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Round bales

This is a discussion on Round bales within the Horse Health forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Horses category
  • Should round bale be hot in the middle
  • Hosing round bales for horses with heaves

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    02-27-2013, 11:16 PM
Green Broke
I don't buy the hay like I said. It's where I board. If I had the choice I wouldn't feed it that way but I don't.
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    02-28-2013, 07:25 AM
I do not intend to offend you, but what difference does it make whether you bought it or the BO bought it? The health risks are the same. You will ultimately be the one responsible for ongoing health care for a horse with chronic heaves, not your BO.

Take action to ensure your horse is receiving better feed. That may mean buying your own, or moving your horse to a place where they don't feed mouldy hay. Your horse, your responsibility.
nvr2many likes this.
    02-28-2013, 07:46 AM
I'm uncertain from the OP's description whether the outside of the bale is actually moldy and contains mold spores or if it's just the discolored outer layer of the bale we're talking about.

I can't imagine anyone deliberately feeding moldy hay, but the practice of feeding round bales to horses is pretty common in my area, with no corresponding rise in respiratory issues, according to the local vets I've spoken to. Obviously if you have a heave-y horse you'd want to avoid round bales, but otherwise I think you're fine.

I think the benefits of having free choice hay in front of them while turned out far outweighs the risk posed by feeding round bales.

Botulism is caused by dead critters in the hay; the thinking is that you will see the dead critter in square bales when you break open the bale and not feed that bale, but that you are unlikely to see the dead critter in a round bale feed free choice. It's not that round bales are more likely to have the dead critters, it's a question of being able to detect them and removing the contaminated hay. I would have a serious talk with a vet about whether there's a need for the botulism vaccine. Some vets are not persuaded that it is effective or necessary, but if you're concerned about the hay, it may be cheap piece of mind.
    02-28-2013, 09:07 AM
Green Broke
Sorry, let me explain better. One peice of it was black I think just from sitting on the ground. I didnt really touch it or pick through it. It probably wasnt even moldy.

I know they peel off the outer later of the bale then feed. But the horses yesterday just ate right through to the middle and that hay looked really good.
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    02-28-2013, 09:16 AM
Originally Posted by maura    
Obviously if you have a heave-y horse you'd want to avoid round bales, but otherwise I think you're fine.

I think the benefits of having free choice hay in front of them while turned out far outweighs the risk posed by feeding round bales.
Why on earth would you wait till your horse had heaves before you were concerned about hay quality? Maybe I'm reading this statement wrong.

I'm not against feeding round bales. We feed round bales ourselves. But we do not feed round bales that have discoloured or have bad spots.

A person might find the following article informative:

In particular this statement:

"Grey or black hay is an indication of mold and should be avoided at all costs."
    02-28-2013, 09:41 AM
Super Moderator
We feed 250 to 300 round bales a year. We put 30 bales that come off of irrigated hay in the shed. The rest is outside from the time it is baled until it is fed. We have done this for 12-15 years without a single problem. We always put out a new bale when all of the good hay has been eaten from the old bale. They leave the nasty part on the bottom and stand at the gate looking for a new bale.

If a horse coughs or gets the heaves from hay, it is not from being stored outside; It is from being baled too green. When hay is not cured good enough it gets mold and dust in the middle of the bale. If it was just a 'little' too green when it was baled, the dust may be difficult to see, but you can smell the musty odor it has right in the middle. It will be just fine near the outside because the outside of the bale will dry and cure in the bale. When hay is a little too green when it is baled, it will heat up about 2 to 3 weeks after being baled. This is the mold working and is called 'going through the sweat'. It does not bother cattle at all but will make sensitive horses cough or get the heaves. It is hay like this than can get so hot you get 'spontaneous combustion' and barns burn down. Round bales seldom get this hot because the heat can get to the surface where square bales stacked in a barn can get a lot hotter. Barns usually burn about 3 weeks after the hay was baled.

The best way to buy hay if you do not know the producer is to get a 'hay probe'. It gets a sample from deep into the bale. You can have hay tested from this sample and you can also smell the hay near the outside and compare that smell to the hay that came from the center of the bale. Hay tests will give you protein and TDN and any mineral content you are paying to get, but it will not tell you if there is light mold or dust in it. You can borrow a hay probe from most County Extension Offices if you don't want to buy one.
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    02-28-2013, 09:54 AM
We feed rounds as well Cherie. From the time they are baled until they are fed they are outside.

We usually end up with headless horses for a while -

You can see the snow on the ones we picked up not that long ago (my BIL makes our hay)

And really crappy picture but you can see the bales on the right kind of behind the buildings.

Honestly with as cold and nasty as it gets up here and having no barn I prefer the rounds to free choice feed the horses. My horses are outside 24/7/365.

Giving a botulism shot JUST because of rounds is asinine. If you feel the need to give it, give it to any horse that is eating any baled hay as dead critters are just as prevalent in squares as they are in rounds.
maura, Cherie and FlyGap like this.
    02-28-2013, 10:24 AM
Green Broke
I guess it's more of preference then. I will take a picture of the hay later.
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    02-28-2013, 10:31 AM
Super Moderator
I just read the MSU fact sheet. When they are talking about 'dark or black hay', they are talking about hay in the middle of the bale.
Grey or black hay is an indication of mold and should be avoided at all costs. Take a bale apart to check the inside; black sections of mold inside the hay indicate bad baling or storing procedures.
Black, gray or white hay (usually caked together) that is moldy is in the center of the bale. It is NOT the discolored hay on the outside that has been exposed to the sun and air. That is perfectly SAFE to feed, but picky horses will leave it if you put out another bale.

Heaves can be insidious and is not easily recognized by most people until it is too late. We have one heavy horse, a 14 year old gelding. He shows NO heave line and is not short of air when he is eating grass or hay that has been watered down. He cannot eat from any round bale including the bright green irrigated hay we have. He just hangs his head and coughs and coughs and coughs and is unridable for several days. He must be kept in and every bite of hay the eats must be watered down with the hose -- a real PITA in the winter. He only shows a 'heave line' if he has been exposed to dust.

And Maura is correct. Once a horse has had any heaves symptoms or if a horse has any allergies, they will probably not be able to eay round bales the rest of their lives. The pollen and mold spores that are normal, even on properly baled hay, are too much for these horses to eat unless they are out in the open. Some, even then, will need to have it watered down like the one gelding we have.

Heaves is real strange in that there are a lot of horses that you can't give heaves to no matter how bad the hay is that they eat a lifetime; and then, there are others that are very sensitive to it and act more like an asthmatic or highly allergic person and cannot even eat round bales without coughing and heaving. I've had horses like this that could not even eat good hay out of a wooden hay manger in the corner of a stall. I had to just throw their hay on the floor or wet in down.
maura likes this.
    02-28-2013, 10:37 AM
I too feed rounds. We do our own, test it, it's stored outside, and have never had a problem. I've been feeding rounds for over 25 years. Never had a horse come up with heaves. I see more heaves from horses barn kept and fed poor two year old rotten hay.

Buy from a reputable grower, that is tested for nutrition, and make sure it's current. Are your bales net wrapped? I feel it helps.

My bales do get the we yucky spot on the bottom. I roll it around the field, peel it off when I unwrap it and the first top layer. Alls good. Watch for dusty white mold, and smell it for freshness. Flaky light green mixed with stems after peeling off the sun bleached top is ideal.

This year our hay is pretty cruddy, mostly stems due to the bermuda burning up. Going through 1 bale a week for three horses, YUK! But nothing makes me happier than watching them nap on and gorge themselves with it when it's cold or nasty out.

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