What’s The Best Hay Feeder?

Cows fed with the tapered-cone bale feeder consumed 15% and 5% less hay/day and gained 0.5 and 0.2 lb./day more weight compared to cows fed with the unrolled and shredded feeding methods, respectively.

September 1, 2011

3 Min Read
What’s The Best Hay Feeder?

Winter hay-feeding losses to cows can be reduced with round bale feeders vs. feeding on the ground, North Dakota State University researchers found.

The researchers compared three hay-feeding methods over three years using 1,350-lb. crossbred pregnant beef cows that averaged a 5.8 body condition score (BCS) at the start of the feeding period. Included were:

  • Unrolled round bales fed on the ground,

  • Round bales shredded with a power takeoff-driven bale processor and fed in windrows on the ground,

  • Round bales fed in a tapered-cone round bale feeder.

Cows fed with the tapered-cone bale feeder consumed 15% and 5% less hay/day and gained 0.5 and 0.2 lb./day more weight compared to cows fed with the unrolled and shredded feeding methods, respectively.

The amount of hay wasted varied with type of hay, bale density and tightness of the bale twine. Hay waste was 4-5 times less in the tapered-cone feeders when dense alfalfa-grass hay was fed but not different for feeding method when poorly tied oat hay was fed.

An economic model analysis of the three methods accounting for hay consumption, equipment costs and labor showed that feeding with the tapered-cone round bale feeder was the most economical for feeding cowherds of 100-300 head.

University of Arkansas Extension workers conducted a case study comparing four hay-feeding methods using lactating beef cows over a two-year period. In Year 1, round bales ground in a vertical grinder-mixer and fed in tire feeders was compared to round bales fed unprotected on the ground; in Year 2, round bales unrolled and fed on the ground were compared to round bases fed in open ring feeders.

Hay waste was greatest when bales were fed unprotected on the ground (42%), and least when hay was processed and fed in tire feeders (1%). Unrolling bales resulted in greater waste (24%) compared to bales fed in round ring feeders (13%).

An economic analysis of the results for a 200-head cowherd suggested the ring feeder method was more economical than feeding hay unprotected or processed with a grinder-mixer. The need for a larger tractor to operate the grinder-mixer made this method the most costly.

Michigan State study

Michigan State University beef researchers compared alfalfa and orchardgrass hay waste from four round-bale feeder designs using 1,388-lb. pregnant beef cows with an average BCS of 5.9. The bale feeder designs and percent hay waste were:

  • Tapered-cone, 3.5%,

  • Ring, 6.1%,

  • Rectangular trailer, 11.4%

  • Stationary rectangular cradle, 14.6%.

Daily intake wasn’t affected by bale feeder design and ranged from 1.8-2.0% of cow bodyweight.

More aggressive behavior was observed in cows feeding from the cradle feeder than the other feeder types and was correlated with greater hay wastage. This presumably was due to a lack of partitions to prevent cows from interacting with one another while feeding.

Don’t delay implanting

Cattle feeders will realize the greatest return from implants when cattle receive their first implant at processing.

New Mexico State University researchers studied delayed implanting in 408 Angus-cross feedlot heifers weighing an average of 411 lbs. at arrival and on feed for 126 days. Three implant regimes were compared:

  • No implant,

  • Revalor-H at processing,

  • Revalor-H delayed 21 days after initial processing.

Feed intake (15.4 lbs./day), daily gain (2.9 lbs./day) and feed conversion (5.3) were identical in the heifers implanted at processing or delayed until 21 days after processing. Heifers not implanted gained 6% less (0.2 lbs./head/day) and ate 3.6% less feed (0.6 lb./day).

Read the full report at http://www.jtmtg.org/2011/abstracts/0500.PDF – Abstracts 547, 551 and 552


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