Bringing the Grass to the Cows

Today we’re feeding the cattle bales of summer grass. I thought it might be interesting to show the process of feeding, and to look at the protective bale rings we use to prevent the cattle from trampling their valuable feed into the ground.


Hi, I’m Dave, your farmer from Wrong Direction Farm. Today I’m out with the cattle and I’m just dropping off some baleage for them to eat.

It’s a really comfortable day out here. I think it’s getting close to 30. You know, if I could choose winter weather, this is about what I would choose. Down in the single digits or teens at night and up to close to 30 during the day. It keeps the ground from getting muddy underfoot. But it’s not too cold for the cattle, or for us to work outside for long periods of time, so these are really ideal days. I also like having a light coating of snow on the ground. I don’t know — just, I like the look of it.

You can see behind me here’s a bale of baleage that they’re tearing into.

So I wanted to show you how we deliver these bales out to the cattle and what we do with these plastic rings around them. These rings are what we call bale rings. And they act as a little protective cage around the bale keep the cattle from rubbing up against the bales and tearing them apart too quickly, and spoiling too much feed on the ground. You know, they cost us quite a bit of money to make each bale and it’s a… you know each one represents a good amount of grass that’s in each one, a good amount of feed, so we don’t want to squander them. We’ve done a video recently about baleage and about the difference between this and hay.

But this is what it looks like up close. Focus! Focus!

See there’s several types of grasses in here, some clovers, all sorts of stuff. A twig.

So these are the bale rings we like to use. These are made out of black poly pipe. You can see over here it’s pretty thick stuff. It’s like 3/8 inch thick and it’s got stainless steel hardware in it. So we found these to be really durable. We’ve had them for six or seven seasons now, and I’ve only broken part of one of them. One of them got thoroughly frozen into the ice and I tried to use the tractor forks to lift it out and the bottom was still frozen in there and I cracked one of these pipes. We’re still using that one with just a single broken pipe in it, but otherwise these have been quite durable. I know a lot of folks who use steel bale feeder rings and end up replacing them pretty often. The cattle, you know, they like to rub on things to scratch itches, and they can crumble pretty heavy-duty steel pipes just by their weight leaning against it. But we found these plastic ones are much more durable.

So I’m going to — I’m going to get the tractor now, bring a bale out, place it down, and then roll this thing over the top of it to keep the cattle from rubbing the sides of the bale off. These are nice because they’re light enough that you can move them by hand. You don’t need to be a superhero to move them. Some of the more durable steel versions are so heavy that you can only move them with a tractor. So we like these because they have both the durability and the portability to do a lot of the work by hand.

Just behind me I’ve got a place where I dropped a bale the other night. I was running out of time and didn’t have time to bring the bale rings over. So you can see how the cattle were eating over here and ended up trampling a lot of the hay into the ground.

It’s all around the edges, a trampled ring.

They’re still getting the good stuff in there, but it’s not being used as efficiently as I would like.

Did you note the part of the video where I spliced in footage from June? That was filmed the same week this grass was cut and baled. It is hard to reconcile that green, spring world with this white, winter world. But the days are getting longer, the migratory birds have begun moving back north, and we know that the seasonal change is coming. Even if it’s coming slowly, things will become green again. Before we know it, we’ll be waist deep in grass and mowing the fields to make the bales for next winter.

8 thoughts on “Bringing the Grass to the Cows”

  1. I really enjoy your videos! The cows seem to be enjoying the food. It’s pretty interesting that it’s way more than hay and really cool. Looks like a tasty mix.

    1. Thanks Crystal. Yes, they do seem to like it. I just came in from feeding the cattle a few more bales this afternoon. I was watching them rub their faces all over the bales. It reminded me of the way cats sometimes rub their faces into a catnip plant.

    1. Kirill, The bales don’t have enough moisture in them. Even fresh grass doesn’t have enough moisture, so the cattle still require water.
      During the winter we chop ice on a water trough with a float valve that is fed by a buried water line from our pond. It flows downhill under its own syphon power, so we don’t need to rely on solar or gasoline pumps to keep the water moving. That’s what we use for a winter water source.

      A lot of the cattle, especially the older ones, tend to prefer eating snow. Same thing with the livestock guardian dog and our family’s flock of laying hens. They have liquid water available, but I never see them drinking when there’s snow available. Here’s a link to a post I wrote last winter. Cows Eating Snow
      Maybe I’ll be able to record this in a separate video one of these days.

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