Bill Kurtz got tired of seeing his horses waste hay. So, six years ago, he decided to find a way to make them mind their manners.

Hence his Waste Less Hay Feeder, which holds round or large or small square bales in a rectangular box with two side grill panels that manually fold down as feed is needed.

“It gives controlled access,” says Kurtz. “They pull very little hay out.” The grills keep horses from burying their noses in dusty hay – and from ripping more than a mouthful at a time. He doesn’t lower the grill for fresh hay until any hay that may drop to the ground is cleaned up, he says.

The feeder, in fact, showed the least amount of wasted hay of nine feeders tested in a University of Minnesota (U of M) study.

It’s just one of many inventions that have come out of Kurtz’ workshop on his St. Croix Falls, WI, farm. The 75-year-old, who has raised Angus cattle much of his life, built a number of inventions to make his farm work easier, including a hitch that he can hook up or release from the tractor seat, an extendable boom for a skid-steer loader and a multiple workbench clamp system.

A look around his shopalso shows prototypes and concept models ranging from a mass transit system to a wind, solar and water energy collection system to a rain gutter invention and environmentally friendly posts for pole sheds and decks.

“I don’t sleep much,” Kurtz says. “That’s when I can come up with a solution.” Once that solution’s in his head, he disappears into his workshop to put it, not on paper, but into reality.

His company, called JSI Innovations, has published pamphlets of several inventions, a professional-looking business card and has an attractive Web site, He patented several products, but finding people to manufacture and distribute them is a major challenge.

Kurtz has a manufacturer for his hay feeder and several satisfied customers offering testimonials on it. It also helps that the U of M study found that his feeder wastes only 5% of hay fed vs. 6-33% waste from other feeders studied.

“It isn’t just the hay you save,” he points out. Fewer loads of manure are hauled out, because little hay is mixed in.

At this point, the feeder looks to be the most marketable of his inventions, especially after the U of M study results were published. It sells for $1,550 and can be ordered through Kurtz at 715-483-3866.

“Not bad for a high-school dropout,” he comments.