Tag Archives: feeders

Introducing a new horse to an established herd

Okay, so Jazzy is a mule and not a horse but the process and experience was the same when we introduced Cash and Romeo. Well, almost the same. Jazzy only weighs about 500 pounds, half the weight of most of our horses. We knew she was more vulnerable to the bullying that comes with herd introduction. Her body couldn’t take as many kicks and she wouldn’t be able to outrun any of our horses. And she didn’t yet know the pasture.

Jazzy's introduction

Jazzy looks to the barn as Moonshine is turned out.

This is the approach we took:

  1. Barn Intro – First we put her in the barn. The horses knew immediately that another equine had just arrived and were waiting by the barn to see what was going on. Jazzy lived with horses so this wasn’t new for her. Through the barn gate everyone met (wish I snapped a picture of this). We kept Jazzy in the barn for a few days so the horses got used to her being there. Normally we would have put a new equine in a round pen in the pasture so everyone could sniff and run around in circles in the early days but we’re using the round pen sections as a temporary fence.
  2. Pasture Intro – Time to switch. We wanted Jazzy to explore her new home beyond the barn. She’d need to know the boundaries, where the natural food supply was and where she could go to get away. We also have a run-in barn for inclement weather. So the horses went into the main barn and the mule went into the pasture. We were surprised that she didn’t leave the barn area. Over the next few weeks we discovered she’s a follower and has no interest in being alone. To this day I don’t think she’s seen all of the pasture.
  3. First Horse (Valentine) – After a few days of keeping them apart, it was time to let them mingle. We started by letting out the lowest ranking horse, which is Valentine. He’s docile, not caring much about his position in the herd. He’s never started a fight. Valentine immediately went to Jazzy to smell her. Although at first she was nervous, it wasn’t long before they were eating near each other.
  4. Second Horse (Romeo) – A few hours later, it was Romeo’s turn. We thought he was our next least aggressive horse but this turned out to not be true. Romeo, an Appaloosa, is our smallest horse. It wasn’t many years ago when he was the new guy and the other horses ran him hard around the pasture. I felt sorry for him at the time but he ended up second in command. I guess he wanted to make sure Jazzy knew this because he immediately bullied her. Horses are smart. He toned it down when we were around but the minute we were out of sight he let her have it. It took Jazzy a little time to figure out she should not run into corners. Eventually Romeo settled down to eat from the hay ring but he wasn’t letting Jazzy near it.
  5. Third Horse (Cash) – A few hours went by and it was time to turn out Cash. I worry about him around other horses. He’s insecure in his position in the herd (second from the bottom) and I was afraid of what that would mean for Jazzy. Cash surprised me and mostly ignored Jazzy.
  6. Last Horse (Moonshine) – When I saw Cash wasn’t going to be trouble, I turned out Moonshine as well. I left her for last because she’s the herd boss and demands the utmost in obedience from her subjects. But she too gave Jazzy little more than a sniff and headed for the hay.
Lessons learned

It seems clear now that Romeo is the herd enforcer. He’s the right hand man for the queen, handling her dirty work. Over the next few days, the horses all ran Jazzy around the pasture briefly and it started with her running from Romeo. With horses, when one runs, they all want to run. But Jazzy’s submissive nature allowed her to integrate quicker. Within three days of sharing a pasture together, Jazzy was grazing near her new herd. They won’t allow her to eat with them when all four are at the hay ring but if one or two are there, she’s allowed to join in. She did have to endure some kicking and biting. In fact, during those first few days, she ended up with several bite marks on her back, one of which needed wound dressing. But things are good now.

Lastly, having two round bale hay feeders (or hay rings) makes a big difference when you have more than two equines or if some of them don’t get a long. We added the second one as an experiment last year. We’re able to keep round bales in two locations, far enough apart that no one horse can dominate both food sources. This has worked out very well at our place and the cost was minimal.

The round bale hay experiment – Part 5

The round hay bale experiment worked wonderfully and if you’ve followed us over the last 4 parts (links below), you know we recommend feeding round hay bales using the horse version of a round bale feeder. Part 5 might be the last but we need to cover this one additional thing. We have four horses and although a single round bale feeder normally works great with four horses, we experienced two issues that made us want to try adding a second.

