Innovative Feeders Save Hay

Published on Wed, 08/23/2023 - 10:10am

Innovative Feeders Save Hay.

 By Heather Smith Thomas.

 Hay rings for big round bales—to place over a round bale or to put a round bale into, so cattle can feed themselves out in a pen or pasture—have been in common use since the 1970’s.  Even though this saves labor when feeding cattle, there was always a lot of wasted hay as cattle pull the hay out of the ring, leaving debris around the feeder.  In recent years there have been many innovations to create more efficient feeders.

Go Bob Scientific Hay Feeders
Paul Rose is sales manager for Go Bob Pipe & Steel, a company that has been building hay feeders for 20 years.  “We worked with Oklahoma State University’s Animal Science Division to help us refine our feeders to their current form.  They looked at the most common and popular beef cattle breeds in America and measured their legs, length and width of their heads, etc. to determine what these animals could most comfortably eat from.  Our company put this design together, and created a line of hay feeders called Go Bob Scientific Hay Feeders: the Scientific Conserver, the Scientific Monster, and the Scientific Double Monster that’s a two-bale feeder,” Paul says.

“The OSU Animal Science Division helped us modify our design to maximize hay saving while at the same time efficiently take care of the cattle so they have plenty of feed, and reduce the risk of calves getting inside the feeder and getting trapped. We took our feeders to a ranch in northeastern Oklahoma for a year, for a test and had the feeders out in several pastures.  They had multiple operations—cow calf, stockers, etc.--and estimated they were saving over 30% of the hay, compared to standard ring feeders.”  

“The way our feeders are designed, when an animal pulls hay out, it doesn’t go on the ground because the base is wider than the top.  It falls back into the feeder. These feeders are extremely heavy duty.  “Our single-bale feeder weighs over 400 pounds and has a seven year rust-out warranty, up to 10-year structural warranty, and we’ve never had an animal destroy or tear up any of these feeders.”

They are easy to move around,  Bottom rails are turned up on the ends to create skids so you can pull or drag them, or you can pick them up with a front-end loader and set them over a bale, or pick up a bale and set it into the feeder.  “You can also put hay into the feeder with a hydraulic bale bed.  You can back it up to the feeder and dump the bale in that way,” he explains.

Klene Pipe
Klene Pipe Structures makes a variety of hay feeders.  “Our company was started in 1949 by Ralph Klene,” says Kevin Dockery, sales manager.  

In 1949, Ralph Klene opened a machine shop to service local farmers around Greensburg, Indiana.  Now, Klene Pipe Structures is servicing 49 states and parts of Canada.

They now have several different hay feeders.  “We make some in which the bales sit in baskets, and slow feeders that feed through gravity-controlled grills,” Kevin says. We make feeders for full-size cattle and calves over 400 pounds, fence-line feeders for hay, grain, round bales, etc.”  All are designed to minimize waste; that’s the main goal, to make it harder for animals to pull hay out.

“All our products are made from 2.5 inch 10-gage galvanized steel.  For the bunks and floors we use treated lumber; they are designed to last for 30-plus years,” he says.The three main attributes for the feeders is that they are well-built, long-lasting and save hay.  

The VL-2882 is a combination hay feeder and grain feeder. It handles 1,500-pound. bales, square bales, silage or feed.  The VL-2882 cattle hay feeder and grain feeder is constructed very close to the original VL-2875 (second Generation) with a few more hay saving features.  “It is 7″ wider making it seven feet three inches wide which gives us room to put more bars in the hay saver basket so hay funnels to the center of the hay feeder from every angle. It has the same cleaning features as the VL-2875.  The VL-series bunk will handle all kinds of bales and silage. If you want to save hay out in the field, this is the bunk you want,” Kevin says.

The W-8 feeder is available in eight feet, 12′, and 16′ to hold big square or round hay bales.  It comes fully assembled and ready to use.  The unique design on this feeder is a bottom so narrow the calves can reach the middle, yet the top basket is still large enough to hold big bales.  “This is very durable and weighs over 100 pounds per foot!”

