Efficient feeders reduce waste, save money

Apr 12, 2013

It’s not news that hay has been expensive and hard to find lately. And there’s also the fact that current economic difficulties require improved efficiency to keep an operation going strong. But something that’s not so obvious is the simple fact that how you feed hay can save you—or lose you—thousands of dollars.

According to research by Oklahoma State University, the style of bale feeder used has a huge impact on how much hay is wasted. During a study, conventional feeders such as steel and polyethylene open-bottomed ring feeders lost over 20 percent of a large round bale to waste. Based on the conditions of the study, researchers calculated the losses sustained over the feeding period (120 days at two large round bales a week) were roughly $650 per feeder in wasted hay.

A steel ring feeder with a metal apron around the bottom cut the losses of the openbottomed feeders mostly in half, at only 12.6 percent wasted. That loss was almost $400 in wasted hay, assuming $120/ton cost.

The clear winner in that study was what the researchers called the “modified cone feeder.” Compared to conventional feeders, this innovative type of feeder lost only 5.6 percent of a bale to waste, valued at roughly $172 over the feeding period.

Regardless what the researchers called the feeder, they were using a Bextra Hay- Saving feeder.

“It’s a benefit to anyone who feeds hay,” said Bextra feeder inventor, Trevor Lienemann. “And for anyone who feeds hay during this drought, reducing hay waste is important.”

Bextra background and design

Lienemann has a history of innovation. Prior to inventing the Bextra Hay-Saving feeder, he invented and patented the cone insert for round bale feeders in the early 2000s. The design was successful and spawned many copy-cat models, but was limited due to the cost of production. Since then, he’s improved on his own previous success.

“In 2008, I came out with a better mousetrap, and that’s the Bextra feeder,” he said with a chuckle.

Unlike cone-style feeders which suspend the bale, the Bextra feeder allows a bale to be positioned on the ground centrally in the feeder. This encourages cattle to eat in a more natural position, with their heads down.

“It allows the hay to go down to the ground, and it reduces waste because the bale is positioned in the middle,” said Lienemann in describing the differences.

“With a cone feeder, you’re suspending that bale up in the air. So a cow has to stick her head in and eat in an upward position which is just unnatural for them. Mostly we’re forcing them to eat in their natural position with their head in the bottom of the feeder.”

Being a producer himself, Lienemann knew a feeder needed to not only save hay and work for the cattle, but it needed to work for cattlemen. That meant, being tough, durable, convenient and inexpensive to purchase. The Bextra feeder proved to be just that.

Being a simple, one-piece, easy-to-mass-produce design, the Bextra feeder has a suggested retail price roughly half that of other hay-saving feeder designs, and can be readily moved about and used in practical cattle operations.

Another producer-minded detail of the Bextra feeder is that the top portion of the feeder—the “basket” which is integral to hay-saving design of the feeder and limits access to the upper portion of the bale—can be purchased separately. The basket can be placed in a conventional eightfoot ring feeder to turn the existing feeder into a haysaver.

Lienemann explained he offers the Bextra Basket because he understands producers with conventional ring feeders may want to reduce their hay loss but don’t want to jettison their investment in their existing feeders by buying all new equipment.

Lienemann also pointed out that the cost of wasted hay is not simply the cost of a purchased product rendered unusable.

“The other aspect of hay waste—after the cows waste it, you still have to haul it off as manure.”

He said the cost of collecting and hauling off uneaten hay—not to mention the monetary and opportunity costs of nutrition which didn’t get into the cattle—build up and are very real.

There are a couple other areas where the Bextra feeder has helped producers other than just saving hay, Lienemann explained. The design prevents small calves from climbing into the feeder, which can be a problem with ring feeders. At the very least, calves can dirty up the hay which makes other cattle not want to eat it, and in some cases calves can get stuck in the feeders. The Bextra feeder’s design prevents calves from getting into it while still allowing easy access for cattle to “graze” in the feeder.

In making a product which¬† saves so much hay from being wasted, the Bextra also makes feeding bales—rather than processed rations—an economical and easy way to get cattle the forage they need.

“I wish you had invented this feeder 15 years ago!” said Dave Wagner of Martell, NE, in his customer testimonial. “I couldn’t stand the waste associated with ring feeders, so I went to a processed ration. With the hay savings of the Bextra feeder, I could have saved thousands of dollars, and time on processing time and equipment.”

Though the eight-foot round Bextra Feeder is the primary model, there are a number of other models available, including one designed for producers feeding square bales. The feeders work well for horses as well as cattle. More information—including research and consumer testimonials—about the Bextra Hay-Saving Feeder and related products can be found at BextraFeeder.com. — Kerry Halladay, WLJ Editor