Slow feed horse hay feeders have seen a dramatic increase in popularity over the last few decades. And with the clear benefits, it’s no wonder. Reduced hay waste, better equine weight management, and better digestion are just a few of the advantages these feeders offer.

However, like any emerging technology, it’s important to keep an eye out for unintended side effects. In the last few years, various photos and posts have circulated on horse forums, Facebook, and other platforms showing equine dental damage reportedly caused by slow hay feeder use. Reports like these have raised a significant question for concerned horse owners: “Are slow feeders bad for horses’ teeth?”

slow hay feeder tooth damage
Damage like this has raised questions about some types of slow feeders, particularly those with metal grates
PC: McKinlay & Peters Equine Hospital on Facebook

Are Slow Feeders Bad for Horses’ Teeth? – The Short Answer

In general, slow hay feeders are not bad for horses’ teeth, as long as the slow feeder design doesn’t include a steel/metal grate. Feeders that do seem to have a higher risk of causing equine dental damage are those which include steel grates or other metal elements between horses’ mouths and their hay. Slow feeders with mesh rope-nets have almost no accounts of damage, while feeders with woven polyester nets (like this one) have no known examples of tooth damage. Before jumping to conclusions, though, let’s look deeper at some of the issues raised.

Dental Concerns Associated with Horse Hay Slow Feeders

There are a number of concerns which have been raised regarding horse hay slow feeders. These include:

Worn teeth

Grooves or other unusual wear patterns caused by the repetitive motion of the horse’s teeth against the feeder surface. This is generally reported with hard-surface feeders, particularly those using metal grates. It’s also been occasionally reported with some mesh/rope-net feeders, although it seems to be rarer.

horse tooth wear from slow feeder
Apparent tooth wear from a slow feeder
PC: Ruth Harms on Facebook

Chipping or fractures

Damage has been reported on the enamel surface of the horse’s teeth. This could include chipped enamel or fractures to the tooth itself. At worst, there are even a few reports of a tooth broken off completely.

horse tooth damage from metal slow feeder
Damage caused by a metal slow feeder
PC: Judy Nielson Bell on Facebook

Pulp horn infections

Some veterinarians have reported seeing pulp horn infections which they attributed to certain types of slow hay feeders wearing teeth down too rapidly.

Gum and lip injuries/infections

While, rare, there are reports of lips and gums developing injuries/infections caused by the horse’s gums rubbing against a feeder while trying to pull hay out.

gum damage from slow feeders
Alleged feeder damage to gums
PC: Slow-Feeder Research and Data Collection on Facebook

Slow feeders with metal grates seem to be the design that takes most of the blame for these incidents. The general consensus among veterinarians and the majority of horse owners is that the only slow feeders which pose a significant risk of tooth damage are steel grate slow feeders. Additionally, it seems that underlying risk factors can make certain horses more susceptible to tooth damage or other dental maladies…

Other Factors That Contribute to Equine Dental Damage

The question of whether slow hay feeders are bad for horses’ teeth is complicated by the fact that there are numerous other factors that can affect equine dental health. Sometimes the same issues that prompt a slow-feed diet for a horse can also put the horse at a higher risk of dental problems; examples include endocrine disease or stereotypical behaviors. Some risk factors that are known to contribute to dental issues in horses include:

Excessive dentistry

When it comes to horse teeth floating and other dental procedures, it’s definitely possible to have too much of a good thing. Power tools in the hands of an overzealous equine dentist can mean more surface is taken off of a horse’s teeth during routine dental work. One recent study found that excessive dentistry made horses 5x as likely to suffer certain dental diseases. If a horse’s teeth have already been compromised during a dental operation, it may make them more susceptible to additional damage from a poorly constructed slow feeder.

