Today The Boy and his friend helped me roll the bales from the driveway (where they were delivered yesterday afternoon) into the feeding area.
All in place!
That is four rows of two hay and two straw bales in each row, plus I have two more straw bales … one kind of stuffed in at the back (where you can’t see it) and one just under my clothesline, on a tarp, where I can peel it apart and haul some straw up to the barn as needed.
The plans for the design we are following are here. Essentially, there is an alleyway just off to the right of the picture that lets the cows and donkey walk up to where the bales are: they have enough room to stand in front of the front row of bales and eat. Right in front of the bales is a strand of electric wire, which keeps them from walking around the sides of the bales and keeps them from messing up the bale too much … they have to reach over or under the zapping wire to get a bite to eat and they will have to clean up what they drop on the ground before I move the wire backwards so they can work on the next part of the bale. It’s a self-serve Cow Buffet!
While we were moving the bales in, Sasha stood at the gate demanding that we hurry up. The boys finished putting up the barbed wire around the perimeter and I got the electric wire figured out. I got some neat little adjustable insulator things that fit nicely onto rebar, and we have lots of rebar here. I cut a couple of pieces of rebar to the right length, pounded them in the ground with a hammer, attached the insulators, and strung the wire across in front of the bales. Got it hooked up to the charger and it was zapping away on the first try. If you look closely, you can see the yellow insulators and the two strands of white wire running in front of the bale.
Should the rebar get frozen into the ground, I can just put in a new piece ... The insulators can be moved, or I can just use more ... I got a whole bag of them for $4, so I have lots. I will probably also go out and run some wire along the walkway they use to get from the winter pen over to the feeding area: it goes right through one of the pastures, and I don’t really want them walking across the whole pasture all winter … especially come spring, they’ll eat all the new grass before it’s ready, so I need to figure out a way to block that off … and the electric wire should work fine. A few rebar posts, some insulators, some wire, an arch over the gate to get to the charging thing .. yeah, that should work.
I still need to get the string off most of the bales, I only did the front row, but for today, this is good! I’d also like to put a big tarp over the back rows of bales, to keep them in better shape over the winter. Need to pick one up, though – we don’t have one here that’s big enough.
Once we opened up the gate, Sasha came in and had some hay … when she got bitten by the electric wire she walked away in a huff, but she came back to eat some more so I'd say we have a successful strategy going! Of course we will have to see how it plays out over the full season but I am very happy to not be out feeding by hand every day. And having animals trained to electric wire is going to be a good thing for summer, too, I think. I'll be able to do some closer grazing management without installing permanent fences. ;)
Yay for hay and cow buffets!