I can see why some people prefer to use round bales as they are cheaper than the equivalent in small squares, and it means less hay handling on a daily basis. The downside to large rounds is the wastage as horses can really make a mess of a bale that is not contained. Even in a bale feeder they toss it out and trample some.
Of course, there’s also the usual manure removal but in a concentrated area – its faster to pick up.
With the round bale Slowfeeder net there was minimal waste (I peeled off the wet moldy section where it had been sitting on the ground = to 1 chaff bag full) and it lasted exactly seven days with four horses relying on it as their main food source (minimal pasture). Normally they would consume 14 small square bales (in slowfeeder nets) in a week which at $3.50 a bale (cost price) = $49. The round bales cost me $40 including transport.
The only downside I can see is that if it rains, the bale needs to have a cover although some horses will eat wet hay so long as it doesn’t go moldy. So I designed a dome cover that was easy to make from readily found materials (all were on hand at our place) easy to erect, light to move and so far hasn’t blown away (a dome shape is the strongest against the wind)!
I set my round bale up on a wooden pallet then put the dome up around it as it’s easier to roll the bale into place without the posts in the way.
The materials used for the frame were 4 metal cross-sections that were from an old tent marquee.
Then I cut 4 x 1.6m lengths of 2″ poly pipe to make the sides and 2 x 2.6m lengths of 1″ poly pipe to make the roof arches.
4 short 30cm lengths of 2″ pipe made up the ‘legs’ that go down over the steel posts to hold the whole structure up.
Then get a 3 x 3m (ours was 3 x 4m) tarp and tie it on before you lift the whole thing up onto the steel posts that you’ve banged in next to the dome ‘legs’.
I then tied the fence panels to the steel posts and secured the dome to the fence panels in case the wind got under it, which it shouldn’t as being a dome, the wind should actually press it down.
As the hay is reduced further, tie a string around the net to keep it accessible for the horses. I also tied the net to the pallet so ‘nosy’ horses wouldn’t push it off.
You may also need to secure the end of the fence panels so itching horses don’t push them around.
The Round Bale nets are now available from the Natural Horse World Store.
This video shows how the horses chomp their way through all that hay while sharing space happily while feeling safe in their own sections.