Freddie Davis, a rancher-farmer in Royse City, Texas faced a problem common to many. “I wasn’t going to have enough hay to make it through the winter. I was going to have to buy about $6,000 worth of hay to make up the shortfall.”
Like many ranchers that have found themselves squeezed in recent years by outside forces—from drought and a weak economy to rising oil and grain prices—Davis who owns 75 head of mixed-breed cattle, wanted better control of his input costs, especially the hay his cows wasted eating from traditional hay rings each winter.
The problem with a hay ring is that cattle stand outside the feeder, tear the hay out, and let the excess fall from their mouths. When cattle bite off too much, as they are inclined to do, the waste falls to the ground, gets trampled and otherwise damaged – and will not be eaten.
Davis found a solution in a new type of square hay bale feeder, designed to keep cows from tearing out the hay and wasting it.
“A square hay bale feeder has metal bars that cows must stick their heads through to get to the hay bale inside,” explains Bob Studebaker, owner GoBob Pipe and Steel, an innovative farm supplier that first introduced its original Hay Conserver square hay bale feeder to market about six years ago. “With the hay bale inside, cows have to commit their heads inside and stay there while they eat. They won’t go in, get a bite, and back out. They stay in the feeder, so anything that drops out of their mouths stays in the feeder, which they eat later.”
“When I called Bob of GoBob, I bought his Hay Conserver with a 30-day guaranty that I’d use at least 25% less hay,” says Davis. “It worked, so I bought a few more. When they made my hay last that first winter, they quickly paid for themselves. Since then, I’ve cut my hay consumption by a third each winter.”
Since Davis’s cows waste so much less hay in winter, he finds himself making fewer trips to the barn and pasture to put out hay bales. “I’m saving a couple hours a week each winter putting out less hay because the cows waste less,” says Davis. “It lets me get to everything else that needs to be done that much faster.”
About five years after buying his square hay bale feeders, Davis says, “They’re still holding up well and have years of life left in them.”
John Rummel and his wife, who run a 250-acre ranch with 70 registered Limousin cows in Ash Grove, Missouri, were also tired of the hay wasted by traditional hay rings. In fact, they even had difficulty getting their big 5’x6’ bales to fit in their hay rings, which typically left “at least two feet of bale sticking out of the top.” The cows would eat out under the hay bale, and big chunks of bale would fall out of the ring and get trampled, making a mess, according to Rummel.