"Management of input costs is a key business concern and can mean the difference between operational profit or loss; when it comes to hay waste, using the right type of bale feeder can make a significant cost-savings difference," says Dave Lalman, Oklahoma State University (OSU) Extension beef cattle specialist. Though he was speaking to cow-calf producers specifically, the implications apply to stocker producers, too.

Research conducted by Lalman and other OSU researchers indicates that using a cone-style feeder or modified cone feeder with a sheeted bottom should reduce hay waste to 5%-6% of the original bale weight.

"We found that open-bottom hay feeders can waste as much as 21% of the original bale weight," Lalman explains.

The OSU study examined four bale feeder designs:

  • A conventional open-bottom steel ring,
  • A sheeted-bottom steel ring,
  • A polyethylene pipe ring and
  • A modified cone feeder with a sheeted bottom.

    The researchers discovered that differences in hay-feeder design don't restrict dry matter intake by the cattle, but can significantly affect the amount of feed wasted and subsequently the amount of hay fed.