Feeding livestock the smart way

In weather this nasty it helps to be at least as smart as the animals that depend on you. This winter I’ve devised a system to feed both cattle and horses that is working out really well so far.

I have our hay supplier, Clint Seiling, deliver 1,100-pound round bales and drop them off inside a pen made of steel corral panels. Clint has a 35-foot dump trailer that can offload eight of these big bales sideways right into the hay pen. In the above photo you can see one bale in the feeder in the foreground and seven waiting for use in the hay-holding pen in the background.

When it’s time, I move aside a panel and can usually get these bales rolling by myself. This can be a bit of a workout — it gives the term “bucking bales” an entirely new meaning — but when I’ve wrestled the hay to where I want it, then I tip it over on a flat end. Then I pull the feeder around it. A word of caution: You don’t want to tip one of these things over on top of yourself.

This year Clint bound these bales with netting rather than twine. The netting makes it much easier, especially when the outer layer is frozen. There’s no cutting and I just have to upwrap the netting about three times from each bale.

Workout notwithstanding, I find this entire process easier and much quicker than starting a tractor in cold weather to pick up a bale, and then opening and shutting barn doors and gates to drive in and out of the paddocks, dealing with animals trying to escape, etc.

In one paddock I feed five horses this way, and I’m feeding five pregnant cows and a bull this way in another.  One of these big bales lasts each group of animals several days, so I can plan ahead for storms or variations in my schedule and know they are well-fed.

6 thoughts on “Feeding livestock the smart way

  1. good Afternoon Hal, I decided I need to give you the two paintings I did of you and your donkeys. do you remember? at Gerald Merfelds. But I can only find one of them I know I didn’t sell either…have I already past one of them on to you? I just thought I’d ask before I tear into my house. And also are you interested in having them?
    Read your article in Colorado Central. good!

    Blessings le

    1. Hi Le, of course I’d love to have the paintings but hate to have you tear into your house in a search. I don’t think I have one of them, though Lorie Batson did give me photos of them (5x7s), I think.

  2. Hi Hal,
    This year is our first to try using a big bale to feed horses. Our three old timers (not counting our stallion who is 29YO, missing most of his teeth and can only eat Equine Senior now) needed not only constant feed but also a place to lay down. One day on driving into town, I noticed Randy Rusk’s horses enjoying a round bale for both nutrition and a soft bed. So I called around and found someone who could sell and deliver a big bale. That was just before the super cold of early December. My old geezers enjoyed eating non-stop through the cold and sleeping on a soft spot. They finished off the bale in about 10 days.
    It’s back to regular bales now but I’m already thinking about next winter. I wasn’t quite sure how to move bales as I need them but thought maybe we could roll one with our small Kubota……..hmmmmmmmm.
    Thanks for the post (and all your blogs).
    Happy New Year!

    1. Hi Pari, I have started the tractor exactly one time this winter. And that was because I had one round bale left over from last year and needed to move it a good distance uphill to feed to our cows. Otherwise I’ve used human power to push out two big bales a week since it got cold. Sometimes I need help if there is snow, and a couple times I’ve had trouble tipping bales over onto their flat sides. Usually I can do it by myself. Be careful! Thanks for writing and happy new year. — Hal

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