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I feel like I know the answer to this, but I'm not sure "why"? :)

Can someone please explain to me the type of hay ring, and why they are important so that I can go buy one this week and try to make an educated decision on one?

Backstory and update to anyone that has commented on my very basic questions before (THANK YOU). Over the Summer 2019, my husband and I purchased a new home with land/barn and took my previously always boarded horse back to our little farm to live with us. Neither have had horses that we've been responsible for, so we're learning. So far we've had pretty good luck minus 2 of the 3 horses having a thyroid condition that the farrier caught early on, and now we're really trying to prep for winter. It took us a little while to find a hay guy since we're new to the area and still trying to meet people and get our resources in order, but we found someone to deliver us some round bales this week.

Thanks!
 

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Do you need a hay ring for round rolls...no.


Might you want one...probably to lessen waste.
There are 2 big differences in hay rings...


First one or a close variation is for horses. Second is cow style....horse of course is more expensive :icon_rolleyes:

Horses should be protected from putting their neck through the to reach the hay, but from the top and open so as not to damage/break the neck nor wear the mane off. Also a solid bottom is preferred so they not paw and get a hoof caught.
Shop around and take screenshots and then go shopping.
Tractor Supply will meet/beat competitor pricing can save you a ton of money on such items.
Rural King does the same as so most stores wanting your business.
Look at quality of the product and the thickness of the metal piping used, ease of moving it cause opening/closing and placing over a round roll is sometimes challenging based on size of the roll.
:runninghorse2:...
 

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Hay "ring"? I'm guessing you mean a round bale feeder?

Mainly they prevent waste where the animals spread the hay out and use it for (er, um) _bedding_, so yea, a worthwhile investment. IMO, a better, if initially more expensive feeder is the Hay Hut or similar, as it does a better job of containing the forage, and also protects it from the weather. I have used both and much prefer the Hay Hut. Some people also use a "hay-net", both to help contain the hay, and to slow down overly avid eaters. Most horses self regulate after a few weeks of free access, but do keep an eye on them, and use a net if they appear to be over-eating after the first month or so.

Unless you have a fairly stout tractor equipped with a hay-spear on the loader, you will find the large rounds troublesome. I have used them, and also the 3X3X8 large "square" bales, but they are just too much for my compact tractor to move safely, and I keep coming back to the common 2-string "small" ~60lb bales, as they are so much easier to deal with. My three animals do about one small bale/day in the winter when there is minimal grazing available; 2 or 3 bales in a week when there is fresh forage available in their not particularly lush pasture.

As long as they have shelter, and free access to forage, most horses will probably not require winter turnouts in the SE part of the US, and turnouts do require some additional work on your part. My rule for blankets is that they go on for heavy precipitation followed by rapidly falling temperatures. Around here, that translates to a period of balmy weather followed by rain turning to slush, turning to snow, with temperatures falling from 50 - 60F to around 0F overnight, and total accumulations of a foot or more of the white stuff. This is a very common weather pattern for this part of the country. Just keep an eye on your critters, and if you notice them getting wet and shivering, or losing weight in the winter, consider blankets as needed.

Hope this helps.

a Priefert round bale feeder, and my gang at their Hay Hut:
 

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So...you can make a round roll feeder to protect your hay from horses making a mess and big loss of product too.
Your ingenuity is paramount to success...
This is using old pallets..or fence boards.

I've also seen where the fence is made to allow the shape of a round roll inserted into it with easier access and as it is a outside area kept no fully enclosed needed done.


And this one is a more deluxe model in design but the roof structure helps to keep the hay drier = less chance of molding and waste.

I happen to have my round roll behind my barn where I used 16' gates to restrict access to the roll.
My roll is not in any feeder, but I also rake, cleanup and pitch any loose hay pulled off the roll and feed it to my horses for later in the day when they are not allowed the roll...
I have zero waste, literally no waste but work for myself to do.
I also tarp my hay every night to keep dry.


