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[RC] Free feeding square bales - kathy swigart

I do it all the time and have been doing so for years.? But then, California 
three string bales do not, generally, meet this description from Heidi:

The biggest problems with intermittent?free feeding of?small
?bales are that 1) they are less densely packed, 

Those wimply little two string things that you can pick up with one hand I have 
noticed are less densely packed, but that is only true of the three string ones 
if you buy cheap (by the bale) ones.

And they stay pretty densely packed if you leave the strings on, which is what 
I do.

I have a big water trough (that no longer holds water because it has holes in 
the bottom) that I tip a full bale (~110# to 120#) of bermuda grass into.? It 
is under a shelter in the rainy season to keep the hay dry (and keep the hay 
out of the mud if it escapes from the trough), which lasts for three horses 
about 3 days.? They get supplmented with 7-9# of alfalfa hay once a day 
(whenever it is convenient)?which gets separated into as many piles as there 
are horses and put into small water tubs.? Individual horses may also get extra 
grain or whatever supplements, but they are separated out for this (usually 
when taken out to be ridden or fussed with in some way).

Depending on the mood of the person who buys it (which is not me), they also 
will get oat or orchard grass hay thrown in for them in the same individual 
troughs (or on the ground) at random intervals.

I have found that the most important thing when using this feeding method it to 
not put anything OTHER than the bermuda hay into the big feeder....ever.? If 
you start putting something that they may like better in there with the full 
bale of bermuda, they will go "digging" for it (even if it isn't there) and 
throw the bermuda all over the place trying to ferret out every last scrap of 
something better (even if it isn't there).

Invariably, some of the grass hay, after a while, starts to end up on the 
ground around the trough, at which time, no more is put out for them until they 
"clean up."? Depending on the weather (and the fastidiousness of the horses), 
this "clean up" is something they are required to do about once a month.? And I 
make sure that I make them do it when I know I am going to be out soon enough 
that they won't go for too long without?something to eat.? I don't make them 
clean up down to the last scrap (and, in fact, some of it does get spread 
around as bedding on purpose--and it is cheaper than most of the types of real 
bedding that can be had around here anyway).

However, they usually learn the clean up routine fairly easily.?Especially if 
you "train" them that they aren't going to get anything more until they do (so 
the first few times you may have to let them go for a while with less than full 
rations until they figure out that that is all they are gonna get).

Some horses are just pigs and are gonna waste hay as bedding no matter what, 
but most of them figure out the program pretty quickly.

I find that it works best with bermuda hay for several reasons:? 1) there is no 
"good part" of bermuda hay, so no particular reason to go digging through it 
for something better; 2) they don't like it very much so they just pick at it 
all day long, especially after they learn that it is always gonna be there; 3) 
around here is is much more consistent palatability that any of the other 
available grass hays so I don't have to wonder whether they are going to pick 
at it all day long or throw it around because they are convinced that they 
could find something better or that it tastes so bad that they refuse to eat it 
at all; 4) it is cheaper than all other grass hays.

But yes, it is very easy to free feed three string bales of grass hay.? For 
most horses, the best thing to do is leave the strings on so they have to work 
at getting it; and by the time it is easy to get at (i.e. they have eaten 
enough that the strings have come loose) there is less of it to throw around 

Orange County, Calif.

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