture, stall, or barn and weighs only 11.2 Ounces. You can easily fit four or more flakes of the bale in one net.
According to users, this bale feeder has proven ideal for goats and horses, and its sturdy bottom can even hold soaked hay without any wear and tear. Just make sure to use hooks and not rely on the Velcro straps as they can come loose. Overall, the build quality is very durable, and it is super convenient to fill and handle.
With the spike in hay prices, farmers require more innovative ways of reducing forage waste. Round bale feeders allow livestock managers to minimize costs while enhancing output. Tapered-cone feeders are the most efficient feeding systems that you can employ on your farm today.
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