Cows and Round Bales : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

Does anyone that only has 1 or 2 cows use big round bales? I need to know if these round bales would be economical for just a few cows (small cows at that). Does the hay stay fresh? I live in NY state so I'm wondering if all the bad weather would mold the hay causing lots of waste, also do cows tend to overeat or do they know when to stop? That sounds like a dumb question, but I need to know!!

-- Carol K (, February 03, 2002


you could always get one at a time, and feed as you would square bales,, just store under a tarp if need be

-- Stan (, February 03, 2002.

Sure round bales are fine even for just a few cows. They will waste quite a bit, you could fork it into a feeder or roll out a bit. They won't over eat but make sure the hay is consistant to what you've been feeding. Hay is generally bloat proof but very rich green stuff after average hay is tempting fate! I'd guess NY is as cold as Ont. so don't worry about mold. Moldy hay isn't half as bad as moldy silage anyhow.

-- Ross (, February 03, 2002.

You really need one of the metal 'rings' to put around it. It looks like a circular tube fence and is just big enough in diameter to slip down over the bale. This keeps them from stomping the edges and wasting. Without it, about half the bale will be wasted. If you are worried about weather, I think the idea of putting a tarp over half of it while it is in the ring would work wonderfully well.

Round bales are a convenience. We used to feed our herd with square bales, in the barn, breaking them and putting them in the trough twice a day. LOTS of work, and you get your cows tame that way. The round bales, we put out once or twice a week, depending on weather and their appetites.

You just have to weigh convenience, time, waste.

-- Rose with cows in Texas (, February 03, 2002.

Round bales are probably not efficient for only 1-2 cows. However, they can be for a larger number of them.

Say your square bales weight 50 pounds and a round bale will weigh 1,000. Thus, the round bale holds the equivalent of 20 square bales. Now say your are paying $3.00 each for the square bales and $25 for a round bale. That's $60 versus $25. Say spoilage in the round bale is 20 percent. You are still money ahead. You can plug in your own numbers for your area.

A hay ring will greatly reduce waste, as will forcing them to eat almost all of it before giving them another bale.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (, February 03, 2002.

Some great ideas, thank you all. Another question, do the large bale holders allow horned cows to get their heads through? I have Dexters, so the other problem may be the height of the bale holder, anyone know the solution to that, I think they make differant height ones, but I'm not sure about the horn problem.

-- Carol K (, February 03, 2002.

The best feeder for round bales is a tombstone feeder. Bad name for a hay feeder but it's safer than most and lets horned cows eat. Basically it's a ring about 20 inches high with hoops of steel tubing making a "tombstone" shape leaving gaps between each so the cow can put her head between and get at the hay. They were the best when we kept cattle, all the others killed stock eventually by breaking thier necks. No feeder is perfect though. Round bales weigh between 400 and 2200 pounds so shop carefully

-- Ross (, February 03, 2002.

Never heard them called 'tomestone' feeders, but makes sense! :) Horse people use them because it doesn't wear the mane off the horse, no top bar. They are not as strong as cattle feeders without that top bar, and a wide feeder with small young cattle isn't good either - the critter can jump in with it's front half, and wedge itsef in the opening. Like the other person said, nothing is 100%.

Shop around, there are all different sizes & shapes & openings of feeders. Very slanted openings work best for me. They even make plastic ones, altho they do not look very durable to me with my 10 below temps around here...


-- paul (, February 03, 2002.

Thanks guys, I'll do some research on the Tombstone variety. I've often seen my neighbors holsteins standing in his round bale feeder, I guess they do it quite often.

-- Carol K (, February 03, 2002.

We have 3 heifers (two with calves) and a bull and we use the large round bales. It works wonderful for us. We use the tractor w/ attachment to move it into the pasture. We put it in a hay ring--it saves a lot from getting trampled.

-- Debbie T in N.C. (, February 03, 2002.

I believe that feeding sqaure bales is more economical because of the waste. That being said if you want to feed round rolls and want to keep it as dry as possible put some kind of roof over it. I saw an old sattelite dish with landscaping timbers mounted to it over round rolls and I told my wife if I ever use them that's how I'm gonna do it.

-- Joel Combs (, February 03, 2002.

Frey and Smale made the tombstone feeders, NG Marketing sold a version with a top rail years ago! Frustrating I can't think if someone bought them out. I'll give you a link to a board that might know current suppliers, but don't forget to come back here!!! Ag Online go to thier cattle talk board and ask them. I have sheep now and chop the round bales into home built feeders for sheep!

-- Ross (, February 03, 2002.

Be very careful about mold if your cow is pregnant. Moldy hay can make them very anuseated, besides causing abortions.

-- daffodyllady (, February 03, 2002.

Have never had trouble with hay rings and cows with horns.

hmmmmm never even thought about it.

will ask around.

-- Rose with cows (, February 03, 2002.

My two milk-producing Jersey cows eat one of those large rolls in two weeks. Besides their daily ration of grain, this is all they get since I have NO grazing land. If you keep the roll up on its edge, and let the cows eat it from the open ends, which are facing out, the rain doesn't go down into the roll and spoil it.

I tried opening the roll and taking the hay off myself and giving it to them so as to eliminate waste, and it was more work than it was worth. It seemed that I was continually having to go out and give the cows hay, getting it all over myself, and still dropping quite a bit in the process. So now I just give them the roll, and when it's gone, I scoop up the "waste" with a pitchfork, and haul it to the compost pile. It is already mixed with manure and urine, and it composts in about four months without even having to turn it!

-- Lela R. Picking (, February 04, 2002.

We have Highland Cattle and feed large round bales to them in a metal ring -- not a tombstone style. We were warned that they would waste a lot of hay with a tombstone style because it is very easy to pull the hay through. Our cattle easily reach the hay in a regular round bale feeder. (Probably because they are a smaller breed and can easily get their heads under.) As mentioned in other responses, our calf also likes to climb right into the ring and eats while standing in the middle. Guess she just likes to be King of the Mountain. She isn't allowed to be any other time. :)

-- Cindy Clarke (, February 09, 2002.

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