One thing I will stress is keep the hay off the ground...invest in HD pallet and make a structure to hold the roll from moving around.
Off the ground several inches lessens waste from moisture absorption happening = molding occurring.
I also only set my rolls on end, never flat so any rain hopefully sheds off not soak into the hay.
:runninghorse2:...
 

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I like the hayhut idea but can not justify spending $800 for a plastic playhouse is what it looks like to me.
I see many had them, they did not last long and were discarded for whatever the reasoning. :|

Blankets...
So much depends on the animal.
Age and health are factors only you know about.
Weather that is soaking to the skin of a animal makes it so much harder for them to stay warm and it is warm that keeps them comfortable in winter.
You might not need a heavy insulated blanket but maybe a waterproof sheet so the animal not be soaked, has a barrier from stinging rains would be a invited asset to the pony.
A windbreak from cold northern winds my horses like.. :smile:

I live in Florida, so no snow...but my horses do wear t/o sheets for a wind break and to keep their body dry when we get those nasty rain wind-driven soakers or even a all-day mist that chills the animals.
Winter coats take a lot to soak, but once wet they also take forever to dry...keeping them dry is most of the battle of keeping them comfortable.
If the animal is chilled, offer support of a blanket/sheet.
If they shiver they are working very hard to get warm and burning huge amounts of calories doing so...
If they act miserable, they are...
You will also know if they like the protection a blanket/sheet offers by attitude and body language shown...
Know your horses and pony, know their habits and read their body language will tell you what is best for them...it is about them.
You read & hear all kinds of things about blanketing...from experts and us horselovers.
I listen to my animals...they tell me all I need to know on this subject of blanketing, yes or no.
:runninghorse2:....
 

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@george the mule - I would love a hay hut!!!

I do have a feeder because after having them use the round bale for bedding and a bathroom I invested in a feeder. I put the round bale on a pallet and then the feeder around it. I try to cover it from rain but it doesn't always work. They seem to eat it up pretty good so not much waste. I let them free feed on it and supplement with the 3x3x8's orchard or alfalfa, yes they are a pain to work with but my tractor can pull them okay and then push them on pallets, these I make sure to cover.
 

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I don't have a picture of one but you can also buy covers that attach to round bale feeders. I don't feed rounds unless I absolutely have to- and the last time I did I removed hay from the bale and fed it like that - with no access to the bale.

As new horse owner I want to caution you that round bales are not just - place out there and forget kind of thing. As others have mentioned horses will pull apart that bale looking for the very best of the hay - and what they pull of they will stand on - poop and pee on and sleep in. This makes for a HUGE mucky - gummy mess in the spring.

Round bales are great but they really should be managed - hay huts, custom feeders etc are awesome. I know that @evaLmc uses a Little Tykes play house or something along those lines to cover her round bales - she also uses slow feed nets over the bale.

Welcome to horses at home! It's always something!!!
 

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Do your horses have shoes on? If so, yes I would get a round bale feeder. We don't have one currently but need one for fall/early spring when our horses do have shoes on.

If not, most of my friends (and us) just use a Hay Chix net. We're currently setting our netted round bale (ours are huge, roughly 6X6 monster 1800 lb bales) on an old tractor tire to keep it out of the mud/slop which has been working really well. If you get a Hay Chix net get the heavy duty one, I got the regular to save money and I'm doing several repairs a week. Hopefully Santa will bring me a new Heavy Duty one for Christmas.
 

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For me one round is $60. The number of square bales to equal the weight is 30. At 8.50 that is $255. The round price hasn't changed more than $5 up or down in 20 years, haven't paid more than $60 this year and all are the same quality - squares change weight, change price and change quality so 8.50 is the average this year. I go through at least 4 rounds a month. I do use a ring. Even putting squares in box feeders when I have had a horse in the pen haven't stopped the waste so that money is squandered for several reasons. I save by forking off the round.

ETA to fix the math. I weighed a couple of the squares. They are 40ish pounds. I will say the person I get rounds from does not do squares. The squares are coming from the feed store because my other hay supplier has all his squares spoken for.

