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How Much is a Bale of Hay? Factors That Effect Hay Bale Cost

Last updated: October 25, 2023

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

How much is a bale of hay? It’s a question that resonates with farmers, horse owners, and agricultural enthusiasts. A bale of hay typically costs between fifteen to thirty dollars, but the answer isn’t as simple as a flat rate.

The price varies based on factors such as demand, location, type of hay, and time of the year. For example, alfalfa bales are usually more expensive than standard grass hay bales. Understanding these variables can lead to significant savings and better quality selection.

In this article, we’ll delve deeper into the dynamics that influence hay bale costs, providing insight into a subject that might seem straightforward but is layered with complexity. Join us as we explore the factors that shape the price of this essential agricultural commodity.

Infograph showing hay bale cost based on size and type.

How Much Does a Bale of Hay Cost?

Horse hay typically costs between $15 and $30 per bale. The price of hay varies depending on the hay type, the quality, and the geographical location. For example, horse hay is typically more expensive in California than in Louisiana, where there is plenty of grass.

In general, horse hay should be purchased from a reputable dealer who can provide graded hay. This will help ensure that the horse hay is high-quality and free of contaminants.

Picture of a horse eating from a hay bag.

Hay quality affects pricing.

If you have horses, then you know that you need to provide them with hay. But did you know that there is a big difference in the price of hay depending on what type of hay you feed?

Keep in mind that horse hay’s cost depends on many factors and varies greatly. So, when you compare prices, be sure you are considering the same quality and type of foliage.

One of the most common types of hay we feed is alfalfa. Alfalfa is high-quality hay that is rich in nutrients and proteins. It’s especially beneficial for working horses. I contacted Core Feed in Folsom, Louisiana, to get an idea of the going prices.

While I had them on the phone, I also checked the price of bermudagrass. They are selling two-wire alfalfa bales for $22.00 apiece and bermudagrass for $14.95.

I checked prices at Tractor Supply, and they sell a bale of Timothy hay for 21.99, bermudagrass for $14.99, and alfalfa bales for $19.99. The hay sold by Tractor Supply is provided by Standlee, a huge seller of quality hay.

Both Alfalfa and Timothy hay are high-quality horse hay. However, Timothy is not always available in my region, so we stick with Alfalfa for our horses.

Picture of a bale of bermudagrass hay.
Eight-dollar bales from a local farmer

How to Save Money When Buying Hay: Tips from horse owners

As a horse owner, you know that horses eat a lot of hay; it’s an essential part of their diet, and it’s expensive to feed. So it’s crucial to find ways to save money when buying it.

  • Find a Local Source of Hay
  • Buy in bulk
  • Buy hay in season
  • Store Your Hay Properly
  • Grow Your Own Hay

Buy hay from a local farmer

If you’re looking to save money on horse hay, one of the best things you can do is find a local source. Many farmers in your area may be selling hay at a lower price than what you would find at a feed store.

Another option is to purchase hay from someone who is growing it themselves. This can be a great way to get good-quality hay at a lower price. I found this to be the option that provides the best hay at the best price.

Small operations typically sell hay to individual buyers in any amount; I’ve actually purchased a few hundred hay bales in a field. I was offered this opportunity because the farmer needed his hay picked up and had difficulty finding labor to help him store it. He provided the hay for five dollars a bale in the field or eight dollars to have it loaded.

I agreed to pick up the hay bales, and it was a win-win situation. When choosing to buy hay from a farmer, look for one that’s been in business for a while. Farmers with established fields are more likely to have good quality hay at reasonable prices than those just starting.

If you can find such an operation, they may even offer delivery services, so there’s no need to drive anywhere! And if not, then maybe you can negotiate a discount for having to pick it up.

Picture of square bales of hay.
Bermudagrass hay bales

Buy hay in bulk.

Another way to save money on horse hay is to buy it in bulk. If you’re buying hay for a large number of horses, it’s better to buy in bulk than in smaller quantities because it will cost less per bale.

You can purchase hay bales from the hay exchange. The hay exchange is a forum for farmers to advertise their products. There is currently a listing for 3,000 bales of alfalfa for sale at $5.00 apiece; this is a considerable saving.

I suggest you click on their link to check current prices. The hay exchange site is easy to use and is organized by State. You can also buy horse hay in round bales at a cheaper price than square bales.

Most retailers offer discounts when purchasing large quantities; Tractor Supply provides 5% off when buying 20 or more bales.

Amazon sells small bales of hay, but it doesn’t seem practical or cost-effective to buy horse hay from them. You can click here to see what they have to offer.

Buy hay during the right season.