An equine dentist working on horse teeth with a power tool
Too much dentistry can actually harm horses’ teeth in the long run

Endocrine disease and laminitis

There is existing evidence that digestive and other health issues may be risk factors toward some types of equine dental problems. While laminitis itself is not known to cause dental issues, there does seem to be some overlap between laminitic horses and those more prone to excessive tooth wear from slow feeders. PPID and EMS, two conditions known to contribute to the onset of laminitis can also double the risk of certain dental conditions in horses. On the other hand, slow feeding is one of the key tools for managing laminitis, so it’s important not to avoid slow feeding for high-risk horses, simply to find the proper feeder and monitor tooth wear.

Alfalfa-only diet

Horses fed on alfalfa hay are roughly 2x as likely to develop some types of dental problems. As most equine lovers already know, a low-mastication, high-sugar diet is a recipe for dental (and digestive) problems in a horse. Even when slow feeding, it’s important to make sure that the hay you choose for your horse has enough fiber and roughage to force the horse to chew it properly. Additionally, if your horse is considered sugar-sensitive, it’s a good idea to have your hay tested for sugar content.

Horses without a slow feeder damaging their teeth on alfalfa
High-carbohydrate forage can cause dental problems in some horses

Periodontal disease

One side effect of insufficient mastication (chewing) during feeding is the increased risk of periodontal disease. While periodontal disease is technically a dental disease in its own right, it can also contribute as much as 5x to other dental conditions. If a horse isn’t grazing or doing enough chewing during feeding times, it can result in food packing, bacteria growth, and other nasty things that can contribute to periodontal disease. Thankfully, slow feeding can actually help prevent this by encouraging chewing patterns similar to natural grazing.

Stereotypical behaviors

Negative behaviors like cribbing and chewing on wood/plastic/metal are usually symptoms of an underlying issue. However, these behaviors can be hard on a horse’s teeth. Horses that exhibit these behaviors may also abuse their slow feeders, contributing to dental damage. (More on this below.)

A horse exhibiting crib biting stereotypical behavior
Cribbing (crib biting) and other stereotypical behaviors can lead to tooth damage

Can A Slow Hay Feeder Actually Improve Equine Dental Health?

There is strong evidence to suggest that slow feeding may actually provide an overall net benefit to horses’ teeth by managing or removing some of the dental risks posed by other underlying conditions. In particular, slow feeders may:

Reduce the risk of periodontal disease

While the disease is thought to be caused by some combination of gingivitis and food compaction due to malocclusion, there’s also evidence that a lack of grazing can contribute. The saliva that is stimulated when a horse grazes is thought to help bathe the teeth and prevent excessive food buildup. Slow feeding helps to mimic some of the benefits of grazing by encouraging horses to ingest a steady stream of forage throughout the day rather than in bulk at feeding times. This may help stimulate saliva production and keep the teeth healthier.

Help control endocrine disease (EMS and PPID)

Slow feeding can help to prevent and/or control some of the dietary problems related to these diseases. When combined with low-sugar hay, slow feeding can help reduce obesity and regulate the horse’s intake of non-structural carbohydrates, both keys to prevention/treatment of laminitis and the underlying diseases that cause it. Not only does properly treating endocrine disease reduce the risk of laminitis, it also protects your horse’s teeth by reducing the risk of other dental problems.

Keep in mind that it’s important to know the sugar levels in the hay you provide to at-risk horses. Sending a hay sample to a forage laboratory is the most accurate way to assess the levels of non-structural carbohydrates in your feed.

horses protecting teeth while eating from slow feeder copy
Slow feeders can help treat/prevent several equine health conditions

Reduce stereotypical behaviors

This is where slow feeders really shine. Stereotypical behaviors that are hard on teeth (like crib biting) are usually triggered by underlying issues. Many of these issues can be reduced through slow feeding. Stereotypical behaviors can be caused by:

Boredom

If a horse doesn’t have enough positive activity, it may turn to negative behavior to occupy itself. A slow feeder gives a healthy outlet for a horse’s energy by allowing it to nibble all day long.

Gastric ulcers

Horses’ digestive systems are designed for constant grazing. In fact, they need a steady stream of eating-induced saliva to buffer the acid naturally produced by their stomachs. When horses go too long between meals, the acid in their stomachs can cause ulcers, which in turn can trigger other negative behavior. A slow feeder keeps them eating steadily and guards horses’ stomachs against ulcers and the side effects they cause.

