Skimping on hay bale feeders can cost beef producers in the long run, according to University of Missouri (MU) researchers comparing hay waste in three types of bale feeders last winter.

Even under ideal feeding and storage conditions, losses topped 20% when fescue hay was fed in an open ring feeder, the type of bale feeder used on most farms, says Justin Sexten, beef nutrition specialist with MU Extension. “That adds up to big bucks.”

When hay was fed in a sheeted feeder, where the bottom of the ring feeder is covered with sheet metal, losses dropped to less than 14%. In a cone feeder, where bales are suspended in the center of the ring, losses were around 9%.

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In the study, a graduate student picked up every sprig of hay dropped on concrete slabs around bale feeders, then dried and weighed wasted hay and subtracted that from original bale weights.

Open ring feeders are typically the least expensive of the feeders looked at in the study; cone feeders are the most expensive. “Don’t look at just initial cost. Look at long-term cost of waste,” Sexten says.

He will offer hay-feeding tips at a Sept. 25 field day at the MU Forage Systems Research Center in Linneus.

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