Sunday, December 3, 2006

Square Bales in a Round Ring - Not Quite a Fit! For People or For Hay..........

Southeast Texas just had a few days of temperatures reaching the freezing point, seems unusual for this time of year, but fortunately no pipes burst and the ice in the troughs was minimal, but then lately I've got water leaks on what seems a daily basis, that's surely as effective at preventing pipes from bursting as setting a faucet on drip!

I've been feeding alfalfa as a supplement for my British Whites some years now, but it was only this past winter that had me wishing for square hay feeders. Prior to last winter I fed the alfalfa in flakes on top of their round bales of coastal and that worked fairly well. But last winter saw a shortage of hay and the coastal I had lined up didn't work out. With greed running rampant in the hay business, the price of good coastal hay per bale plus delivery to my place was equal to and sometimes more than the cost of shipping in cow grade alfalfa from Nebraska. Thus I chose to ship in nothing but alfalfa last winter, and my cattle thrived like no other winter.

Shipping costs ran higher this year, but the total out of pocket cost per ton for Dairy Quality alfalfa was still equal to or less than buying a decent quality 20% protein grain by the ton in 50 lb bags. So this year I'm feeding coastal baled from my pastures as well as crabgrass hay out of Louisiana, and providing alfalfa as their supplemental protein, but feeding it by the bale rather than topping round bales of regular hay forage with the alfalfa.

As you can see from the photo , the big alfalfa squares barely fit into my rings and I have to bust up that middle once they've eaten down enough of it to make it doable -- to make the hay accessible all around the feeding area of the ring (also, these girls are getting alfalfa from last summer that went through a 20 plus inch flood, thus the dark bottom side that you see!). I'm hoping a welding shop in Pennington will be able to make some square feeders for me. I've looked around online and most of what I find is very very heavy square hay feeders from up North that look more functional as stationary objects in a feedlot, which will not work here. I try to move the haying area all around my pastures to avoid excessive manure build up, and follow up with busting up the manure with a drag harrow. In the second photo you can see the adjoining pasture where my big herd is being fed and that it's time to move their hay rings to fresh ground. I try not to feed more than twice without moving the rings to clean ground, and so really heavy feeders aren't practical.