First, Valentine, our big Tennessee Walking Horse, is low man on the totem pole, despite towering over the other horses. Because he isn’t at all aggressive in defending this low position, the other horses, including our relatively small Appaloosa Romeo, bully him. There are times where they will simply not let him eat. He has a very high metabolism anyway and it’s hard to keep him fed. He always shows a little ribby, despite the amount of feed we make sure he gets. I can’t be standing by the feeder to ensure the other horses let him eat so we needed a way for him to have access to hay when the herd was being mean.

Second, with four horses, a single round bale lasts between 4 days and a week, depending on the amount of fresh grass available. Having a second round bale feeder would potentially double the amount of time needed before we’d have to pull the tractor out for a re-supply. This is much appreciate here in Tennessee because we get a lot of rain. It’s now less likely we’ll have to put out hay during rain.

Our biggest concern with having two feeders was that the horses would just eat more. In the six months it’s been since we bought it, this hasn’t been the case. The second feeder has doubled the time it takes before new bales are needed. We placed the feeders apart by a couple hundred feet, in view of each other but despite this, Valentine still normally prefers to hang out with the herd, even though they bully him. I’m not sure why that is but he has easy access to food. We keep an eye on him to make sure his weight doesn’t drop and he seems content. With a second feeder, our horses enjoy having some options. After all, horses don’t like to stay in one place for too long so this way they can migrate between the two feeders, which probably feels a little more natural to them.

Although I was also initially concerned with hay mold, our horses seem to be eating the hay fast enough and mixing it up enough that mold isn’t growing on the bales after rain. We keep an eye on this too. As you know, mold is bad for horses.

If you have one or two horses, a single round bale hay would be sufficient but if you have a small herd of horses like us and you have some domination issues that keep one of your horses from getting food freely, you might considering have more than one round hay bale feeder.

The entire round bale hay experiment series:

The round bale hay experiment – Part 1
The round bale hay experiment – Part 2
The round bale hay experiment – Part 3
The round bale hay experiment – Part 4
The round bale hay experiment – Part 5 (you are here)

The round bale hay experiment – Part 4

Been a little while since we talked about this but I have an update. Since we last wrote about our round bale experiment in February 2007 (yikes – over two years ago!), we bought a round bale feeder with cutouts for horses. We were told we could just buy the cow version but we liked how the horse version seemed to do a better job of keeping the horses separated and that’s important when four horses are eating off of the same bale. Whoever suggested to us that the round bale feeder would save us money in hay was absolutely right. After about a year I can honestly say this thing has probably paid for itself. The old method was to drop a round bale out in the pasture to let the horses feed freely on it. But they ended up walking and pooping all over the hay and of course they wanted nothing to do with it then. We’d lose about 20% of every bale this way. With the round bale feeder we lose almost nothing. I believe we paid about $100 for the galvanized version which came in three pieces we needed to bolt together. It’s surprisingly light, though it’s size makes it a little hard to maneuver. We usually flip it on it’s side and roll it to the next location (it’s muddy in the photo above because we rolled it through the mud) and then flop it down onto it’s legs over a round bale. I can do it myself but prefer having the help of another person.

As you know, we don’t have a tractor so moving round bales has been a challenge. What seems to be working for us it to load up our flat car-hauler trailer with four round bales and then as needed we back the trailer into the pasture and roll one off by hand. Surprisingly I can move one myself but I don’t have complete control because there is a bit of elevation where we feed hay. What’s worse, though, is when we need to drop a new round bale after it’s been raining. Our clay is slippery when wet. Backing a heavy car hauler and a heavy truck over wet clay is a great way to get stuck. And that’s just what happened last week. Understand that our truck is four wheel drive and supercharged but there was no moving that trailer once it was stuck in the mud. Fortunately for us, there were no more bales on the trailer so we just disconnected and left it there. I barely got out of there in the truck. So that’s our big challenge right now with this method of round bale delivery. What we really need is a 4×4 tractor. I’ve had lots of people tell me I don’t need 4 wheel drive on a tractor but a tractor I can only use when it hasn’t rained in the past 3 days is of little use. We get 70 or so inches of rain a year here.

