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Slow feed hay nets


Slow feed nets; Worth the money? 

    Slow feed hay nets are one of the latest products you see popping up in catalogs and online stores. You may be wondering what they are, and if they work. Well, they do!


     Slow feed hay nets are geared toward keeping your horse from being able to pull out large mouthfuls of hay at a time, to slow intake of fiber; to keep your horse busy and content with nibbling the way his tummy is designed to instead of large meals. Another plus? They cut down on waste by keeping it in the net, instead of getting trampled on the ground.

    Most of the designs I've see so far are basically the same hay net/ or bag, with smaller openings. There is the "Slow feed" net from Tough One and the Nibble Net and another whose name escapes me at the moment. However, I have also found atheletic sports nets (think soccer goals) can work. I saw this on a site promoting Paddock Paradise with ground level feeding stations covered in the nets. There is even a way to cover large round bales!

   The average one runs from $8.00 and up, depending on how fancy or large. I expect they will be more available and maybe cheaper as they catch on. They could benefit all horses that can eat hay, but especially for Insulin Resistent, overweight or those prone to ulcers and colic, or that suffer from boredom in stalls or small paddocks. The large round bale nets run around $150.



     I've been using the nets and I highly recommend them.  The small holes make them safer (less likely to snare a hoof, except with shod horses whose nets should remain high enough to avoid hoof contact) and you can hang them lower, in a more natural postition for your barefoot horse, without so many seeds and dust getting in his eyes (if you do hang them lower). This would benefit horses with respratory issues such as heaves. Also, if you have the kind of horses that like to urinate or poop in hay on the ground after they trample it, these nets with smaller holes allow less to drop to the ground.

  I've been using them in a dry lot group situation. I am feeding 5 head, and hang 6 nets in various locations. I put out part of the hay ration in the usual piles on the ground, and half in the nets. I've noticed it takes them almost 4 times as long to eat the same amount of hay.

    They are a bit more troublesome to get hay into until you get the hang of it. I just double mine back on itself, like rolling back a sleeve, then get a flake in, and can fold it back normal as I fill it. I don't like the bag type as much as the nets, though easier to use; the horses just stick their head in the top and get the big mouthfuls, or I have to hang too high to be comfortable. If I were clever, I would sew something on them to close them so the horses couldn't cheat. I have been hanging them quite low (I have a pony and mini in the mix, so high nets would mean keeping them separate and missing out on the herd situation). So far, the nets are durable and have no metal parts.

     Even though the nets slow comsumption, don't forget your horses still need 1.5% to 2% of their healthy bodyweight in hay each day. The nets cut down on wasted hay and avoid having to give extra hay to keep them busy, but you don't want to cheat them out of their daily ration, either.

  Overall, yes, they are worth the money! They pay for themselves in many ways. Hay consumption may be lessened, barn and fence repairs from wood chewing, and potential vet bills. Plus, peace of mind. I like knowing they didn't eat all the hay in half an hour and have to wait 8 hours until I get out of bed. I previously would just put out extra hay to account for that gobbling up or trampling.  With the round bale covers, that could be wonderful to eliminate wasting and over-eating. Finally, the entertainment factor. Horses were meant to nibble. This promotes nibbling so horses are entertained longer and get the "destressing" from chewing, and the constant tummy fill promotes digestive health.

To find your own slow feed hay nets look here:

http://www.txhaynet.com/  for the round bale nets.

http://www.chicksaddlery.com/  for the smaller nets and bag but search slow feed net in the search window to find them!

http://www.thinaircanvas.com/nibblenet/nibblenetframe.htm    for the Nibble Net