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Horse Hay: How Long Will a Bale Last For One Horse?

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My neighbor is a father of two, and he’s been eyeing a horse for his kids. But before he buys one, he wants to make sure how much it’ll cost him–that means figuring out how long a bale of hay will last for one horse!

In general, a standard 40 lb. square bale of hay lasts one horse for about 3.5 days. But many factors, such as age, workload, type of hay, and access to pasture grass, affect how much they eat. Most horses eat between 10-15 pounds of hay daily.

When it comes to owning a horse, you want to know what it will cost and how much to expect to spend on hay. For instance, if your horse is kept in a stall most of the time, it will need more hay than a pasture-kept horse.

This article is one of a series of articles on horse hay I wrote, the main article being: Horse Hay: An Owner’s Guide.

Picture of a horse eating hay from a net.

How long a bale of hay lasts depends on your horse’s situation.

Horses that spend their day’s grazing in a pasture but are kept in a stall at night still need hay but not as much as one without pasture access. Because when horses eat, they eat small amounts constantly, so even overnight, they need hay.

Their way of digestion is different from ours. Horses’ stomachs process food quickly and empties entirely within 24 hours; because of this, they need forage available around the clock to maintain a proper balance.

Some horses love hay and will gulp it down fast, so I advise using a hay feeder or slow feeder for your horses. If your horse stays on a pasture with quality grass, you may not need to supplement its diet with hay.

Stall TimeHow long a 40 lb bale of hay lasts
Stall kept (average horse)3.5 days
Overnight in a Stall (pasture in the day)10 days
Stall Kept Draft Horses (2,000lbs)2 days
These figures are estimates, horses are individuals, and some may need more or less hay.

How long does a round bale of hay last for one horse?

I have a friend that feeds his horses round bales. He puts them in a pasture under a run-in shed to protect the hay from the weather. He and I disagree on using round bales for horses; I think they are unfit for feeding horses because they tend to mold.

But anyways, his round bales are used to supplement the grass his horses eat in the pasture and last a long time, sometimes up to three months. They may not last as long if you intend to use them as your only forage source.

Round bales of hay for horses come in many sizes, but the most common is 4 X 5 feet. These bales typically weigh close to eight hundred pounds and last about two months.

Picture of a round hay bale in a field.

Knowing how long a bale of hay lasts for your horse is essential.

A horse requires a lot of forage to keep it healthy, and hay is the most common type owners supply to their animals. There are a few reasons it’s important to have a general idea of how long a bale of hay lasts a horse.

Of course, the most obvious reason it costs, but it is also helpful to know for the well-being of your animal. If you notice a bale lasting an unusually long time, it could be a sign your horse is sick or has a problem with its teeth.


It’s essential to have an idea of how much it’s going to cost to keep a horse, and a good start is to determine how much hay your horse consumes each day, especially if kept in a stall.

I had an agreement with a trainer to pay the expenses for a racehorse, and instead of the trainer getting 10 percent of the purse, he would get 50 percent of the horse’s earnings.

When racehorses are in training, their forage intake is restricted to hay, so I needed to know the costs of a bale of hay and how long one would last.

Without this knowledge, the trainer could easily charge me for hay and feed it to other horses he had in training. I would never expect him to take advantage of the situation or do anything dishonest, but it’s prudent to be informed!

Our arrangement worked well for both of us, and in the end, the monthly expenses were what I expected to pay. Even if you don’t board a horse, knowing how long a bale of hay lasts a horse is crucial in estimating the costs of keeping a horse.


A healthy horse should eat between one and two percent of its weight in forage. Of course, the amount depends on factors such as age, type of hay, and how hard your horse is working, but this gives you a general idea of what to expect them to consume.

If your horse is not eating the proper amount of forage, it could be sick or have a problem with its teeth. Horses need a certain amount of forage for their digestive system to work correctly and maintain their health.

So if you notice your horse not finishing a bale of hay on time, it should raise a concern. First, check the hay to ensure it isn’t moldy or rotten. Some horses refuse good hay if it’s new to them.

If your hay is good and it’s a type they’re used to eating, then it’s time to call in the vet and have your horse checked. I had a horse refuse to eat, and it turned out to have a virus.

Picture of one horse eating hay.

How many bales of hay does a horse eat per month/year?

The amount of hay a horse eats depends on how its access to pasture grass. Horses that spend most of their time in a pasture eat much less hay than those kept in a grassless paddock or stall.

In general, horses kept in a stall need to eat as many as 10 square bales of hay per month. Horses usually eat about twelve pounds of forage a day, though sometimes they will eat more or less depending on their diet.

So the size and weight of a bale of hay will make a difference when calculating how long one will last your horse. For example, Alfalfa hay is much denser and weighs more than a bale of bermudagrass.

But let’s assume your horse eats twelve pounds of hay a day; in a 30 day month, that calculates to 360 pounds of hay. If each bale weighs 40 pounds, your horse should eat nine bales per month and roughly 108 per year.

Picture of a bale of bermudagrass hay.
The third cutting of bermudagrass hay.

Which cut of hay is best for horses?

Horse owners want to feed their horses the best hay, and sellers know this, so they charge more for second cuttings than first or third ones. But is it worth paying extra for a second cutting?

The first cutting typically is full of stems, has more weeds, and is believed to have less nutritional value than the second cuttings; the same goes for third cuttings, but I’m not sold on this theory.

In general, many believe hay made from second cuttings is the single most important factor contributing to hay’s nutritional value, but this isn’t always true. In reality maturity of the grass at the time it’s harvested is the critical factor that determines hay’s nutritional value.

For some grass species, a first or third cutting could be the best because not all grass types mature at the same time. While it’s true that cold-weather grasses include more stems in their first cutting than the second, this is not the case for warm-weather grasses like coastal bermudagrass.

I’ve cut and baled bermudagrass, and there is no discernable difference between the first and second cutting. However, what does make a difference is the weather and how long you leave the grass on the ground before baling.

When choosing hay, the most important factors to consider are the harvest maturity stage, weeds, smell, and color. High-quality horse hay smells fresh, is vibrant green, and has thin stems, so your horse has an easy time chewing.

What hay is bad for horses?

Hay full of dust, weeds, mold, or an abundance of thick stalks is bad for horses. Most horses refuse hay in this condition, but some will eat anything; when they do, they’re at risk of becoming very sick. If you want to keep your horse happy and healthy, feed them fresh hay.

How do you know if hay is a good quality horse?

When you’re looking for good-quality horse hay, look at its color and smell it. If it’s bright green and smells fresh, then you likely have a winner! However, check to make sure there’s no dust or mold in the bale, and lastly, don’t forget to carefully inspect your hay for weeds, too, as this can be a sign of poor-quality hay!