Unrolling hay

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Cress27

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What’s the pros and cons of unrolling hay. I live in Kentucky so it can get pretty messy in the winter time. I just don’t wanna make a bunch of ruts in my pastures. But from what I’ve read it’s a real game changer as far as regrowth and fertility in your pastures. Just wondering what everyone’s thoughts are on this.
 

4hfarms

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It's great if you start with quality hay and move your feeding spots. When the cows are done with it, spread the remainder about for easy decomposition. Worked well this winter and very happy with my lush green grass right now. 12-16" already. Started them back on rotation last month and doing well.
 

Bez

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We simply put the bales out and let the cows tear them apart. Yeah there is a bit of waste but they also bed down on it. Unrolling it creates a lot more waste in my opinion but it is everyone's choice in what they do.
We always move the feeding spots each time we feed.
The field is about ten acres in size where they winter and it works really well.
Easier to do it this way when the snow is three feet deep!
Best to all.
 

Ky hills

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We are in Ky too, and I unroll hay mainly for the reason that more cattle can get a chance to eat hay, and even though there is waste to me it does save hay. I can unroll 2 rolls and it serves the same time period as if I set 3-4 rolls out. I don’t have an actual hay unroller and would be very limited to where I could use it if I did. I go out a ridge and push them over a hill and let gravity work. I agree with an above comment that how well it works for the pastures depends on quality of hay. Ours is generally not real good, so I try to concentrate the feeding in a centralized area, also my tractors that I feed with are limited with where they can go as well. With all the rain and mud we have during a winter there are some ruts it’s a fact of life I just try to smooth them down when the weather breaks.
 

1982vett

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Varies as to what I do. When limit feeding and dry I’ll unroll. Weather gets bad or wet I’ll feed in rings moving each time. By the end of feeding season when things green up I’ll be in rings as their eating habits change as does the hay I put out. It’s whatever works for you.
 

SmokinM

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Biggest problem here and I would imagine is similar in Kentucky is waste from them walking it into the mud. On frozen or rocky/dry ground waste is much less. Recovery time on the pasture is much less and I feel like the cattle stay healthier because they are not standing in mud all day. I hate the crop circle/ mud pits you get with rings and seems like they take several years to heal. Ruts can be an issue but you are changing where you feed every time so they usually don’t get deep and the cows stomp them out as they eat. I have not found a way yet to feed hay to a cow where waste wasn’t a problem but with unrolling I don’t have to clean it up and I feel like it gets put to better use for my pastures in the end.
 

fnfarms1

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I'll agree with better for your pasture. Ive never really gotten into the unrolling #1 mine seem to waste more, and #2 i don't have the time especially during winter with less daylight. I set out 4bales to 40cows 2x a week on avg. Closer to 3x if weathers super cold and nasty, every 7-10days late spring with green grass coming on. So if I had the time, I'd unroll, but I do not.
 

Rydero

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I love unrolling or feeding bales out on a pasture or hayfield. It really doesn't matter much to me which one I use, I usually unroll if I'm feeding different qualities at the same time to spread out the better feed so everyone gets a chance. Someone mentioned using quality feed. I find the residue is much less with better feed which is good or bad depending if you're trying to build soil in that particular location. To me there's really no waste if I'm adding fertility to an area that needs it by doing something I have to do anyway. If ruts are an issue depending on the layout maybe travel along the same corridor all the time and feed off to the sides. If the ruts are mostly concentrated to a tractor width or two it's easy to run over your "road" a couple times with a disc to take the ruts out later.
 
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Cress27

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I’ve just bought this farm and it has some sage grass coming up on the hill sides and figured what better way to get better forage and save a little money on fertilizer and let the cows do the work for me. I like the comment about letting it roll over the hill because the places I have the sage grass it’s on a hill side that a lime truck can’t get on.
 

bird dog

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If you make ruts when you unroll, unroll the next bale over the top of the ruts. The cows will smooth them out some. If they are still bad come spring time, run a disc over them to smooth them out some and incorporate the hay waste. This improves the soil and plants some of the seeds from the hay.
 

sstterry

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I’ve just bought this farm and it has some sage grass coming up on the hill sides and figured what better way to get better forage and save a little money on fertilizer and let the cows do the work for me. I like the comment about letting it roll over the hill because the places I have the sage grass it’s on a hill side that a lime truck can’t get on.
It is the only way to do it here in the hills of East Tennessee. :cool:
 

Bogeyjoker

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I know this will not be a popular thing to say, but I don't ever consider adding carbon to my pastures to be a waste. Hay or haylage is expensive, but so is fertilizer, lime, seed, and drought remediation...which all are reduced or eliminated by having sufficient carbon matter covering the soil.

