The smell of fresh cut hay and seeing new bales sitting in the field is one of my favourite times of the year. As we all begin the process of starting to feed hay again I thought it was time for some hay net tips and info.
Hopefully at the end of winter/spring when you were done using your Round or other nets you removed any hay, mud or debris, repaired any damage and stored in a mouse proof container. Even though it should've been stored in a mouse proof container sometimes containers get shuffled and tops can be loosened. If there's any sign's of Mouse droppings, be sure to wear gloves and even a mask to remove and shake out. If the nets have had company...laying them out on the lawn or drive and hosing off is a good idea, then let air dry. Lay or hang where you can check them over, look for any obvious damage or wear and repair as necessary.
A couple of important things when you 1st put hay out ....
1- don't just start feeding hay and risk a colic episode, slowly introduce the hay you'll be feeding while they are still eating grass and slowly transition to just hay.
2- remember to re-introduce the nets to the herd with loose hay for a couple of days. Even though the horses may have eaten from nets during the summer when being used, eating from hay nets full time is different.
3- Check the nets every day or couple of days for damage and repair as necessary. You can even use good ole fashioned twine for a quick fix, but when you have some time do a proper repair with a patch kit.
4- If you find your having on-going issues with holes, sit back & watch to see who's creating the issues or set up a trail cam. This is often very eye opening...I usually find that it is one horse that causes the damage and just feels its his job to make access for the others and chews away making holes, then eats directly from the new hole (Pic 1). Another is very mouthy horse's that always hold & chew ropes, buckets, etc...usually in this case the ends are sucked or slobbered on. (pic 2)
Pic #1 Pic #2
So you found you have a net chewer on your hands....now what ?? Well if you have the room you can move that horse to a another pen and feed loose hay, then start feeding him from a net with larger holes & slowly move him down to a smaller hole size. This works with some of the horses but not all....Another option is to continue feeding him with loose hay if he refuses to quite chewing, there are a few horses that never figure out how to eat using the nets .... I've had a couple customers that realize it's their "old" horse doing the damage & have decided to "Fix & Repair Daily" until the old guy crosses the rainbow bridge, this benefits the other horses meanwhile and then they invest in a new net.
We all have to do what works best for us. I hope you'll consider these things when you put your nets out this year to start feeding hay and hopefully it will help with your experience using them.