Klene Pipe’s model BK-6 cattle feeder is designed to feed large round or big square hay bales in a fence line, so you don’t have to go into the lot to feed.

“The STVL-2882GF cattle hay feeder is a combination hay saver hay feeder that will service any animal over four feet tall. It is a great feeder for horses, horned cattle, or exotics. This feeder is especially popular for Highland cattle. It will hold big round bales up to six feet by six feet. The basket keeps the hay funneling to the center so animals continuously reach for it. Made from 10-gauge galvanized steel tubing, this feeder is built to last.

The Hay-Mizer
David Lovell (Pella, Iowa) owned a welding fabrication shop for seven years.  “Then in 1999, local cattle producers asked me to build a hay feeder for them. They had three criteria: First, it must be durable and not fall apart like “disposable” ring feeders that are so common. Second, it must not waste hay like other feeders. Third, it must be affordable,” he says.

“Since then we have created a variety of sizes and new features to make The Hay-Mizer® even more efficient.  While designing the first feeder I spent a lot of time asking, studying, and watching.  I thought about different design possibilities, went to the local ranchers and asked questions about why their other feeders were not working and what they thought would work better.  I spent many hours watching cattle eat—and learned things that I would incorporate into the Hay-Mizer® to make it the most efficient hay feeder on the market.”

He designed and built the first two Hay-Mizer® feeders in 1999.  “We took these to local ranchers to try out for several weeks.  The ranchers didn’t want to give up the feeders because they worked so well, and wanted to purchase their own,” David says.

“In January 2000, we made eight  feeders and sold them to local cattlemen.  Then one customer, Olympic Genetics, ordered three more.” The Hay-Mizer® was born!

“In 2001, customers asked me for a feeder for calves. With some design modifications, and scaling down the size, we started producing one for calves and yearlings.  Our feeders work because they were designed with input from cattlemen,” he says.

“My website has photos and videos of our feeders that are still functional after 25 years.  One rancher has 22 of my feeders.  When I started building hay feeders, most people were not interested in conserving hay because hay was cheaper.  My product is a capital investment.  I’ve been to places that have bought other products and I know why they don’t work, and which ones work better than others.”

He’s sold more than 3000 feeders now, in 38 states, and some in Canada.  “I deliver them myself, because people can get them delivered by me cheaper than truck freight.  My feeders can handle abuse from cattle, but a few get run into by a tractor or something,” he says.  

“My feeder weighs 1100 pounds, made of steel.  Some people look only at the cost and don’t realize how durable they are.  Everything is relative.  If you buy one of my feeders for $2500, in 25 years that feeder will make you money back at least 10-fold, depending on how many cows you feed and the quality (and value) of the hay,” he says.  

“I am the only guy in the country that claims 95% efficiency, and has a money-back guarantee.  My feeder feeds 35 to 40 cows comfortably, since there is enough room around it to have 20 cows eating at any given time.  It is easy to move; you can pick it up under the rack.  I can transport more than one at a time, which reduces freight costs.”  They fold together and are stackable—three or four on top of each other.

He builds feeders for cattle, buffalo, sheep, horses, miniature cattle and horned cattle.  One customer has Highland cattle, and he has modified feeders so those cattle can eat without getting their heads caught.  “The hay stays in the bunk.  When a cow puts her head inside my feeder, there is enough room for her to keep her head in there, instead of pulling hay out.  What she doesn’t eat stays in the bunk.  With most other feeders the cows grab a mouthful and pull it out, and some falls on the ground.”  He has photos of what it looks like after the cows have finished the bale in his feeder, with no waste.

He also has a photo of a feeder that a rancher bought from him in 2003, and what it looked like after 20 years.  His feeders are durable and last a long time.

The Guardian
The Guardian hay feeder is the invention of Arrowquip, a company in Woodlands, Manitoba that makes a line of cattle handling equipment.