Stress

Elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol seem to contribute to stereotypical behaviors. Stress can be caused by numerous factors, but food-related stress is one of the most common. When horses need to wait for periods of time without access to food, they can begin to develop food-related anxiety about their next feeding. This stress can lead to further negative behavior in the horse. With a slow feeder, the constant access to food can help reduce cortisol levels and help prevent poor behavior.

horse teeth damaged by stereotypical behavior
This horse would rake its teeth across the bars of its stall in stereotypical behavior…probably a major cause of this damage
PC: Jen Joines on Facebook

Since crib biting, windsucking, and other “stable vices” are so hard on teeth, alleviating or eliminating them can help to protect the dental health of your horses.

Choosing a Slow Feeder Design to Protect Horses’ Teeth

There is a huge variety of horse feeders available, including numerous slow feed options. So, which slow feeder is best? That’s a large question that deserves its own article, but we can break the different slow feeder types into 5 main categories. Let’s look at which slow feeders provide the greatest protection to horses’ teeth.

Metal slow feeder

These slow feeders are NOT recommended as they’ve been consistently demonstrated to cause tooth damage. Stay away from metal slow feeders; it’s not worth risking your horse’s teeth with so many other good options available.

metal slow feeder for horses damages teeth
Avoid feeders with metal grates like this
PC: Judy Nielson Bell on Facebook

Hard plastic slow feeder

These feeders, which can be designed as buckets or balls, are much better than metal and are generally considered safe. However, the hard surface does have the potential to wear on teeth over time. If your horse is already at risk of dental issues, you may want to steer clear and choose another type.

plastic slow feeder for horses
A hard plastic feeder
PC: infohorse.com

Mesh/rope net slow feeder

Whether your feeding show horses or retirees, this is one of the most popular and well-known slow feeder designs. They are made from a variety of materials, including nylon and nylon/poly blends, and may feature a knotted or knotless construction in the netting. There is almost no risk of tooth damage with these feeders, although some horse owners have noticed slight grooves in horse teeth after months or years of use.

A horse protecting its teeth eating from a slow feed hay net
A small slow feed hay net

Rubber slow feeder

While rarer, especially in the United States, some feeders use rubber mesh or “fingers” to trickle feed hay. (This design is better known in the UK.) Soft rubber has virtually zero risks of damaging horse teeth.

horse slow hay feeder with rubber
A hay feeder with a rubber slow feed mesh
PC: Orchard Equestrian

Woven polyethylene net slow feeder

Of the slow feeder designs popular in the United States, this seems to be the design that may be the best for protecting horses’ teeth. Woven polyethylene net slow feeders are generally fashioned as black nets with square holes, usually in sizes from 1” to 3”. The polyethylene fabric used in these feeders is tough and durable but has not been shown to cause any equine dental damage.
Polyethylene net slow feeders are available in all sizes, from small bags for one flake of hay up to covered slow feeder designs capable of handling an entire large hay bale.

polyester slow feeder protects horse teeth
A large bale slow feeder with woven polyester net panels

The Takeaway

While most slow feeder designs (other than metal) won’t damage equine teeth under normal circumstances, it’s important to monitor your horse’s mouth for changes whenever feeding adjustments are made and to be aware of underlying risk factors that can affect equine dental health.   

It’s that time of year again…National Farmers Day! It’s a chance for us to collectively take a step back and specifically thank all of the farmers who work so hard each day to feed the world.

Thank you…

…for all the early mornings and late nights.

…for all those cold winter mornings feeding and milking.

…for all those hot summer days baling hay.

…for all those dusty fall harvest days.

…for all the hard work that makes it so easy for the rest of us.

