Effect of hay feeding methods on hay waste

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Dec 2, 2008
Effect of hay feeding methods on hay waste

Michigan State University animal scientists studied four hay feeder design types: ring, cone, trailer or cradle. The round bale “ring feeder” was 7.5 feet in diameter with 18 feeder spaces separated with bars at a 70 degree angle 14 inches apart. The top rail was at 4 feet of height. Solid material made up the first 2 feet of height.

The “cone feeder” was the same diameter and feeder space bars as the ring feeder. Bottom and top sections were solid, with open feed access in the middle 2 feet of height. Overall height was 6 feet. An interior cone of bars kept the bale in the center of the feeder.

The “trailer feeder” was 20 feet long by 7 feet wide, but hay was placed in only 12 feet of length. It had bars set at 50 degrees every 16 inches. Within the space used, it contained 19 feeding spaces.

The “cradle feeder” was 12 feet long by 6 feet wide. Vertical bars were spaced about 8 inches on all sides of the cradle, thus cows could not put their heads inside the feeder.

All feeder types allowed approximately 14.5 inches for each animal. Dry matter hay waste was 6.1 percent, 3.5 percent, 11.4 percent and 14.6 percent for the ring, cone, trailer and cradle feeders, respectively. The hay wastage for all types was comparatively low in this study, perhaps due to the high quality of the hay used. Producers that feed lower quality grass hays may expect even greater percentage feeding wastage.

There were differences in the behavior of cows at the feeders that may be involved with the differences in wastage. Cows eating from the cradle feeder had about three times as much butting and displacement behavior as other feeder types and four times as many entrances compared to cows feeding at the other type of feeders. The researchers determined that slanted bar designs encourage animals to keep their head in the feeder for longer periods while eating. If a rancher routinely feeds a ton of hay per cow per year and the hay is valued at $80 per ton, then he would save $8.80 per cow per year (in hay costs) by using a feeder that reduces hay loss by 11 percent. — Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Extension Cattle Reproduction Specialist