One of my pet peeves about feeding cows concerns not allowing enough space for everybody to eat. Highlands have long horns, and needless to say, some have very bossy dispositions. Your head cow will rule the roost, and if there is only one roost, she'll have it. If you look carefully at the photo above, you can see 6 feeders and one loose bale of junk feed sitting on the ground. This is our sacrifice area, and at the moment, it has 41 cows and 7 fall-born calves in it. The cows in this group either are nursing a calf, growing heifers, or old and thin cows. (Most are growing bred heifers or fall-born 2 year olds just going in with the bull this winter.) We make sure that we have enough feeders in this area that there are no more than 5 adult animals per feeder. If you could see the entire area, there are actually 10 feeders total in this sacrifice area. The larger adult or close to adult animals will not tolerate eating in close proximity to one another. The most dominant cow at the feeder will chase subordinate cows out of her personal space. If you do not allow for enough feeders, the timid, submissive cattle or the youngest cattle will not have ample opportunity to eat. If they are still growing, they will be stunted. If they are mature they will lose weight, or not gain any if thin.
Calves will crowd around a feeder much more closely than older cows. They do not require the number of feeders that the adults will need.
They do not have the large personal space issues that the adults have. The weanlings use our custom modified metal hay feeders.
These black plastic feeders by Century are excellent feeders for our youngstock. We like them best for the yearlings, as they are powerful enough to pull the center of our very tightly packed haylage bays apart. We find that the weanlings may be unable to get to the middle of the bale leaving a cone of tightly packed feed. It is easier for me to flip this bale over using the metal feeders, rather than the plastic feeders. If there is substantial feed remaining in the feeder after the winter season, it has to be carefully dug out of the plastic feeders so they can be lifted and moved. The metal feeders can be moved regardless of accumulated old feed. We do not like the plastic feeders for our mature stock Once empty, the cattle can move these feeders anywhere they so choose. Xyris once decided to use his as a life preserver in a small pond. Fortunately, both he and the feeder were retrieved with no ill effects for either.
Ideally, we would save a lot of time and money if we could roll our bales out on the ground, giving only enough for a single days feeding, but spreading it out so that everyone could eat at the same time. Unfortunately, we rarely have a winter where the ground stays frozen. With our heavy clay, if we try to feed on the pasture itself, we end up destroying the stand, and everything is a muddy mess. This necessitates that we use feeders. And we use alot of feeders.If you are in a situation where your winter feeding area stays frozen all winter, then rolling out daily feed is probably the most economical method to provide feed that every animal has access to.