Horses can waste as much as 57% of the hay they're fed – unless their owners are using hay feeders, says Krishona Martinson, a University of Minnesots equine specialist.

Martinson and colleagues studied nine round-bale feeders and a no-feeder control in a 40-day horse-feeding trial using orchardgrass round bales. She measured the amount of hay wasted and looked at what the payback for each feeder would be.

“The big take-home message: the no-feeder control resulted in 57% waste. If you’re working with horse owners who say that they can’t afford a round-bale feeder, what is your answer going to be? That you can’t afford to not have a round-bale feeder,” she answers.

In her study using 25 adult horses, five feeders were placed into five pens with five-horse herds rotating from one pen to another every four days for 20 days. The next 20 days, the horses were fed from four different feeders and the no-feeder control.

Hay waste outside any feeder was picked up, dried and measured each morning and the horses were weighed before and after entering any pens.

Horses wasted less hay using any of the feeders compared to the no-feeder control. But the most efficient feeders were the Waste Less Hay Feeder, by JSI Innovations, St. Croix Falls, WI; Cinch Net, by The CinchChix LLC, North Branch, MN; and Hayhut, by The Hayhuts LLC, Palm Coast, FL, wasting only 5%, 6% and 9%, respectively.

For details on those and the other feeders tested, visit hayandforage.com's photo gallery called “Hay Feeders Save Horse Owners Money.”