FROM THE BOTTOMS OF OUR HEARTS, THANK YOU, FARMERS – The team at Farmco

Thank You Farmers! | #NationalFarmersDay

Your grain or other livestock feed is crucial to keeping your animals healthy during the winter — unfortunately, your herd isn’t the only ones who want a taste. Rodents and vermin like to turn your animal feed into a free buffet whenever they get the chance.  Plus, the wintertime water and resulting mold can play a part in ruining the livestock feed you’re storing as well.

If you want to fight back against mold and pests, you need to check out these 4 livestock feed storage ideas. Some are DIY work-arounds you can try out — and others are long-term investments. Learn 4 ways to keep your feed and grains safe!

Grain Storage Ideas & Solutions

diy storage

If you leave your feed in the plastic bags it comes in, rodents will chew right through them before you can say Mickey Mouse. Not only do vermin like to eat your feed, they also pollute it with their feces. In fact, wasted and ruined feed is one of the biggest and most-preventable ways that farmers lose money.

Grain storage is your investment to prevent that loss. Your ideal livestock feed storage solution needs to be stronger than vermin, protected from the rain, and easy to transport and use.

Learn more about how vermin and mold destroy cattle feed.

Some large farms employ multiple 30-ton or 50-ton stationary grain bins. While that massive equipment works for them, it’s not right for most farmers since it is too large, too expensive, and not mobile. Let’s take a look at some innovative grain storage solutions instead:

Our grain bins are designed to hold a large amount of bulk feed for as long as you need without contamination. In addition, using our grain bins make your job on the farm easier.

Farmco Manufacturing – Building Solutions to Help Farmers

Farmco builds livestock feed storage bins with the same precise manufacturing and experienced engineering we use to build our horse and cattle feeders. No matter what Farmco product you buy, you can feel confident it was constructed to resist rust and stand up to the elements – and vermin.

We build all of our products to solve real problems that farmers face every day. Learn more about how the Farmco line can help you save time today.

So if you’re finished trying to make do with impromptu livestock feed storage, it’s time to upgrade to a Farmco grain bin. Contact us to get your grain bin quote today.

If you’re a horse farmer or equestrian enthusiast, you love raising horses because you love riding. Chances are, doing the farm chores like feeding or cleaning up after the horses doesn’t top your list of favorite activities.

The right equipment exists to make your job easier, no matter what that job is. Finding the right horse feeder can help you spend less time doing chores and more time working with the horses themselves. Just like we show you how to find the right cattle feeder, we want to help you find the ideal horse feeder for your farm.

Read our latest blog and learn more about some of our popular lines of horse feeders.

3 Farmco Horse Feeders

Here are 3 horse feeders that include different features, meant to serve a different number of animals. See your options when shopping for a Farmco horse feeder.

Learn More about Farmco Horse Feeders

Are one of these horse feeders a perfect match for your farm or stable? Whether you want to get more information or place your order, we can help.  Farmco sells our feeders online and in-person through our dedicated dealer network.

Contact us to learn more about our horse feeders and to get your free quote.

When showing your cow, winning the judge’s favor requires a combination of the cow’s condition and your own skill in the ring. Whether you’re new or experienced, these crucial cattle showing tips can help you ensure your cow gets a proper look from the judges.

At Farmco, we help real farmers every day by building the cattle feeders they rely on —and by providing real tips and information. Read our blog to learn cattle showmanship tips you can use this year.

cattle shows

Cattle Showmanship Tips You Can Use

The primary thing the judges will be looking at are the composition, health, and temperament of your animal. These cattle showing tips are meant to help you ensure you show the judges exactly what they want to see.

Cattle Feeders for the Healthiest Cattle

At Farmco, our cattle feeders go hand-in-hand with raising show cattle for more than one reason.

Firstly, cattle health plays a massive role in cattle composition. Health is absolutely key to cows gaining weight and even being able to be shown at all.

Learn more about how Farmco cattle feeders promote healthy herds in several ways.

In addition, preparing for shows can be time-consuming. If you have a large herd, you might not have the time to invest in training one individual cow. However, Farmco feeders and other equipment help farmers work more conveniently and save time every day.