“We started making feeders a year ago.  We decided to make a really good durable feeder that saves hay,” says Steve Langrell, CMO. “I grew up on a farm so I know how much feed is generally wasted.  To some people waste is not a big deal, but the cost of putting up hay has gone up.”  If you have to buy hay and transport it very far, it’s very expensive.  In a drought, you also want to stretch your hay.”

“This feeder is reversible.  It has sheeting on the bottom up, to standard height, about two feet, then the neck bars, and another two feet of sheeting at the top.  You can’t save hay if the feeder is too short and a cow can reach over the top to pull hay off.  Our feeder is just over six feet tall so the cow can’t reach up; she has to go in through the neck bars,” he says.

The bale sits in a cone.  The sheet metal has holes punched all the way around at the top, where the cone bars hook.  “All the way around the feeder we have ¾ inch solid round cone bars.  One end of each bar is a closed loop and the other end like a shepherd’s hook.  When you assemble the feeder you pop the cone bars into those holes.  On the bottom, where the closed loop is, you run a chain through those closed loops—and this suspends the bale off the ground,” Steve says.

“Cattle have to reach and pull hay down.  This has a couple benefits.  One is that they have to work a bit harder for the feed.  Normally when you put a round bale in a feeder it’s almost sticking out through the neck bars and cattle can just pull it out; then there’s hay on the ground all around the feeder.  With our feeder they have to work harder and the hay doesn’t get pulled right out,” he explains.

Another benefit is that cattle eat at head level or lower, eating hay they’ve pulled out that is still inside the sheeting at the bottom.  The cow is a grazing animal and eats forage on the ground.  “A cow gets tired of reaching up and prefers to put her head down in a more natural position.  She may pull out hay for a while and then cleans up the hay at the bottom,” Steve says.

“If a feeder should ever rust out on the bottom, in the manure, ours is reversible.  You can turn it upside down and have new metal at the bottom.  Also the chain that holds the hay at the bottom is adjustable.  You can expand it a bit or shrink it up to tighten the cone.  If you want the bale a bit higher off the ground you have that option,” he says.

Western Pro Feeders
Harold Meeks is ranch manager for Mac McAlister at the Stonewall Ranch in Savery, Wyoming.  McAlister owns Western Pro Feeders in Oklahoma City; his company has been making hay feeders for about seven years, with a unique design to save hay and minimize waste.

“Our patented technology is the cone shape that you put the bale into, and as the animals eat hay, all the fines drop down into the tray around it. Then they can eat the fines instead of wasting them,” Harold says. With traditional ring feeders, any hay pulled out or dropped goes onto the ground and gets stepped on, laid on, and contaminated with urine and manure and never eaten.

“We have several models to meet each operation’s needs. Our horseman feeder is a lot taller, and does not allow animals to reach up and pull hay off the top of the bale. This is where a lot of waste originates,” he says.

“We also have what we call a uni-bale feeder, for cattle, which can also take a round or square bale. It has a shorter top, for a moderate frame cow or other animals. We also make what we call a cattleman feeder, which has a shorter base, popular for calves, goats, and smaller livestock. It is also popular in southern states where they use a lot of four by five or five by five round bales. These styles are all very similar; it just depends on which top you want and which base.”All these feeders are portable, on skids, and can be pulled.

“Many veterinary clinics are using our feeders for cattle and horses, especially at breeding facilities in Texas.  A vet in Oregon has more than 20 of our feeders. About three years ago he had a heifer get hung up in a conventional feeder and it killed her. They’d bought her for $50,000 and then lost her, so they were looking for a safer alternative,” Meeks says.

The design is handy because with the tray at the bottom you can also feed cake or supplements. “The repro horse vets in Texas love our feeders because you can feed grain, pellets, minerals, etc. along with the hay—and you don’t have the foals eating off the ground.” They are less apt to pick up soil-borne pathogens like Clostridia, etc. It is important to keep the feed clean.