In summary, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND a round bale feeder!

Related:
The round bale hay experiment – Part 1
The round bale hay experiment – Part 2
The round bale hay experiment – Part 3
The round bale hay experiment – Part 4 (you are here)
The round bale hay experiment – Part 5

The round bale hay experiment – Part 3

Round bale by the treeGone. That’s how I’d explain the round bale I mentioned in Part 1 (October 13) and Part 2 (November 21). Our horses totally decimated it and seem offended they actually needed to forage for grass again. But as the weather got colder and the grass in our pasture became less and less, I started realizing that supplemental forage seems like a necessity. We seemed to “get away with it” last year because we bought Valentine in mid-February and prior to that only had a single boarding horse on our 5+ acre pasture. This year is different. We have two permanent horses sharing one pasture of dead or missing grass. So here at the end of the “experiment” I can tell you it has been a total success. $20 worth of hay supplemented our horses forage needs for almost three months (October-January). I don’t expect to get nearly as much time out of the next round bale because our natural forage supply is almost gone.

Based on our experience these past few months, here are some notes I’ve made on round bales:

  • I’m a little concerned that our horses stand in one small area and eat from it all day. Will they get fat this way? I thought horses always wanted to keep moving for safety.
  • I came across an interesting report concerning round bale hay spoilage. The government of Alberta, BC, Canada funded a study of how round bale storage techniques affect spoilage. Although the report was conducted in 1988, the data remains relevant today. The results showed that, with the exception of round bales stored inside, there were no differences in hay spoilage where round bales were stored outside in rows versus wrapped in plastic. Round bales stored outside, according to the study, may lose up to 10% of the hay to spoilage, after 16 months, amazingly. Round bales stored away from the weather experienced no spoilage. For more information, visit the Round Bale Storage Techniques report at the Alberta government website.
  • Although I purchased this last round bale for $20, delivered straight off of the hay baler wagon, I wonder how much price will fluctuate in winter. Supply and demand and all.
  • Delivery was great but there is no hay cutting going on these days so I can’t count on free delivery. I’m sure I could pay for delivery but I have a car hauler trailer and am inclined to save a few bucks and pick it up myself. I wonder if this is a good idea. At 1,000 pounds, how difficult will each be to move around at home, since we don’t have a tractor?
  • Location – the spoilage report mentioned above notwithstanding, I’m still considering putting the new round bale in our old barn out in the pasture. I wonder if I’ll be able to get it in there without the aforementioned uncontrollable 1,000 round bale rolling through our barn and knocking it down. Sure, it would be funny later but barns aren’t cheap.

I made some calls to try and get another round bale, as the grass in our east Tennessee pasture becomes less and less with colder weather. Fortunately I have a friend who was willing to sell me 2 round bales for $30 total, provided we pick them up. So we picked up two round bales from an open field on 1/12/07 with our F150 and a 16 foot car hauler, which worked nicely. I think we could have pulled three round bales home if we wanted to. “Picked up” means we went to the field and my friend loaded both round bales onto our trailer with a tractor and hay spear.

We brought the round bales home and figured since our pasture is hilly, we’d use that to our advantage. I backed the trailer up with the rear facing downhill next to a tree and Mikki and I were able to roll off one of the round bales. The horses found this whole process quite interesting!

Horses like trucks

Next, I backed our trailer up to the barn to unload the second round bale. This proved much more difficult. I keep calling these “round” bales but in reality they’re flat on the bottom from sitting for 6 months. We also didn’t have the downhill advantage. But eventually we unloaded it. Man I wish we had a tractor.

Round bale on the trailer

So now our horses have their faces in the “new” hay every day for most of the day, though they do roam the pasture in between “meals”. The quality of these round bales looked pretty poor on the outside, with lots of visible mold. Since the bales are in layers (think pecan swirls), the moldy layer was easily unwrapped to reveal the good hay. The inside looked much better. The outside peeled off as we rolled the bale into place. Our horses are picky about their hay and forage so we don’t expect they’ll be interested in any of the moldy hay, as long as there is good hay to be had.

