Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Hay and A Strong Topline

When horses eat from round bales they rarely lift up their heads. Grazing horses constantly lift their very heavy heads. A day of grazing produces hundreds of "reps" of this exercise. The result is a strong neck and more powerful back.

Nothing is better for a horse who is not insulin resistant than grazing in a pasture. Rolling round bales entirely out so that they are in a long, flat layer, a soon as the round bale arrives causes the horse to eat with his head down and walk. It mimics grazing and does a lot to strengthen the back and neck.

On the other hand, simply placing a round bale in a pen and leaving it stationary has none of these benefits. The common practice  wastes more hay, concentrates manure, often leaves an anaerobic mulch layer of manure and wet hay residue that does nothing to build the soil, and frequently causes the horse to stand in wet areas while eating from the round bale.

After taking a great on-line class from Simple Soil Solutions we began rolling out our hay. No single step that we have taken in the last fifteen years has done as much for our soil and our horses than simply rolling out the round bales.


Anonymous said...

You don't find the horses using it as bedding? That way?

Lothlorien Farm said...

I began unrolling ours a few months ago when I saw concentrated areas of coastal hay growing where previous bales had been to spread the seeds within the bales over larger areas. It was only after watching them eat afterwards that it dawned on me the benefits of causing them to eat with their heads in a more natural position as well. I had worried that they would waste more that way, but have found that there is virtually no waste at all. I hadn’t thought of the effects on their top line.
Thanks for the great information Steve.

Tomlyn Grey said...

We've been rolling out hay here at Karma Farms for around two decades. It's better for the horses (and insures that our dominant horses can't hog the hay from those at the bottom of the totem pole), better for our pocket book with so much less waste, and better for our pasture. We've reclaimed entire areas that have completely lost top soil just by rolling out hay over it. The seed and manure (both horse and bird, who also feed on the left over seed when the horses are done) eventually helps bring back the soil.


Tomlyn Grey said...

They're going to do that anyway, with or without rolling it out. By rolling it out, a horse can lay in a section while others continue to eat. Even if a horse pees or poops, it's easy to eat around, unlike with the bale made stationary where it gets so concentrated that any hay left on the ground to long is basically wasted because they don't want to touch it. A stationary bale with a smaller number of horses in a wet climate also runs the risk of aspergillus fungus which causes COPD in horses and often death. Rolling the hay out allows the hay to breath, even if it gets wet, and dry out... thus reducing the risk of fungus growth.

Anonymous said...

We do something very similar, although I don't have a large enough herd to justify rolling out a whole round bale at once. They are substantially cheaper per pound than square bales, and I totally agree that hay is best on the ground. So we store them in the barn, peel off layers and give them lots of small piles to keep them moving around and eating in the right position. It's been a very good option for our small farm.