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.