Posted by: Realist | December 1, 2007

Gourmet Hay for Montana

Montana’s a picky eater and hasn’t been eating the round bales nor the 1st cutting square bales. Here’s a picture of his hay feeder, full of wasted hay.

wasted round bale in feeder

Historically we’ve tried to use round bales in general because they’re cheap and convenient. Cheap is about $60 for a 1500 lb (5’x5′) bale, delivered. Convenient because the hay guy drops off a couple bales every few weeks into the feeders and the horses just eat; we don’t have to feed then may every day. Plus, with square bales you need a place to store them, which we don’t have. Well, after a few years of using round bales, we’ve discovered that a lot goes to waste, even when the horses seem to like the hay.

Here is some wasted hay where the feeder was before we moved it.

wasted hay

Here are some round bales we bought that were old and moldy when delivered. Of course, we didn’t know this until after the guy left and we broke them open. In retrospect, we probably should have demanded our money back.

Wasted hay which was old and moldy when purchased

Here are some other bales that were good when we bought them but were too heavy to move around and ended up going bad after left behind our garage for a couple years.

good hay gone bad

Seems like round bales sure end up with a lot of waste.

Anyway, Montana won’t eat the round bale hay and is starting to lose weight, which is unhealthy. We finally broke down and bought 15 2nd cutting square bales. 2nd cutting is much softer than 1st cutting since it has more leaves and fewer stems. It’s rather amazing when you grab a 2nd cutting bale the hay feels soft, but when you grab a 1st cutting bale it is spiky and hurts your hand. The 40-lb bales were $10/each. We also bought 15 1st cutting double-sized square bales, also $10/each.

We picked up 30 total square bales of hay using the Brenderup horse trailer.

Hay in Brenderup

Here are the two bales, side by side, with 2nd cutting on the left and 1st cutting double-size on the right. The one on the right doesn’t look like it has twice as much hay (by volume), but it does weigh significantly more.

1st cutting double-size bale

The next challenge was how to store the hay so it doesn’t get wet from the rain and so we don’t have to carry hay every day across the length of the property. We decided to stack and tarp it next to where Montana eats. One problem was that we didn’t have any more usable pallets (they tend to decay quickly), so we decided to use an old stock panel propped up on cinder blocks. Turns out this is probably better than pallets in that it keeps the hay higher off the ground and the steel stock panel won’t decay like a wood pallet.

Stock panel on cinderblocks for hay

Here are the stacked 15 bales.

stacked hay on stock panel

Then we added a tarp. Tarps are never the right size, or the grommets are never in the right location, so we used tarp clips after folding the tarp under itself. What a great invention.

tarped hay stack

The final test was to see if Montana would even eat the new, fancy, expensive 2nd cutting hay. Fortunately, he loved it. Of course, this means he’ll be forever spoiled and never got back to 1st cutting hay.

Here’s Montana enjoying one of the new square bales that we threw into his feeder.

Montana eating his new hay



  1. I really enjoyed this blog. I have copied some of these pictures (especially the hay storage) to use in my lecture on hay storage. I hope you don’t mind, I have given your blog credit. Thanks for posting!
    Dr. Sylvia Kehoe
    University of Wisconsin-River Falls

  2. Your blog was great, very creative. I live in Fl. where it is very humid. I use round bale and have to store them outside. I loose a lot (big waste). I was thinking of going to square bales, but I can’t go to pick them up. I need to have them delievered and that would mean getting the hay in for 6mos. I have a blind Belgian mare and a donkey to keep her company in one pasture, and a gelded paint in the other pasture. The paint doesn’t know he’s gelded and annoys the Belgian terrible, so I have to keep them separated. What do you suggest, round or sq.? Hope you can be creative for my situation. Thanks. Elizabeth

  3. I have an old ’75 W&W trailer. I’m going to take off the wheels and set the trailer on the ground and fill it with the 40-50 lb. square bales (removing twine) and let my horse eat from the back entry to the front of the trailer, then fill it up again for the winter months. In the summer months, it’s his shelter, his wind shelter and in the winter, it keeps the bales dry, off the ground and covered. What do you think of this??

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