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How To Feed Round Bales to Horses

This article dives into answering the question: “how do you feed round bales to horses?” There’s a bit of nuance to it all, so stay with us!

how to feed round bales to horses shown with a round bale of hay

How do you Feed Round Bales of Hay to Horses?

There are several different ways to feed round bales to horses:

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Stalls

Maybe you don’t want the clutter of a large hay feeder in your barn, so you opt for a smaller container for a stall. Keep in mind that this will become more time consuming since you will have to daily ensure that your horse has enough hay. 

Pasture

One of the simplest feeding methods is to plop a round bale onto a pasture and allow your horses to continue grazing. However, proceed with caution. If you feed an entire round bale to horses on a pasture, they may overeat considerably. Additionally, hay will be wasted in excessive amounts because of a lack of protection and horses free-range over the hay. Therefore, if you choose the pasture approach, it is best to add a barrier (i.e. hay ring or slow feeder) between the hay and your horses.

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Hay Rings

Looking for another way to feed your horses an entire round bale of hay? With a hay ring, hay will stay contained in one place which will continue to reduce waste, while still allowing your horse to easily graze on needed nutrients. 

On the flip-side, hay rings do not adequately protect a round bale from inclement weather. Thus, you may consider adding a roof to keep mold and must away from your horses’ hay. 

Hay Nets

Hay nets keep a round bale contained without horses trampling over the hay bale. An entire round hay bale can be placed within a hay net and attached to a sturdy frame or placed in a hay ring. Alternatively, you may also place a hay net on a wooden pallet in order to protect it from moisture on the ground. A hay net slows down horses eating and cuts down on hay waste. When considered the proper hay net for your horses, keep in mind a hole size that allows your horses to eat properly. 

However, there are a few downsides to hay nets. One, they don’t provide adequate protection from moisture. Two, a hay net poses a risk to horse safety. A horse could potentially get a hoof caught in the netting. Third, if a round hay bale collapses within a hay net, it’s essentially ground feeding then, and horses may waste a lot of hay by trampling it or with their urine and manure

horse eating a round hay bale

Wooden Feeder

If you want to cut down costs, you can always construct your own wooden feeder. In order to fit a round hay bale, ensure the dimensions are larger than the size of round hay bales you order, but also snug enough so that your hay bale won’t move around too much. With an added roof, you can give some protection from the elements. A wooden feeder can eliminate potential waste from horse urine and manure. One pro is that DIY wooden feeders are a very cost-efficient solution, compared to brand-new metal hay feeders. But, building a feeder takes time, and, as a farmer, time is often limited.

Keep in mind that wooden feeders do pose possible risks to horses through sharp edges or splinters. Ensure you regularly monitor and inspect your wooden feeder for any damages.

HF Series Slow Feeder

Wanting to cut down on hay wastage and mold, while also ensuring your horses eat healthy amounts of hay? A slow feeder keeps your hay covered from the elements and allows for drainage of any water that slips through. It also allows your horse 24/7 access to hay, simulating natural grazing habits. In order to protect your horse from overeating, a net panel allows your horse to eat the recommended 1.5 pounds of hay each hour. 

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How to Feed Round Bales with Minimal Waste?

A raised horse feeder is the best way to feed round bales of hay to your horses with minimal waste. While we can’t speak for other companies’ horse feeders, our HF Series horse slow feeder has the following benefits, making it the best way to feed round bales with minimal waste:

Do You Feed Round Bales to Horses on the Side or End?

Overall, when you plan to set a round bale in the pasture or barn, there are more benefits to feeding hay to horses on the rounded side. However, generally, it’s not best practice to ground feed hay to your horses. Try reading this article if you’re interested in learning more on why ground feeding is not a good solution. 

Feeding Hay From the Rounded Side of a Round Bale

Pros

Cons

Feeding Hay From the End of a Rounded Bale

Pros

Cons

Particular SidePros Cons 
Rounded SideLess hay waste by horses; easy feeding for horses; efficient grazing for horsesHard to move; less efficient drainage from moisture 
Flat End Easier to move; better drainage from the elementsHorses may waste hay more; less efficient grazing for horses
how to feed round bales to horses

How Many Round Bales Will a Horse Eat?

An 1,100 pound horse will go through roughly 16.5-27.5 lbs. of hay every day. 

It’s recommended that horses eat around 1.5-2.5% of their body weight in pounds of hay each day. Now here’s a couple rough statistics on how long it takes for 1 horse to go through a large round bale. Keep in mind that hay waste is also factored into the equation.

Number of HorsesDays to Finish a Large Round Bale
1 Horse≈12-16 days
2 Horses≈6-8 days
3 Horses≈5-7 days
4 Horses≈3-4 days

However, when using a hay feeder such as the HF slow feeder, you will dramatically eliminate waste and lower the amount of round bales you purchase for your horses. Typically, the HF series slow hay feeder pays for itself with hay savings, usually within 24 months. 

a slow feeder for round bales for horses

How To Feed Large Round Bales To Horses: Step-by-Step Guide

While we can’t speak for other horse feeder providers in the market, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to feed hay to horses with our HF series slow feeder.

  1. Unlatch the gate.
  1. Open the gate to the slow feeder. 
  1. Position the net panels against the slow feeder sides.
how to feed round bales to horses with a slow feeder net
  1. Use a skid loader to load a round bale in the slow feeder. Or, drive a truck close to the slow feeder and push the rounded bale inside. 
  1. Place the net panels directly in front of the round hay bale. 
  1. Close the gate. 
  1. Make sure the horse-proof latch is in place. 
  1. To move the slow feeder to another part of the pasture, use either the welded D-ring or fork pockets. 
horses grazing in a field

How To Feed Multiple Horses Hay: The Advantages of a Slow Feeder

Wanting to ensure that every single one of your horses is well fed and able to freely graze on fresh, quality hay? A Slow Feeder allows multiple horses to eat hay simultaneously.  Here are several advantages to a slow feeder from Farmco.