Today is the first day I fed the cattle in a lot. That means for me I put two round bales in two separate feeders. This also means I put out some bedding in the shelter for the cattle. All this is on cement. I feel very fortunate to have the shelter and the cement. Right now under the snow, hay, manure, bedding etc the cement is not visible.
It is is nice to have cement for when the weather is warmer and wet, it gives the cattle a good base to be on and is especially nice when it is time to clean out.
Most importantly it keeps the manure and all the valuable nutrients in place to be composted and spread on the fields later in the Spring.
How this works is I start with a base of anything rich in carbon. This might be leaves from the fall, wood chips, low quality hay, corn stalks, this list goes on. This gives the animals a softer place to lay, and material to soak up and keep manure, urine in place. It also offsets the foul odor. I never want to smell any foul odor around the animals and where they bed down and eat. The odor says you are out of balance.
As they "use the facilities" so to speak I lay down more carbon on top to keep them dry and keep the odors away. This also starts the composting process. The compost process gives off heat (Think of in-floor radiant heat) for the animals, for free!
The reason why today is significant is because this is the longest, by far, I have ever gone before feeding them in the lot. They still have access to the pasture, but they generally stay by the food source.
How is this possible?
By Round bale unrolling. I bought an unroller late last season after a lot of research. I have not looked back.
In short I unroll the hay on a stretch of pasture for the cattle to eat and lay on much like they do from eating grass. This in turns gives me fertilization from the cattle spreading their urine and manure. I also get fertilization by any remaining hay left over.
The most common question I see and hear is "what about waste?"
It is a logical, good question.
I have two answers to that. One, there is no such thing as waste if the animals push the remaining hay into the soil and or snow pack. It feeds the biology in the soil,
Two, they eat the hay up so well and have much less competition for food. I get about the same amount of days feeding in a feeder as I do unrolling the hay.
Generally when the animals are done eating all that is left is manure and urine spread across the pasture, saving me time and money in the Spring.
The animals also love laying on the hay in the Sun.
I have a video posted of unrolling bales for the horses and cattle recently.
PS the reason I started feeding in the lot is because of the 40 mph winds expected the next few days. Most of the hay would stay in place but the only time I consider unrolling bales wasteful is if forty percent of the hay or more would end up on the neighbors.
Just my way of trying to experiment and think outside the conventional box.