Learn more about how Farmco feeders save you time.

show cattle feeder

Buy Your Farmco Feeder Today

Interested in bringing the savings and convenience of Farmco feeders to your farm? You’re in the right place.

Farmco feeders are sold nationwide — both online and through our dealer network. If you want to learn more or if you want a cattle feeder quote, contact us now.

Whether on pasture or in their stall, preventing horse boredom is important. Horses that are bored can become depressed and even develop negative behaviors. That’s nothing a little care and a little ingenuity can’t solve.

At Farmco, we’re a resource for stables and equine enthusiasts. That’s why we’re presenting our list of horse boredom busters — some are tips to try and others are equine products to invest in.

Our Recommended Horse Boredom Breakers

If you raise or board horses, you know there will always be periods of downtime. You can’t be riding or turning out horses 24/7 — it just isn’t possible. That’s why having methods to entertain horses during these times is so crucial.

Every horse is different, and as a result, they’ll respond to these boredom busters differently. We recommend trying a few of these ideas and seeing how your horse or horses respond.

The Farmco 608SF Slow Feed Horse Feeder

At Farmco Manufacturing we build equipment that solves problems for real farmers and horse enthusiasts. We developed our 608SF Slow Feed Horse Feeder for this very reason.

Not only is the Farmco slow feed horse feeder a way to keep your horses entertained on pasture, but it provides a variety of other benefits to horse enthusiasts.

Learn more about how the Farmco 6608 Slow Feed Horse Feeder solved a problem for Farmco’s most famous fan!

Bring the Farmco Advantage to Your Horse Farm

In addition to our popular 608SF, Farmco builds a wide variety of equipment to help horse farmers and equine enthusiasts.

Farmco feeders can be found all across the country as we sell our products online and through our dealer network. If you want to learn more about the advantages of Farmco feeders or want to get your quote, contact us today!

For farmers, time is money. Whether you raise cattle or board and train horses, doing anything you can to increase farm efficiency is worth it. That’s why Farmco designs products to offer labor-saving benefits to the farmers who use them.

So when it comes time to replace your old feeder, look for a feeder that can save you time. Learn more about all of the ways in which Farmco can help increase farm efficiency with our convenient and tough equipment.

Increase Farm Efficiency with Farmco

Farmco has been manufacturing agriculture equipment since the mid-’80s and has focused on making farm work a little easier from the beginning.  Farmco equipment can increase your productivity and make feeding your animals easier with their many different feeder models. Other equipment can assist with moving hay and storing grain. All focused on maximizing your time!

Here’s how Farmco makes your farm more efficient:

Buy Your Farmco Products Today

Whether you’re a cattle farmer or a horse enthusiast, Farmco has developed the equipment to make a tough job a little easier.

Farmco sells its equipment nationwide through a large network of dealers. If there is not a dealer in your area, Farmco can ship directly to your farm or ranch. Farmco also specializes in custom-built feeders and other equipment.

Contact us to get a quote for your Farmco equipment.

When you’re buying equipment for your farm, you want it to lessen your workload, be durable, save you money in the long-run, and meet your budget. In short, when you’re investing in new equipment – whether it’s a tractor or a hay feeder – you want it to be right for the job.

When investing in a hay feeder or a cattle feeder, there are a ton of options. You want to be sure you’re making the right choice. Farmco Manufacturing builds ALL of our horse and cattle feeders to last. Choosing the right Farmco cattle or hay feeder is a matter of matching the model to your needs and finding a model that fits your budget.

Let’s explore the Farmco models.

5 Farmco Cattle Feeders

Here are 5 Farmco cattle feeders that offer different features and are good for a variety of tasks.

Cattle and Horse Feeders for Sale

Farmco Manufacturing offers a wide variety of horse and cattle feeders for sale and through our large dealer network. We build the durable feeders that make farmers lives’ easier and conserving feed.

If you are still deciding on the best feeder for your needs and your budget, contact us and we can help you decide.

