There has been a stigma around feeding round bales of hay to livestock, particularly horses. This is because round bales can be more prone to growing bacteria, as they are tightly packed and don’t get much air circulation. However, if you store and feed out your round bales properly, they are a safe and efficient feed option.
Read on to find out more about how round bales are made, correctly stored, and the best methods and livestock feeders to choose from for feeding out hay.
How round bales are made
Hay bale production in Australia is most plentiful at the end and start of the year, usually from October to February, as this is when hay like oaten and lucerne are harvested. These are some of the most popular types of hay in Australia, along with wheaten hay, vetch hay, barley hay, and a variety of straw hay.
Hay is used for a range of purposes, from garden mulch, bedding in stables, and fodder for livestock, such as cattle, horses, sheep, and goats. The most common use in Australia, particularly in times of drought or other harsh environmental conditions, is for supplementing livestock feed. When there is not enough nutrients coming from pasture and other feeding options, hay can be fed to supplement some of the nutrients livestock may be missing from their diet.
When hay is harvested, it is usually mechanically cut using harvesting equipment, conditioned, then dried in the field or in another area, before being baled up with speciality baling machines. These baling machines either form the hay into large round or square hay bales. They are then wrapped or twined to hold everything together and transported to sheds or storage areas.
Hay bales are usually graded on a system that looks at overall quality and nutritional value for livestock. This helps to categorise the hay bales and for farmers to select the best type for them. The system to grade hay bales is based on the Australian Fodder Industry Association standards.
When buying your round bales, make sure they are from a reputable dealer who properly cuts, binds and stores their hay.
How to store round bales
To prevent the growth and spread of bacteria that can grow in hay, it’s important to properly and safely store your hay.
Here’s our tips for storing your round hay bales:
Storing hay inside and under cover is the best option for all types of hay. This protects them from the weather and also from damage or hay loss. It has been shown that dry matter losses in round bales that have been stored up to nine months in an enclosed shed or barn is less than 2%.
Make sure bales are tightly bound. This ensures that there is maximum water shedding and they can’t be easily penetrated by rain.
If you have to store your hay outside, make sure it is in an open, well-drained, and sunny area that has convenient access.
Whether inside or outside, make sure your round bales don’t touch the ground. Store them on pallets, old tyres, concrete pad, or on something that keeps them off the ground and allows air to circulate. If they are stored on the ground, you can lose hay from moisture absorption and spoilage.
The best way to stack hay is in rows, butted end-to-end, and with space of around 18 to 36 inches between rows to let sunlight and airflow to penetrate.
If storing outside, it’s best to cover bales with a tarp or other covering. This keeps direct rain off them and protects them from hay loss.
How to feed out round bales
The easiest and most efficient way to feed out round bales is with a specialty round bale hay feeder. The features of our bale feeders mean that you can automatically transport and feed out your bales, without the need for any extra labour.
Round bale hay feeders hold the hay bales (as many as seven large round bales) on a tray, then move the bales along the bale chamber up to the feed out tray, where the automatic bale rippers separate the bale and deposit it on the ground. Being able to slowly feed out your round bales as you move along is the most efficient way to feed large herds and reduce hay wastage.
Hay feeders have been shown to greatly reduce feed wastage and increase the consumption and utilisation of hay with livestock.
Our range of round bale feeders include:
Albybone - A hay and silage feeder for both round and square bales. The Albybone can hold up to seven round bales, the perfect size for large farms.
Pa-Mick - The most versatile feeder on the market, with the ability to carry up to two round bales of hay or silage.
Elite - A robust round bale feeder for hay and silage, with the ability to carry up to two big round bales.
Champion - A great round bale feeder that can carry up to fix big round bales or either hay or storage. Smaller machines can also be made.
Find out where our feeders are stocked across Australia on our dealers page. If you’re in need of Tasmanian farm equipment, all the way to Western Australian farm equipment, WMI Feeders are the perfect choice.