Natural Horse World

Round Bale HaySaver Q&A

Some common questions answered about round bale hay nets.

Slowfeed Haysaver Round Bale net inside a Durapoly hay feeder.
Slowfeed Haysaver Round Bale net inside an equine design hay feeder (with carrots inserted as a special treat!).

1. How do you stop horses from tearing the net? 

The netting is pretty tough and takes quite a lot of tearing/pulling to make a hole, but a frustrated horse could chew through it if they haven’t learned to pull the hay through the holes.
That’s why we recommend giving them ad-lib loose hay while getting used to the net, so they can learn when their stomach is full, without the enthusiasm of hunger and old habits of eating by the mouthful. Just peel a layer off the outside of the bale before you add the net, and divide this into at least as many piles as there are horses.
Horses actually prefer to eat by ‘grazing’ (nibbling with their teeth) rather than stuffing their mouth’s full and dealing with large amounts of hay, so once they learn to use the net, you will find they won’t need the ad-lib loose hay, and in fact prefer to eat from the net.

These horses have their own section to eat from which can help when first feeding a group on a round bale.
These horses have their own section to eat from which can help when first feeding a group on a round bale.

Another aspect to consider is that when there is too much competition for the hay (more than 3 or 4 horses on a round bale – or bales placed too close together), a hungry horse will be frustrated because it can’t get enough food for the short time it is allowed at the bale. It’s best to carefully monitor the horses when they are new to using a small hole net (at least twice a day), especially with a round bale, and if any holes are discovered, patch them right away so the horses don’t learn to benefit from making a hole. You may also need to provide additional hay in a regular tough Haysaver net away from the round bale for any horse that is so low in the pecking order it doesn’t get to the bale often enough.

You could also make your own hay feeding station with cover like I have, to give horses their own space as shown on this page here.

Time and money saver.
Time and money saver.

2. How long will the net last? 
It depends on how much you are using it and can vary under different conditions – but we have experienced the nets lasting 3-4 years and longer provided any small holes are repaired as soon as they are seen. The material they are made from is marine grade UV stabilised netting used in the fishing industry so will withstand a lot of weathering. Be sure to store your net in a safe place away from mice and rats when you’re not using it.

3. Why are there  4cm and 6cm size netting holes?
The 4cm size is designed to slow the horses hay consumption down, while the 6cm  is designed to keep the hay from spreading about and is more suitable for stalky/cereal type hay such as oaten hay.
I would recommend the 6cm net for round bales in general unless you need to slow down the intake of your equines, or have mini horses or foals accessing the bale (their smaller hooves may get caught in the larger holes).

4. As the round-bale gets smaller, what an I supposed to do? Does it have drawstrings to tighten?

Yes there is a drawstring you will need to check and tighten, although I put my round bale on a solid pallet (that has no nails or loose bits) and fasten the drawstring around the base of the pallet so it stops the net from being dragged into the manure.
The horses will push the loose netting aside to get to the parts that are still filled with hay so its not generally a problem.
You can also suspend the net by the drawstring if you have a large shed or a big strong tree to hang it from. Then the hay falls to the bottom of the net as it’s eaten down, and you may only need to adjust the drawstring once or twice if it looks a bit loose.

Using a larger net on a smaller bale is best if you tie it up on one side.
Using a larger net on a smaller bale is best if you tie it up on one side.

If you have a net too big for your bale, its easy to tighten the netting by bunching the net on one side and tying some twine around it. This keeps the rest of the net tight so the horses can easily access the holes which is important when they first start using the net.

5. Can I use these nets for foals or minis? 

We don’t recommend using the round bale nets for young foals under weaning age, especially mini foals, as they may be able to get a foot through the netting (especially the 6cm netting). If you need to feed mares and foals a round bale, contain it inside something like a large wooden apple/potato bin (they fit the small round bales) or a safe enclosed feeder designed for horses. Please don’t use the hay rings made for cattle as they have spaces that can trap a young foal’s legs or head.
When foals are weaned, the safest way to feed them from a round bale in a net is to suspend the net from a shed roof, or a strong tree branch so there is always tension in the netting. This discourages them from climbing on it and pawing at it.

6. What do I do if my horse wears shoes? 

A simple round bale container made from pallets.

You will need to contain the net in something, preferably with solid sides so their hooves can’t come into contact with it. This can be as simple as tying some pallets together around the bale (works fine if you have bigger horses) or making a fence from wooden rails. There are a few more ideas you can see on my Hay Feeder Ideas. If you want something to last and that is more portable, consider a manufactured poly feeder like the one pictured above.

7. What is the best way to put the net on a round bale? 

The best way to put a round bale Haysaver net on.
The best way to put a round bale Haysaver net on.
  1. Remove the net wrap or strings – if your bale is a bit loose, or the hay is slippery, tie a rope around the top to stop it all falling apart in a heap. You can then remove the rope when you have the net on.
  2. Dig out all the wet or mouldy parts until you can no longer feel any heat or smell  mould. Horses will leave spoiled hay in the net, and its not healthy to have them eating or breathing mold.
  3. This may involve peeling off a layer that can then be used for mulch.
  4. With two people its easiest to work the net down from the top (the nest are actually a little larger than shown here – this was a 4×4 net being put on a 5×4 bale which is possible when you are peeling a layer off.
  5. Work it right to the bottom so the top is nice and tight.
  6. Tighten the drawstring around the bottom, tie it and tuck inside the net so that a hoof can’t get caught in it.
It is possible to put the net on with one person but it takes longer.

If you would like to save hay, which equates to saving money, and have healthier horses you will find the original Australian and best round bale nets here:

7 thoughts on “Round Bale HaySaver Q&A”

  1. Really interesting chain of discussion – there are so many benefits to using a plastic hay feeder rather than the older style metal hay feeder I used to use. One of my horses had a nasty injury from the sharp edges and rust. I now use this one – which has just come on the market – brilliant and my horses are now so much happier eating together – no more bullying and no more risk of injury

    1. Cynthia

      Thanks for letting us know about a safer option for horses – it looks like a great design.

  2. Sonja Matthews

    What about damage to the horses teeth? I would like to reduce wastage of hay but am concerned about the damage to the horses front teeth constantly biting into the string.

    1. Cynthia

      Hi Sonja,
      that’s a valid concern but has not been a problem for my horses who have been using these nets for over 10 years. They are carefully checked by my dentist for signs of wear and there’s none, unlike when a solid metal grate is used – then there’s proven to be wear on the front teeth. So nets are a very safe option for long-term hay feeding.
      Cheers, Cynthia.

  3. R Sloan

    Where can I buy the manufactured poly feeder pictured on this page?

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