Hay is available all year round, but you get the best prices in the summer months. During the winter and early spring, hay is at its peak. However, many hay farmers may be sold out. I know that most people in the hay business in my area will have empty barns by April.

Note: when you buy hay in the summer, you must store it properly. You must store your hay correctly so it doesn’t get moldy and spoil. The best way to do this is by keeping the area where you keep your hay dry and cool with plenty of air circulation around all sides of the bales.

Grow your own hay.

Growing your pasture grasses takes time and labor, but it can be worth the effort to reduce feeding expenses over time. There’s nothing like knowing exactly what you’re feeding; there is an additional benefit of working your land.

Twice a year, I disc, fertilize, and seed my pastures. Since I don’t have the equipment to process grass into hay, I have an agreement with a neighbor. I provide the raw product, grass, and he cuts and bales it; we split whatever is produced 50/50.

Picture of a bale of grass hay.

Price of Horse Hay Bales by the Ton.

The average price for a ton of square bale hay is between $90-$300/per ton. When you purchase hay, you often pay by the bale or ton. Following are average prices if you are buying by weight:

Hay gradeBale typeAv. price/ tonMin. price/ tonMax. price/ ton
PrimeSmall square$237$192$288
 Large Square$218$160$285
 Large round$154$120$178
Grade 1Small square$178$160$224
 Large Square$197$120$295
Grade 2Small square$120$120$120
 Large round$118$80$170
Grade 3Large Square$153$100$210
 And large round$92$50$170

Apart from the different hay grades, it would vary even more if we included the price range according to type. For instance, alfalfa hay is much more expensive and denser than grass hay.

The weight of square hay bales varies.

Hay can be purchased by the bale or ton. When using weight to buy, it’s essential to have a general idea of how much a bale of hay weighs. Typically, a small bale of grass hay weighs between 50 and 70 pounds.

A large three-wire bale weighs between 100 and 125 pounds. Alfalfa hay bales weigh at least ten percent or more than grass hay bales. When I lift a bale of alfalfa hay, the difference in its weight compared to a bermudagrass bale is significantly more.

A bale’s weight varies by the type of hay and by the machine used to make the bale. Newer hay balers often compact bales tighter, and this results in heavier bales.

Picture of a round hay bale in a field.

Unraveling the Hay Bale Mystery: What Drives the Price?

If you’ve called around to find out the price of a bale of horse hay, I’m confident that the first question you were asked is, “what type of hay do you need a price for?”

The type and quality of hay affect its price.

Different types of hay are more or less expensive than others. A bale of Alfalfa is more expensive than a bale of Bermuda grass hay. Also, when hay is bought and sold in bulk, it’s graded, which makes a difference.

Hay bales are graded for quality and value.

You pay more for Grade 1 Bermuda hay than for Grade 3. There is no uniform standard for grading hay, but the goal is to provide a measure that reflects the hay quality.

To determine hay quality, sellers and buyers look at the color, freshness, moisture content, and nutrient content, emphasizing the percentage of protein and calories.

This process is conducted by taking random samples of the ends of hay bales from a specific lot of bales from the same fields. A lot of hay bales are typically twenty-five tons or more of hay.

The grade of hay is vital to ensure your horse gets the necessary vitamins, proteins, and essential minerals it needs. If you feed low-grade hay, you may need to supplement your horses’ diet with grain or a commercial mineral supplement.

Picture of a horse eating alfalfa hay.

The type of foliage used to make a bale of hay plays a significant role in its price.

The cost of a bale of hay is affected by the type of foliage used to make it. Hay bales are made from many different types of vegetation. But the most popular horse hay is made from bermudagrass, alfalfa, and Timothy.

Timothy and bermudagrass are classified as grass hay, and alfalfa is legume hay. Grass hays typically are ten percent protein, whereas alfalfa is twenty-eight percent protein.

We grow and use Alicia bermudagrass in our pasture, which falls under the umbrella of bermudagrasses. It is midgrade hay that serves us well. We also feed a small amount of alfalfa hay to our horses.

Alfalfa is legume hay, and it’s expensive. But many horse owners believe it’s worth its high cost because alfalfa provides high-quality nutrients, fats, and proteins. Many horse owners use alfalfa pellets and cubes instead of bales to prevent wastage.

Timothy hay is a popular grass hay that horses digest easily and is a good source of energy. As for its cost, it falls in between bermudagrass and alfalfa.

The Ins and Outs of Different Types of Hay: What You Need to Know

There are many different types of hay, each with its unique benefits. If you’re looking for the perfect type of hay for your horse, you need to know about the options available.

The most common types of legume hay are high in protein and are typically used to feed working horses. Alfalfa hay is the most popular type of legume hay.

