Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Feeding the boys, part II

In my last post on feeding the boys, I mentioned that I had recently switched from feeding round bales to feeding square bales, and I thought I'd share my thoughts about why I did that.

First of all, the boys were out during the day on pasture and in at night with the round bale. Red wasn't getting any grain, but he was FAT. He actually sort of looked like a round bale! Saga looked OK, but wasn't fat, even though he was getting 1 scoop of Safe-n-Sound 2x/day. So I had one horse that was too fat and another horse that wasn't quite right. By feeding square bales, I'd have more control over who got how much hay, and hopefully would be able to get Red a little more svelt and Saga a bit more plump.

Secondly, round bales are a PAIN to move. We don't have a tractor to move round bales, so we had to drive our truck to wherever we wanted the round bale and then push it out of the back of the truck. This is not something I can do by myself, so if I needed to do it while the hubby was out of town, I had to call a friend for help (thanks, Foxfire!). And while moving and stacking square bales isn't my favorite thing to do by far, I can do it.

And while we're on the subject of moving round bales, I should mention that when it rains, we can't get the truck out in the back pasture where we were dropping the bales. So I had to keep a supply of squares on hand anyway for those times when we couldn't get the round bales back there.

Now, about the cost. My feed store (which isn't the cheapest place to get hay by any means) charges $90 for a round bale and $9 for a square*. If you figure a round bale weighs roughly 1000 lbs and a square bale weighs roughly 50 lbs, it doesn't take a math genius to figure out that it costs $180 for 1000 lbs of square bales. So you'd figure that feeding round bales is about half the cost and should last twice as long, right?

Oddly enough, that doesn't seem to be the case. It is slightly more expensive to feed squares than rounds as far as I can tell (the data is still coming in on this one, and Ill share it with you when I have it all compiled). However, there is almost NO WASTE. A round bale would last me anywhere between 10 and 20 days, and perhaps 1/3 of it would be wasted - pull out, stepped on, laid on, and peed in. 20 square bales lasts me about month (I use roughly 2/3 of a bale per day) and there are literally a few wisps left, if anything - even when I feed on the ground. So for me, the real savings comes in the work I don't have to do forking and shoveling out wet, dirty, rotten hay (and man is that gross!) and the trips to the dump I don't have to make to dispose of the nastiness.

Yes, it takes me a little longer to feed since I actually have to take the stuff out of the shed and put it in a feeder - or several feeders, since I try to spread it around so the boys have to work for it. Yes, it's a bit more expensive. But for me the ease in handling, the ease in feeding, the known quantities of feed and the lack of waste and subsequent cleanup makes it well worth it!

* Note: I have since found a new hay supplier who charges $6 for a square bale, and it's a mixture of Tifton and Coastal Bermudagrass. Very nice stuff!


  1. Oh my god, you're gonna give me a heart attack. I used to pay $50 for astonishingly high quality round bermuda bales. The next spring, my farmer apologized a whole lot and said diesel had gone up so much he was going to have to raise the price to $60.

    Believe it or not, I could unload my own round bales if no one was around to help. It was a horrible bitch to do, but I could do it. I had a sturdy 2x4 I used for a lever.

    I never fed the rounds in the field - the paddock where my horses stayed didn't have a gate big enough to drive through. The hay lived on a pallet beside the barn and I'd unroll it and feed it like squares out of a wheelbarrow.

  2. Funder, I could probably unload a round bale by myself if I didn't have to park the truck slightly downhill from the drop point. Gravity working against me and all.

    I have contemplated peeling hay off a round bale and going at it that way. Perhaps when we have our place more settled and have an actual barn where I could store a round bale I'll try it. For now, the squares are working pretty well for us.