This is our first season bale grazing with poly pipe bale rings. We are completely impressed with them.
We originally bale grazed without rings, following the advice of various conference speakers who scoffed at the idea of wasted hay. “Wasted hay is just added fertility!” But when we looked at our hay feeding costs, we realized that unless one has access to free hay, fertilizing a field with wasted hay is the economic equivalent of wallpapering a room with five dollar bills.
Digression: Related to this topic of wasting hay, I have some thoughts about the tendency among the most popular agricultural conference speakers to oversimplify complex economical and ecological realities. They probably do this because they need to be disruptive enough to be noticed and to disturb the status quo of conventional agriculture. But my experience in following their advice has been quite mixed.
These rings give us 27% better feed utilization compared to bale grazing without them (comparing our average consumption in bales per head per day). Based on the cost of hay (and not even counting our time, trucking costs, and tractor costs) they’ll pay for themselves in 90 days of hay feeding. That’s a pretty good payback.
Moving them by hand is easy. Thus far this winter they haven’t frozen into the ground. They are light enough to roll, but substantial enough that they don’t skitter over the field when the cattle lean into them. They cost about twice what the economy steel rings cost, but they should last indefinitely. They are built with longevity in mind, since the hardware is all stainless steel and the nuts are nylocs.
The real big deal for us is to be able to roll the bale rings over the polywire electric fences without getting shocked. This allows us to advance the rings and set up everything, then reel back the wire and admit the cattle to the new bales. Being able to work with the cattle sans drama is priceless.