When we read about the “Slow Feeding Movement,” we had one of those hand-thunking-against-head moments. Somewhere deep within our braincases, the idea of returning domesticated animals to a more natural eating cycle clicked on a light bulb.
First, understand that keeping animals fenced in and unable to roam the plains or climb mountains is unnatural. Spending their lives confined in stalls or barns is even more unnatural. Horses (and cattle, goats, etc.) are designed to spend their days in search of food. That search is an endless cycle of grabbing a bit of grass and then walking to another bit of grass.
Of course, the average livestock owner does not own thousands of acres nor do they relocate their animals in winter to southern grassy plains. Hay is fed to supplement during the winter and even throughout the summer months. The owners may decide to place a large round bale out in a field or feed individually with flakes from square bales. Either way, a lot of the hay goes to waste.
There are other problems that come along with winter feeding. With a round bale feeding, dominant animals often park themselves in front of the bale and block less aggressive members of the herd from eating. Some will eat will literally eat themselves sick if allowed unlimited access to hay. Many horse owners choose to stall-feed their horses for that reason. With stall-feeding, the owners control the amount of hay and feed the horse has access to and the horses don’t have to compete for food. The only trouble? The horses gobble up their food the moment it is placed in their stalls and then they must stand around waiting for the next meal. While waiting, they tend to get bored and that’s when they start cribbing, pacing, weaving, or other bad habits.
None of this is natural. Not one bit of it. The results? The horses get ulcers, expensive stalls get destroyed, animals that are low on the totem pole stay hungry, aggressive animals get fat, and the owners can’t ever go anywhere because they are feeding on a schedule.
The solution? The slow-feeder net. We are HUGE fans. This net makes it possible for us to have a horse on our small property without worrying that she’s not getting enough grass. The net, because the animals know it’s always full, is not a point of contention. The squares of the net are just the right size so that Anna can only grab a few wisps at a time. Once her jaw is tired, she lounges in the shade before returning to her beloved net. The goats and horse eat side-by-side. I only have to refill the net once a day and I don’t have to worry if I sleep in a little late. We purchased a net that holds a full square bale of hay, a net for a round bale, and two nets (which hold about half of a bale) for the stalls or for trailering.
P.S. SlowFeeding.com did not pay for my glowing endorsement of their product nor did they give me free stuff. This is just my way of passing on solutions to problems faced by caring livestock & horse owners — particularly small scale livestock & horse owners.