I typically unroll baleage around my winter paddocks and rotate those paddocks every year. My ranch is on a mountain so most of my pastures have some slope to them. Rolling them down the hill or "flicking" them with the FEL bale spear works.
 

cfpinz

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Making ruts can be a real problem, that is why a few have gone to the ATV/UTV un-rollers. Much less damage to pasture.
There are at least two manufacturers that I know of.

https://www.goodlifegrassfarms.com/hay-bale-unroller

That looks like a good way to die! :ROFLMAO:

I unroll most of ours, and have found that you can't unroll more than a 24 hour supply of hay if you want to minimize waste. I'll use rings on places that are too far from home to make it impractical to get to on a daily basis, and during the shoulder seasons when the cows aren't eating that much hay. Unrolling cut our hay consumption a pretty good chunk, and the cows (and specially calves) are healthier as was mentioned earlier because they're not standing around in mud/manure all day eating.
 

Mrcopier

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It cut my hay consumption in half, by free feeding they would go through 3-4 bales every 2 days. By unrolling they go through 2 , 1 per day. If you have good hay I found they left nothing behind. Cattle only need about 35 lbs of hay a day. you know the weight of your bales, do the math
 

Lucky_P

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In spite of buying bale feeders, and even pouring a concrete feeding pad some years back, the last 2 or 3 years we had cows, we unrolled. If you can do it, it's the way to go!
Starting in 2015 we 'limit-fed' hay and DDG , so my wife had calculated how much hay they needed each day... depending on stage of pregnancy or lactation. One group might get one roll, the other one and a half, etc.
Essentially, they got their entire daily ration at one time, and pretty well cleaned it up within two hours. Virtually no wastage. Even in muddy conditions, there was very little trampling in - certainly less wastage than when they were eating out of hay rings on the feeding pad.
If it was SO wet that severe rutting was going to be a problem, we would occasionally unroll on the 50x80 concrete pad - they wasted more, peeing/pooping on it that way than when unrolled on pasture, but still, way less than when we'd have 5 rolls sitting on the pad in rings and allowing them access for 2 or 3hrs at a time to consume their daily allotment.
Both winter feeding paddocks here at the house had sufficient slopes that we could position the bales at the top and unroll them downhill. They didn't always go all the way on their own... usually had to get out of the tractor and manually unroll the last one-third or one-fourth of most bales, but the cows would be in the barnlot eating their grain ration while we unrolled, so we weren't mobbed by hungry cows while unrolling.
 

Banjo

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In spite of buying bale feeders, and even pouring a concrete feeding pad some years back, the last 2 or 3 years we had cows, we unrolled. If you can do it, it's the way to go!
Starting in 2015 we 'limit-fed' hay and DDG , so my wife had calculated how much hay they needed each day... depending on stage of pregnancy or lactation. One group might get one roll, the other one and a half, etc.
Essentially, they got their entire daily ration at one time, and pretty well cleaned it up within two hours. Virtually no wastage. Even in muddy conditions, there was very little trampling in - certainly less wastage than when they were eating out of hay rings on the feeding pad.
If it was SO wet that severe rutting was going to be a problem, we would occasionally unroll on the 50x80 concrete pad - they wasted more, peeing/pooping on it that way than when unrolled on pasture, but still, way less than when we'd have 5 rolls sitting on the pad in rings and allowing them access for 2 or 3hrs at a time to consume their daily allotment.
Both winter feeding paddocks here at the house had sufficient slopes that we could position the bales at the top and unroll them downhill. They didn't always go all the way on their own... usually had to get out of the tractor and manually unroll the last one-third or one-fourth of most bales, but the cows would be in the barnlot eating their grain ration while we unrolled, so we weren't mobbed by hungry cows while unrolling.
That concrete pad would be an excellent way to push up any waste into a pile and let compost a little while...then spread with a manure spreader.
 

Bigfoot

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I'm in Ky. I wouldn't unroll for many years. I convinced myself, that the ground was too wet/muddy for it to work. I was dead wrong. They trample much less ground this way, as opposed to free choice in feeders.

I easily feed 50% less hay.......Key there is, give them what they will clean up. If they are walking away, with hay on the ground your feeding too much

I unroll with an 8n Ford. It barely leaves a track. The kids will usually accompany me to feed. The 4 wheeler leaves more tracks behind than the tractor.
 

WFfarm

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The cons for us our cows are too dumb to realize they crap on and trample hay faster than they eat it, so there is a lot more waste than feeding in ring feeders.
 

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