Today the market is swamped with what the suppliers call "slow feeding nets" or "slow feed nets" in lots of colors but the truth is that most of them are only "Small Mesh Hay Nets" and not actual Slow Feeding Nets. All "slow feeding nets" are good for waste reduction or as the Germans say, "Futterspar Netz". Saving hay is, of course, just great but it is not enough when it is the Horse that needs to be saved.
Most of what is on the market today doesn't extend the eating times by more than, at the most, 35%, and extending the eating time from 4 to 5.5 hours still leaves the horse without feed (= starving) for 18.5 hours.
Mesh sizes are only important during schooling but then they can be very important. Too small during schooling and the horse might get frustrated and destroy the net. Too big during schooling and the horse might never learn to eat the natural way i.e. chewing enough to become satisfied and stop eating before he has eaten more than he needed.
- A = 3cm = 1+3/16″ for soft hay and a little longer extension of the eating time.
- B = 3½cm = 1+3/8″ is standard for hanging nets. Works well with all kinds of hay and for all horses.
- C = 4cm = 1+5/8″ is standard mesh size for SlowFeeders where the net lays loose on top of the hay but does also work well for coarse hay, and when reducing waste is more important than extended eating times, in hanging nets.
- D = 5cm = 2″ for waste reduction.
- E = 6cm = 2+1/3″ for waste reduction if you want to make sure that the net is not restricting the horse’s eating.
Small Hay sacks are worthless. Like all hanging nets, they force the horse to eat in an unnatural position with his head twisted which effectively stops him from relaxing. Like all small nets that possibly can run empty, they have no value as Slow Feeding Nets. A horse that is deprived of the right to eat whenever he wants will believe he is going to starve to death which creates a feed related stress that makes him eat both faster and more when he gets a chance. It will also make him fight-off competitors when he gets access to feed.
Large Hay Sacks can be a good solution if they are placed in some kind of feeder or container instead of being hung.
Round bale nets can be an excellent solution but beware of so-called round bale nets that are just flat nets. Those are terrible to work with. A round bale net should fit either the bale or the feeder in which it is made available.
There are 2 principles when it comes to netting round bales:
1. Putting the net on from the top down, like a cover. This looks easy but it is not. Well putting the net on is easy but stopping the horses from sticking their heads in under the net is not. Using a round bale net like this is not what I recommend if it can not be very well attached to a feeder.
2. High Round Bale Nets standing on the bottom (not hanging since then the pressure between the heavy bale and the net can make it too difficult for the horses to eat) with the opening facing up is a far better solution since you can close the net bag completely leaving no opening for the horses to stick their heads into.
The solution in the picture can only be used when there are no shoed horses in the herd. Shoed hooves must always be kept away from hay nets. Please note that the bale is not hanging in the net but standing on a foundation. Tie the opening to something that keeps it at the height where it is when the bale is new and leave it there. There is no reason to re-stretch the net.