The four rounds are $240. The equal weight in squares is $1020. Plus I have to make up for the waste of they lose weight wise so an almost $120 extra to make up. Now this would be if I had to feed squares to all. The rings are worth the expense and save enough in preventing waste that they pay for themselves plus they are a one time expense and if kept maintained last. I'd also have to have room to store the squares. I could keep it on the trailer as I do the rounds but I can't keep the same weights worth. So, that means more trips, plus the hassle of feeding the squares. Even if I have to fork off the rolls it isn't as much of a chore as I put the bale outside the pasture I feed it in on pallets. Could I do the same with squares - sure but then I am unstacking and moving. Too much time and labor. For the most part the rounds are put out in rings and I don't have to do anything but put new rolls out. As they are left on the trailer and tarped against weather I don't need a tractor. I drive the trailer out, unload the bale and then park it until I need the next bale. 1 person job though two makes it easier.
 

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For me one round is $60.
Around here, an 800lb 3X3X8 is ~$120 delivered. I just bought 50 small bales for $10ea; they were about 60lb bales, and it was a DIY project. So $130 vs $120, just not enough savings to justify the hassle of the bigger bales. For me; the sole caregiver.

But do the math for your neck of the woods.
 

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Thank you all!

I was quoted $30 for a 6x5 roll-- and a horsey friend of mine suggested purchasing 3 initially just to see how they do on it (going off of the 1 bale per horse, per month guidelines) plus their senior feed. Also, am not being charged a delivery fee for it. Now, the seller says its just a "grass mix" so, it might be a get what you pay for type of thing?

To the previous poster that asked about feet, they don't have any shoes but do get their feet trimmed every 8-10 weeks.

Just looking at TSC prices on these things :eek:mg: There's really not much difference in the pricing from the Co-Op and TSC, Rural King, etc...looks like a good $300 minimum investment

I should've fallen in love with cows instead of horses!!
 

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Thank you all!

I was quoted $30 for a 6x5 roll-- and a horsey friend of mine suggested purchasing 3 initially just to see how they do on it (going off of the 1 bale per horse, per month guidelines) plus their senior feed. Also, am not being charged a delivery fee for it. Now, the seller says its just a "grass mix" so, it might be a get what you pay for type of thing?

To the previous poster that asked about feet, they don't have any shoes but do get their feet trimmed every 8-10 weeks.

Just looking at TSC prices on these things :eek:mg: There's really not much difference in the pricing from the Co-Op and TSC, Rural King, etc...looks like a good $300 minimum investment

I should've fallen in love with cows instead of horses!!

I'm moving to wherever you are! Our 6X6's were $70 for grass and $105 for alfalfa mix this year. Admittedly, it was a rough year for hay in MN. Are you sure you're getting horse quality hay for that much? Cow quality hay is much cheaper but not great for horses.

I'm not positive one bale a month for 3 horses unless you live in an area where there is also pasture over the winter. We go through 1 bale of that size in less than a week with 7 horses (mostly Arab's/arab crosses nothing over 1000 lbs) so I would think you'll get closer to a bale every two weeks. Especially if you do not use a net/feeder because you have to factor in waste. We use a net and probably have less than 5% waste, without a net we would go through the bale in 3-4 days.
 

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Round bales are great but they really should be managed - hay huts, custom feeders etc are awesome. I know that @evaLmc uses a Little Tykes play house or something along those lines to cover her round bales - she also uses slow feed nets over the bale.

Welcome to horses at home! It's always something!!!
Just curious on why you say the above? I don't manage mine but it's grass hay not sure that matters... it runs $40 for about 4X5 bale. The pasture didn't get a break this year and really suffered with lack of rain and didn't get rye planted due to too much rain! ack! I just want something in front of my guys especially if I'm running late on their feeding. They do walk away from it.

I agree it's always something!!
 

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One bale may last a month IF you feed from it by hand. We average one bale/month for three horses, but we keep the round bales on-end in the barn, and unroll it like a cinnamon role and fork the hay into their feeder. They still get enough hay that they have access to forage nearly the entire day, but they aren't digging through and wasting it, either. The same bale placed out free-choice lasts a week even with a hay ring.

