Ted Lacey hated to see hay going to waste around the portable round-bale feeders he was using. So he modified one that suspends the hay inside it. He liked it so much he has taken to manufacturing and marketing his Hay Manager unit from his Trent, SD, farm.

“I kept noticing that, after a day or so, a lot of the hay was laying outside the feeder and getting stomped into the ground,” Lacey says of the commercial units he'd been using. “That's when I decided there had to be a better way to design the feeder.”

Lacey developed a suspension system comprised of iron rods and steel link chains that fit inside the feeder. The rods are attached to the circumference of the feeder and extend into the center, where they are connected by a link chain.

“Instead of sitting on the ground, the hay hangs in the center of the feeder,” says Lacey. “What that means is that the cattle put their heads inside the feeder to grab the hay. When they pull mouthfuls of hay out of the bales, naturally some of it falls to the ground. This way, what falls stays inside the feeder and the cattle eat it instead of trampling it.”

University studies have shown that cattle can waste between 3.5 and 14.6% of the hay placed in feeders. His feeder reduces that loss to 1.5-2%, he says.

“If you're paying $90 for a 1,400-lb round bale, you're saving $9,” he calculates. “If you feed a bale a day, you'd save $900 over a 100-day period. That would almost pay for the feeder. All the savings after that would go right to the bottom line.”

Lacey started manufacturing and marketing the feeders this summer, selling more than a dozen of the units at a recent farm show. “It was a good start,” he says. “We're still in our infancy.

“Small farmers have to be more efficient than their larger counterparts,” Lacey adds. “That's something I've been doing all my life. This is just one more way to help cut costs and improve results.”

The units, made with 14-gauge metal, cost $950. Lacey also plans to expand his product line to include feeders for calves, horses and sheep. He has applied for a patent on his design. To learn more, phone Lacey at 605-321-9226 or 605-428-5122.