Mixed hays are made up of both grasses and legumes. They provide a good balance of fiber and protein for horses who need it. The most common types of mixed hays are bermudagrass and Alfalfa. These hays typically have a higher price tag than grass-only hays.

Grass hays are made up of primarily grasses, with a small percentage of other plants. The most common types of grass hay are low in protein and used for pasture maintenance or to maintain weight.

It is vital to choose the right hay because it affects your horses’ health.  Here is a little information about each of the popular types of horse hay you can buy in bales.

  • Timothy hay: It is the most popular hay for horses. It’s best when harvested in the pre-or early bloom stage. Harvesting in these stages ensures high nutrient content. But it could be a bit expensive.
  • Bermudagrass hay: It is most commonly used in the southern United States. You can cut the same field 4-5 times a year. Bermudagrass comes in many varieties and is similar to Timothy in nutrient value.
  • Oat hay: It is another excellent feed for horses. But the price of this hay depends on the area where it grows. Sometimes, it has fewer proteins and more calcium and phosphorus.
  • Alfalfa hay: It is one of the best feeds for horses. It provides, on average, 21 percent protein compared to 10 percent in most grass hay. It is also full of calories and rich in calcium and other nutrients. Horses typically love alfalfa, and it provides more energy than other hay sources. Because of this, it takes less to feed horses when it comes to alfalfa.

The growing season affects the hay bale cost.

Many landowners in our region lease their property for hay cultivation. When the sun is shining, and the temperatures are favorable, tractors are in the fields cutting, fluffing, and baling hay until dark.

But when we have a lot of rain or cold weather, the pastures are vacant; no hay is harvested, and the price of hay skyrockets. You can pick up bales in the fields for a dollar or have them delivered for three dollars during good hay seasons.

When it’s a poor season, the price for the same bale is two or three times more expensive. Sometimes, it’s impossible to find locally, so horse owners order hay from out-of-state producers.

Shortly after a hurricane ruined most of the hay crop and damaged equipment, we joined others and ordered hay by the eighteen-wheeler loads. We met the driver in a grocery store parking lot and divided up the hay bales.

Picture of a 44 lb. bale of hay.
$22 Alfalfa bale from a feed store

What Types of Hay are the Most Expensive?

The most expensive type of hay is alfalfa. Alfalfa is significantly more than other types of hay. There are several reasons for this high price tag. First, alfalfa is high-quality hay that is rich in nutrients.

It’s also one of the most popular types of hay, so there is often a shortage on the market. Finally, alfalfa is grown everywhere, so shipping is expensive because it’s such a heavy commodity.

The next most expensive hay is Timothy hay. This type of hay is popular among horses and other grazing animals, but it doesn’t have as many health benefits as alfalfa does. Timothy hay typically costs less than Alalfa but is still relatively high.

The third most expensive type of hay is orchardgrass hay. This type of hay is also in demand and, therefore, can be expensive at times. It’s a bit less expensive than alfalfa and Timothy but still more costly than other types of grasshays like Alicia Bermuda, bermudagrass, and bromegrass.

Picture of bermudagrass hay next to alfalfa hay

How to Choose Hay for Your Horse.

When choosing hay for horses, check the quality, nutrient value, softness, and smell. If you don’t have the experience to know good hay from bad hay, ask for help.

Apart from a visual examination of the hay, ask the seller if they have a nutrient analysis. Some commercial sellers have this information readily available.

Horses need to eat about ten percent of their body weight in hay for their digestion to perform correctly. Here is the estimation that will help you while ordering.

  • If a horse weighs around 1,200 pounds, he should eat approximately 12 pounds of hay per day. So, one 60-pound hay bale would be enough for five days.

This amount of hay provides the proper amount of roughage for your horse but may not provide all the vitamins and minerals it needs. Remember, all grass is not the same.

Conclusion

Foliage is a necessary part of a horse’s diet. If horses don’t have grass available, you must provide hay for them to eat. For many horses, hay is their primary source of energy and nutrients.

Hay bale prices vary significantly by type and the quantity it’s sold. Most horse owners with a lot of horses should buy their hay bales in bulk and store them to use throughout the year.

However bulk buying hay may not be practical for every horse owner, especially if storage space is limited. But owning horses is expensive, so it’s crucial not to waste money overpaying for your hay.

Hay can be an expensive and tricky purchase for horse owners, which is why it’s essential to ensure that the type you buy provides your animals with all of their nutritional needs; not only does this help keep them healthy, but it also helps prevent illnesses that could lead down a much more costly path.

The following YouTube video provides some helpful tips when picking out just what kind of hay would work best for your horse.

YouTube video