If we had to go free-choice, I would get the hut-type feeder with the built-in net. I forget which one it is. Bale Barn, I think. Friends have a couple and love them. Minimal waste, the hay stays dry, and the barns are on year three and still in good shape. They do bring the bale barns indoors for the summer, which seems to really help the longevity as the plastic isn't sitting out exposed to harsh sun 365/year. If you are feeding off rounds, you'll need a way to move them-- a tractor with a hay spear is necessary. If not, have them placed on end indoors and fork the hay off. If you store them on-end rather than on their sides, they will NOT shed water, so the hay gets ruined quickly if it gets wet.

We move our feeder periodically or you end up with an area around that feeder that is 2 feet deep in frozen manure and packed hay by spring. We use round bales because they're half the price of squares, and it's nearly impossible here to find square bales anymore. One person can bale hay in rounds. Baling in squares requires 2-3 people, plus hand-stacking. You can't pay people enough to help bale hay anymore, so most don't even bother.

As to 'just grass hay' -- most of us around here feed that with no issues. Our options here are 'grass hay' or 'alfalfa hay.' Most of the specialized 'horse hay' is exceedingly expensive and too high in NSC's for our easy keeper horses anyway. Remember that horses evolved to eat poor-quality forage all day long, and horses do better eating poorer hay for several hours a day than rich hay for two short feedings that are gone in 30 minutes. If you really want to know what's in it, have your hay tested-- your agricultural extension agent can help you with that, or there are instructions on how to get a sample and send it in for testing online. Beware, though, that the field it is from, time of day cut, time of day harvested, weather on the day cut/harvested, how it's stored, etc. can make a big difference, so unless your grower knows the entire batch came from the same field at the same time, you can drive yourself crazy testing. Plain grass hay cut off a variety of pastures is what 95% of the horses around here eat, and they do just fine on it. As long as it's not moldy or so stemmy the horses won't eat it, it's probably fine for an average, healthy horse. Also, it should be a no-brainer but I see it not done a lot-- always remove the netting/twine from around the bale. It's too easy for a horse to ingest and/or catch legs in it otherwise. Yes, the bale falls apart faster, but that's the way it is.
 

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If doing rounds, yes I would use a ring, keeps them from throwing the hay EVERYWHERE and laying in it. You can even attach netting to the ring to turn it into a slow feeder. I'd preferably do something with a roof to keep it dry...but thats not always possible,

Now if you're open to doing squares......you may be able to find a Step 2 playhouse used super cheap on craigslist/facebook and turn it into a hay hut.






Its got through a few changes over the years but its still holding up. I think I paid $135 for it? Then I bought netting off ebay and made net that attaches on the inside. I fit 4 square bales at a time under the net. If I got a larger net I could prob fit 6?

Just an idea for you if you're open to doing squares :)
 

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In winter, when the ground is under snow here, I drag my little 40 lb bales out to the ends of the pastures on a kid's sled, cut the strings and let the horses make a mess of it. It mulches and seeds the pasture, keeps the horses moving, spreads the manure. It may "waste" hay but it helps so many other things it is worth it. I paid $4.50/bale (equates to maybe $9 for a west coast 'retail' 90 lb bale -- in CA I paid around $20) for my next door neighbor's hay, so I don't feel I must hoard it. In summer I use Haychix small-bale nets in the stable area under the overhang so they don't get wet. They are hung well up from where the horses would paw them -- although my horses aren't shod.

When it's cold my small horse and medium pony go through a bale a day. I blanket them partly just to keep weight on them and save on hay, as they eat to keep warm.

Round bales work best for people with big tractors and flat land, in my opinion-- I have neither.
 

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The first picture horseloving guy posted- that is the best way to store round rolls. You can attach a small mesh net on top of that and have very little waste. A couple eye hooks and some snaps to attach the netting.

I built my hay holder as a wood crib with no climb wire (similar to the first picture), except my hay holder is portable and not attached to the supports for the roof of the stall. The reason being, when i unload the rounds, they sometimes pick up my hay feeder and drop it back down. If i had attached it to the stall itself, that round roll would probably snap the wood boards.