To cattle farmers, every pound of beef is precious, especially when you’re raising cattle without hormones or antibiotics. That’s why at Farmco, we provide farmers with the tips and equipment that can promote herd growth, for both weaning calves and adults.

Here are the effective tips we’ve learned through decades in agricultural — and how our creep feeder can be a game-changer during the weaning process.

Tips to Increase and Maintain Cattle Weight

The best cattle farmers put the right strategies in place throughout their cow’s entire lives. The right choices help you pack on the pounds and keep them there, from weaning stages to market weight.

calf in field

Explore Farmco Creep Feeders

Creep feeders are a crucial piece of equipment for many farmers, and we build sturdy and easy to use options.

Built of heavy-gauge steel, Farmco Creep Feeders are strong enough to prevent tough-full grown cattle from having access to the feed you’re offering to younger calves. The bars that limit access can be adjusted, meaning your creep feeder can provide an economical feeding solution for multiple sizes of animals.

Like all of our cattle feeders, our creep feeders are easy to load and transport. In addition to helping farmers solve problems, we also strive to make their hard work a little easier.

Meet Farmco Manufacturing

With over 30 years of building products that solve problems for farmers every day, Farmco is still dedicated to helping farmers in both the cattle and equestrian world. While our feeders can be found coast-to-coast, we are still a family-owned company hailing from the farm country of Lancaster County PA.

In addition to providing solutions to our customers, we also provide farming insight and support on how to use our feeders. Whether you want to order your feeder or ask us a question, we’re here to help. Contact us today!

While most savvy farmers know that ground feeding is an outdated method, some still hold onto this old tradition—and that’s a bad thing. Some classic farming traditions have unfortunately stuck around.

Still common among both cow farmers and equine enthusiasts, ground feeding is actually counterproductive, as it wastes hay (and money) and exposes both types of animals to entirely preventable parasites.

At Farmco, we build the world’s best cow and horse feeders, so we know the difference a sturdy feeder can make for your herd. It’s one of our missions to educate all types of farmers about the waste and the danger caused by ground feeding hay to your animals.

Why Do Some Farmers Still Ground Feed?

There isn’t just one answer for this question. From what we’ve heard talking to real farmers, it comes down to four things:

hay horse

How Ground Feeding Wastes Hay

Some farmers say that ground feeding is the most natural way to feed animals. That might be true, but it doesn’t mean it’s the best way.

Here are the most common ways we see ground feeding waste hay:

cattle ruining hay

As a 21st century farmer — whether it’s your job or hobby — you need to find ways to save money wherever possible.  Hay and other feed isn’t cheap. This is no place to let superstitions and old habits undercut your bottom line.

How Much Can Ground Feeding Waste Cost You?

Numerous agricultural studies show that ground feeding wastes approximately 50% of feed placed on the ground. That 50% holds true for both horses and cattle.

Essentially, you need to buy 2 bales for every 1 bale you feed to your herd or your horses. That wasted hay (and money) adds up.

Need some good news? Our top-of-the-line feeders are specifically designed to prevent feed waste.

Parasites from Ground Feeding

One other way that ground feeding nickels and dimes the average farmer is through the added exposure to parasites. Ground feeding increases the risk of internal parasites for both horses and cows.

When animals eat directly off the ground, they are at risk to consume parasite larva or eggs along with their feed. Young calves, in particular, are susceptible to parasites.

Consistently having to deworm your horses or your herd is an added expense — the more animals you have, the more expensive it becomes.

Find the Feeder That’s Right for Your Farm

Ground feeding is an outdated practice that will waste your money every year until you make an upgrade.

While nearly ANY slow feeder on the market is an improvement over ground feeding, you want to make a good investment and get your money’s worth. Besides assessing whether a feeder will save hay, it’s important to also consider whether your preferred slow feeder will protect your horse’s teeth. Not only does Farmco build the sturdiest feeders on the market, but we also build the smartest feeders specifically designed to prevent feed waste and protect your animals.

Start the conversation and find the perfect feeder for your farm.