As of today, February 2nd, the first bale in the pasture is almost entirely gone. That’s 3 weeks for $20 ($15 plus gas to get it here). Not bad for winter forage, I suppose. The horses don’t seem to have touched the bale in the old barn for some reason. We might have to push it out.

Knowing how well round bales are working for us, we have a plan for later this year. This summer/early fall when the round bales are plentiful, cheap and not moldy, we’re going to stock up, putting them in the old barn protected from the elements. I’m sold on round bales!

Thanks to David who commented in The round bale hay experiment – Part 2 about using a hay ring, specifically a horse hay ring. Apparently one of these devices reduces the amount of wasted hay by keeping the round bale contained. Horses simply reach their necks over and feed out of the middle. We’re doing some more research on price, etc. and will bring it up in a later post. David says it extends the life of the bale up to a week or more. Sounds good to me, provided the price is reasonable.

Related Posts:
The round bale hay experiment – Part 1
The round bale hay experiment – Part 2
The round bale hay experiment – Part 3 (you are here)
The round bale hay experiment – Part 4
The round bale hay experiment – Part 5

The round bale hay experiment – Part 2

A month ago I wrote about experimenting with a round bale of hay in the pasture during the cold season and here’s an update on how that’s going for us. Although our horses almost entirely ignored the round bale when the weather was warm, they’ve shown great interest in it once the weather cooled and the green grasses died off for the winter. In fact I’m starting to think we should have purchased a few more round bales. Not only was the price a good deal ($20 for 1,000 pounds of fresh cut hay!), I’m starting to thing the horses really need the supplemental forage until spring. Almost every day now I see at least one horse rear sticking out beside the tree where the round bale rests. The horses don’t seem to like to outer layer which is no doubt moist from all the rain we’ve been having but the chewy center must be delicious, as they’ve managed to carve the middle section of the round bale out (see picture). So I’d say the “experiment” is going quite well. Armed with this information, I’ll probably look for some more round bales, though the prices have almost certainly gone up since I bought this one. If I’m successful in acquiring a few more, I’m going to place them in the old barn to keep the moisture down this time.

Our horses like round bale hay

I need to point out that the brush you see on the left of that picture isn’t normally there. A nearby tree split during a storm and has since been trimmed. We try to correct fallen trees and other hazards as quickly as possible for the safety of the horses.

Related Posts:
The round bale hay experiment – Part 1
The round bale hay experiment – Part 2 (you are here)
The round bale hay experiment – Part 3
The round bale hay experiment – Part 4
The round bale hay experiment – Part 5

The round bale hay experiment – Part 1

A round bale of hayA few weeks ago a guy we go to church with dropped by to deliver a roll of hay. We’ve decided to supplement our square bales for the horses (which cost $1 each at minimum and as much as $4.50 at the end of winter when supply is low and demand is high) with a roll or two of round bale. Round bales are much less expensive ($20 this time) because they are easier to make when the hay is being gathered. But they’re also harder to transport and store. We can move square bales at 30 pounds each but couldn’t move 1,500 pounds of round bale by ourselves. We can stack square bales in the barn and pull off a flake at a time (a flake is a two inch or so slice of hay precut during baling). Although you could use a round bale for everyday feeding in the barn, you’d have to roll one in and pitch-fork it to the feed bins. We opted for a round bale as a test to see if the horses would eat it in the pasture and if it works out, we’ll buy another one and have it rolled into the old barn to supplement our square bales if we run low towards the end of winter.

This delivery was made into the pasture and I’ve never seen it done before so I thought I’d share some pics. Basically the baler (or is it bailer?) backed up to a tree and plopped a roll out. The tree is to protect the hay from rain and to stop it from rolling during delivery. So far the horses don’t appear to have touched it but there is still plenty of green grass so I can’t blame them. I’ll update you on the round bale hay experiment over the next several months.

Related Posts:

The round bale hay experiment – Part 1 (you are here)
The round bale hay experiment – Part 2
The round bale hay experiment – Part 3
The round bale hay experiment – Part 4
The round bale hay experiment – Part 5