Horses don't do well with hay that gets rained on or moldy. Anything you can do to keep that hay dry, will help.

I buy my rounds from my neighbor down the street - roll it off the truck into the wooden crib, attach the net, and leave the horses to eat. I only buy hay as needed. My neighbor stores the hay for me so i never have to worry about shortages.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
This has all been so helpful, thank you all so much!

To answer a couple of points: we do have a tractor, but no spear (yet), contemplating buying one but have a couple other attachments. The learning curve of operating it has been comical to us, and probably our neighbors, too... but after some practice bush hogging this summer and doing some maintenance around the pasture, I think we'd be ok with the spear. Worst case scenario is we ruin a couple bales trying to figure out how to get it in the feeder.

I think we're going to just start out with the first picture posted-- elevated equine round bale feeder and maybe try it with a net on top. Seems pricey but, worthwhile if it saves some money in the meantime.

Is there any risk in just literally throwing a round bale out there this week while we go buy the round bale feeder? I know they'll probably eat and trample it, but is one bales worth of mess in the pasture that much to worry about or should I just wait until we get the feeder over the weekend?

To the poster who posted the pics of the kids playhouse used as a hay feeder-- that is incredible! I'm sure my kids would enjoy that as well, I like things that are multi purpose like that :)
 

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Do you know that your horses can have free choice? It's worth a try I suppose... if they get very fat rather quickly, you may have to control output a little more. I know some who feed rounds by just peeling off layers of hay as they go. It means a few feedings a day, but you don't waste any. My experience with round bales has not been good, and my horses can't have free choice or they get fat, so I don't bother, but maybe it's different in your area. Watch for bales that are moldy in the middle. You may not realize it until they eat it down to the core. That's been my issue with round bales here. They're also a pain to move around and store.

Or you could peel layers off and feed a little at a time, even using slow-feeder nets to keep the horses eating a little bit all day long.
 

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To answer a couple of points: we do have a tractor, but no spear (yet), contemplating buying one but have a couple other attachments. The learning curve of operating it has been comical to us, and probably our neighbors, too... but after some practice bush hogging this summer and doing some maintenance around the pasture, I think we'd be ok with the spear. Worst case scenario is we ruin a couple bales trying to figure out how to get it in the feeder.
Well then. I'll add one important consideration/word of caution. A loader on a tractor is a handy tool, but can be very dangerous if loaded heavily. Note that I did not say "overloaded". The loader on mine is rated to lift 800lb, and it _will_ lift that much. However it is very scary trying to actually move that much weight, and the higher off the ground you lift it, the more frightening it becomes. This is because the weight on the loader arms is way out in front of the tractor center of gravity. A straight-on lift of a balanced load that is too heavy will simply cause the rear wheels to come off the ground, which is a bit disconcerting in its self, but add any side to side unbalance, and it will tend to tip the tractor towards the imbalance. One rear wheel will come up, and the load will go to the ground. This isn't particularly dangerous if you only have the load a few inches off of the ground, but it it is a foot or more up, it can and will put your tractor on it's side. Instantly, and the higher the load is above the balance point, the more "instantly" it becomes. Trying to maneuver a heavy load really accentuates this phenomenon, particularly when turning, and _way_ particularly on uneven ground. And people will tell you riding a horse is dangerous . . .
Nervous yet? Good. Your tractor needs to have a Roll-over Protection System (all newer ones do), and you need to wear the seat belt. Nuff said 'bout that.
. . . No, one more thing: You can get a hay spear that attaches to the tractor three-point hitch. This will allow you to lift and move a heavier load in relative safety, but severely restricts how far you can lift said load. This is how I move big bales when I have to do so.
This is a pretty good resource for tractor attachments, but kinda pricey:
https://www.quickattach.com/

Is there any risk in just literally throwing a round bale out there this week while we go buy the round bale feeder?
Your horses will love you for it, and they will have a blast tossing hay everywhere and rolling around in it. Have your camera ready.
 
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