Amanda Ronan was sick and tired of watching her horses trash their roundbales. After trying just about everything, she finally stumbled upon a solution that worked.
Texas suffered a little drought last year–you might have heard about it. Wildfires, starving, abandoned horses and donkeys, Rick Perry’s call for prayer…
I was lucky. Forewarned by family, I bought my entire year’s supply of hay in June 2011, before the “shortage” became a “crisis.” Unfortunately, I had no way of storing that many square bales.
So, I bought round bales of my beloved coastal Bermuda mix.
There was just one huge problem. Round bales have a BAD reputation. Waste is the number one enemy. Horses love to scatter the hay, sleep on it, and then just when you think it can’t
take much more abuse, they pee and poo on it to no end.
To solve the problem, first I tried to limit their time on it. I put the bale on the back side of their shed and surrounded it with electric rope fencing, making a 100×100 feed pen basically. I let them in for two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening. This worked OK and kept the hay manageable, but towards the end of the three weeks (what the average bale lasted my horses with this method), it was still a stinky, hulking mess that had to be strip-mined and burned. FAIL.
Then I tried to leave it open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When they made a huge mess after two weeks (how long a bale lasted free-choice), I would give them tough love. Either they ate it dirty or learned not to poo on it. That didn’t work. The OCD horse owner in me only made it one day with the tough love regime before giving them a new bale. FAIL.
Then I went to my local tractor supply and looked at hay bale rings. Big, metal tube contraptions that cost a pretty penny, $150 to $350. These just screamed lower leg injuries
to me. I just imagined my goofy OTTB getting his leg, or head, or who knows what stuck and proceeding to run around the paddock with it attached. I also didn’t really see how the ring
would reduce waste. It might keep it more centralized but it would still spread out and get nasty. So I didn’t buy one. FAIL.
Next I got creative. I took a green tarp and with tow straps strapped that sucker on the round bale like a girdle. This didn’t work at all. Horses are stronger than tow straps. FAIL.
Enter the Big Bale Buddy, made in Canada.
I stewed on this one for a long time, about a month. It looked like a good idea. It was the new, improved version of my jerry-rigged tarp and tow strap. It had good reviews and a decent price. It came to about $130 after shipping. I went for it.
So I waited patiently, and received a very underwhelming box via UPS. I mean, this box was really small. Immediately, I thought my $130 was wasted. How could something that is tear-resistant, water-resistant and big enough to hold an X-Large round bale supposed to fit in a shoe box?
Well, that thing was packed crazy tight. No act of God or man could put that thing back in that box, but anyway, there it was. And it came with a handy little storage bag as well. I’m not going to lie, putting the Buddy on a bale was akin to putting pantyhose on an elephant.
But after an hour… we got ‘er dun and placed it on the back side of my horse’s paddock shelter. Curiously, my OTTB eventer walked straight up to the thing and started munching. My 19-year-old veteran Quarter Horse, on the other hand, freaked out! He snorted, pranced and pirouetted his way around it for about half an hour, at which point he realized it wasn’t a giant green monster but a food source, and he settled down.
And the Buddy worked!
It stretched a round bale an ADDITIONAL week feeding free-choice! Usually round bales last two weeks; the first one in the Big Bale Buddy lasted THREE!
There is very little waste. Every other day I go out and clean up the manure piles that are around the bale and usually pick up a fork or two of hay and throw it back on top. Once we knew what we were doing, the second time we used it we were able to put the Buddy on a bale in about 15 minutes.
The only problem we had was putting the Buddy on slanted ground against a wall. When the horses ate all the “front” of the bale, it shifted and started tilting the Buddy over. We had to
rearrange the hay inside with a pitchfork and then moved the Buddy to flat ground where the horses could eat 360 degrees around it. We since haven’t had a problem with chunks of hay
One a scale of zero to four stars, I’d give this product 3.5. It keeps the hay contained. It keeps it dry (albeit our bale stays under a carport-type shed but there was NO standing moisture at the bottom of the Buddy after three weeks of sitting on the ground during early spring thunderstorms). And it is SAFE! My horses tossed it around roughly for the last three days of the first bale and they almost seemed like they enjoyed it. A giant feedbag/toy! It also has a One Year Warranty-Full Replacement Guarantee, which is nice.
I deducted only a ½ star because the instructions are NOT helpful the first time you put the Buddy on a bale. You have to learn by doing and absolutely need two people and a tractor.