I’ve always hated when my horses waste hay. It’s like throwing money on the ground and it’s a pain in the butt to rake it all up. So, about five or six years ago I invested in a pasture feeder.
Pasture feeders are expensive. It’s easy to spend several hundred dollars for a rugged model. The model that I bought cost about $200, but it’s pretty sturdy and has held up well. I looked at several different options ranging from the simple — like a tire feeder — to the industrial strength versions. Here’s what I found.
Tire feeders are a very inexpensive option. You can buy tire feeders for $25 to $60 that have already been converted into feeders or you can do it yourself. You can often get the tires from tire shops for free. Here are instructions on how to turn a tire into a feeder.
Be careful, though when converting a tire. I’ve read of horses, especially foals becoming
trapped in them (they are safer if they are weighted). Another problem that can occur is when steel belted tires or tires with steel cable
framing placed around them are used. In this case small bits of wire from the tires can end up in the horses’ tongues. Finally, I’ve also read that if you have horses that like to chew on things might have problems with impaction colic if they injest rubber.
If you decide to go with a free standing feeder you need to get one that is sturdy, so it can’t easily be knocked over, has no sharp edges and no way for your horse to get a head or leg caught in it. A trough or tray under the feeder helps to catch loose hay. But from my own experience I recommend that you drill a hole or two in the bottom of the trough otherwise it can collect water. A cover is helpful if you want to put out large amounts of hay. A cover is helpful if you want to put out large amounts of hay and protect it from the elements.
Some feeders are very heavy and will need more than one person to move it. The one I bought, shown on the video below, is more portable. It can easily be dragged by a single person, so you can move it to dry ground if the area around the feeder becomes muddy. However, you really need two people if you want to move it any distance or lift it over rough or snowy terrain.
My hay rack works really well if you have two horses (two sides!) but now that we have three horses in the pasture we generally leave a few flakes of hay on the ground. This way we are sure that each horse has access to hay when they want it. It is pretty stable but I will admit that has tipped over once or twice. I generally put the feeder on flat ground and I often will pack some dirt over the legs to anchor it.
In terms of savings? The feeder has paid for itself many times over — especially now when hay is so expensive. The feeder helps keep the hay dry and clean and gives the horses time to eat at their leisure. It also significantly cuts down on the time needed to rake up and haul away the wasted hay. I know that I certainly find that to be a big benefit. I don’t want to spend all my time at the barn raking up hay.