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Round Bales?


Jumpin Boots
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Hi

I was just wondering what anyone's success is with feeding sheep round bales of hay? Hay prices are soaring here, and a lot of farmers have switched to round bales so not only are they easier to get, the cost is not even comparable. My Dad's main concern (the sheep are his, I help take care of them and pay for hay, vaccines and manage care the time table for care) is that they will waste too much of the hay. Considering the saving, they could waste half the bale and I'd still be saving money! But I'm also wondering about the sheep over eating, is this a concern? Do I need to try to construct a roof over it to keep it dry?

 

Thanks for any advice/suggestions!

Julie

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I don't have a clue from practical experience (we only have cattle) but when I was looking at getting some sheep, and feeding them the 800# bales we make for our cattle, I found some interesting and practical-looking round bale feeder ideas from places like Premier 1. The ones I liked looked like you could easily put a small, sturdy tarp over top if you fed them on end ("open end" down versus "open ends" to the sides).

 

I expect you might be able to feed using them "jelly roll style" ("open ends" to the sides) if you had bales that were not rained on so that virtually the whole bale was edible (versus some of our bales that are stored in the open, that develop rain-shedding "caps" of spoiled hay that protect the good hay inside).

 

There is always the idea of feeding under a shelter of sorts but that means your manure and urine is concentrated in one area, rather than being spread out throughout the field where you feed (and move your feeders), and means you can wind up with a lot of mess in one location.

 

I'll be interested to hear what people have to say. Also, if you haven't already, try posting this on Bill Fosher's Edgefield Sheep Forum, where I know you will not only get ideas from experienced people but also pictures, like I did when I asked there.

 

Best wishes!

 

PS - I guess over-feeding could be an issue, and waste (with the proper feeder arrangements) should not be excessive. You could probably manage the over-feeding by limiting access to the feeders to some degree?

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I feed round bales and I have several friends that also feed round bales and as far as I know there haven't been any problems.

There are round bale feeders designed for sheep, I know sydell sells them, but they are expensive. I have 1 sydell bale feeder that I purchased quite a few years ago and the rest of my bale feeders I made using cattle panels. I cut holes in the panels large enough for the sheep to get their heads in and eat, the sharp edges were ground down with a grinder so the sheep couldn't hurt themselves. I use twine as hinges to attach panels together. The only problem I've had with the panels is welds do break after time, but can easily be fixed by someone knoweldgable in welding. The feeders cut down on the amount of waste, but there will always be some.

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I feed round bales. I have a small flock and a few ponies. It's a little extra work but I put the bale on a pallet, cover with a tarp, and unroll whats needed daily.

a roll will last twice as long doing that. The up side to the extra work is that I make sure all is well daily.

Cindy

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the rest of my bale feeders I made using cattle panels. I cut holes in the panels large enough for the sheep to get their heads in and eat, the sharp edges were ground down with a grinder so the sheep couldn't hurt themselves. I use twine as hinges to attach panels together. The only problem I've had with the panels is welds do break after time, but can easily be fixed by someone knoweldgable in welding. The feeders cut down on the amount of waste, but there will always be some.

This is the type of bale feeder I have: homemade. The only difference is that I connected the individual panels with S hooks (so my feeders have 6 sections, cut from cattle panels and then reconnected with the S hooks so that they can be easily wrapped around the bale). I connect the end with quick links. All pointy bits were ground down with a Dremel tool. I've been using the two I made for probably 6 years now, and just now have one with a broken weld that needs fixing. For bales that are out in the open, I just put a tarp over it. Right now I've got one in the open and one under a shelter. Sue is right about less accumulation of manure, etc., if you can change the locations of the bales from time to time, but sometimes that's not feasible. I also put them up on a pallet before putting the feeder around them so the bottom of the bale is up off the moist ground.

 

With the round bale feeders, you get some waste, but they always have feed available and I think this is an advantage over squares because sheep who are lower in the pecking order (or lambs) can still go get their fill when the more dominant sheep aren't eating.

 

The difficulty for me is handling round bales, since I don't have machinery. When moving them the non-mechanized way, it really takes two people.

 

But they are a lot more cost effective than square bales.

 

I try to feed better quality than what's sold as cow hay. Around here a 4 x 5 round bale of fescue or mixed grass hay will sell for $30-35.

 

J.

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Thank you guys for your input and ideas! Putting the bale on a pallet is a great idea, might even be able to drag it around with the tractor every few weeks to help w/ the spread of manure and such. I can currently get a nice local 2nd or 3rd cutting orchard grass hay w/ the bale weighing between 400-500# for $35; versus the $13 I'm paying for high quality horse hay, which is then what gets used for the sheep. Grass is starting to perk up here, so I may wait until next season, but I'm definately going to give it a try.

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My Dad's main concern (the sheep are his, I help take care of them and pay for hay, vaccines and manage care the time table for care) is that they will waste too much of the hay. Considering the saving, they could waste half the bale and I'd still be saving money!

 

I use round bales spread throughout about 10 acres of our field without feeders. The wastage seems about comparable to when I fed square bales but the cost and labor involved are considerably less. The dregs of a bale provides bedding for the sheep, which is important in our harsh winter conditions. In the spring, we pick up (with tractor) and spread any big piles of leftover hay, but in most cases nice green grass grows over where the bales were located.

 

But I'm also wondering about the sheep over eating, is this a concern?

 

I've never had any problem with this.

 

Do I need to try to construct a roof over it to keep it dry?

 

Our area of Central New York states has some of the highest precipitation in the county. I don't have inside storage space for round bales. The last several years I've used wrapped round bales and don't have any problems with storage/loss due to rain. Before that we kept the unwrapped round bales in the field. As Sue mentioned there was some loss (maybe 6" on sides) but most of the hay stayed in good shape.

 

Kim

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I'm in a similar climate to JumpinBoots (I think I'm actually only one county over). I feed round bales. My 20-odd ewes will go through a bale in about 10 days. I have one Sydell feeder, and one from Premier. The Sydell feeder works better, but lambs can get in it. I could have made a feeder like the Premier one out of panels. I don't put a cover over the bales, but I do put them on pallets. I prefer the round bales- much easier to put one out every 10 days or so than to put out square bales every day. My sheep waste almost nothing with the bales in a feeder. If I put out a bale without a feeder, they waste a lot of it.

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I too have made round bale feeders consisting of sections of welded wire panels (cattle or combination panels) connected with quick links and double end snaps for connecting the two ends. We too have found that spending a bit more on better hay leads to less waste. I have found that our kathdins did not need larger holes cut into the panels; they were easily able to stick their heads through the openings in the wire panels.

 

Mark

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My sheep (various wool breeds) have never had an issue getting hay through the holes already in the cattle panels either. We did initially cut some larger holes to accommodate the horns on the Scottish blackface I had at the time, but I've never seen any of my sheep have trouble accessing hay through the regular holes.

 

Here's a photo of one of my feeders--not a great shot, but you can see enough to see how it's set up:

 

J.

post-918-036101100 1301321281_thumb.jpg

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