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How Much Does a Bale of Hay Cost for Horses? 5 Price Factors

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I have a pasture that’s used for making square bales of hay for horses. I’m not involved with the haymaking operation; another person does that, and after all the grass is baled, we split it evenly. Because I’ve been getting my hay this way, I began to wonder how much a bale of hay costs?

A bale of hay costs roughly eight dollars, but many factors affect the price. Demand, climate, location, time of the year, and type of hay all play roles in the price of a bale of hay. For example, a bale of alfalfa is much more expensive than standard grass hay bales.

Many horse owners complain about the costs and price fluctuations of square bales of hay they buy for their horses. But many factors affect the price of hay bales, and some are not obvious.

How much does a bale of hay cost?

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

picture of a stack of hay bales, bales of hay,

I contacted Core Feed in Folsom, Louisiana, to get prices on the hay we use, alfalfa, and bermudagrass. They are currently selling two-wire bales of alfalfa for S19.95 apiece and bermudagrass for $8.75.

I checked prices at Tractor Supply. 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.

There are two ways you can get better prices on hay bales, buy in bulk or buy direct from farmers. Most retailers offer discounts when purchasing large quantities; Tractor Supply provides 5% off when buying 20 or more bales.

You can also 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.

To get the best prices for hay, you need to buy direct from the farmers. Small operations typically sell hay to individual buyers in any amount; I’ve actually purchased a few hundred hay bales in a field.

picture of square bales in a field, bales of hay,

I was offered this opportunity because the farmer needed his hay picked up and had difficulty finding labor. I agreed to pick up the hay bales, and he discounted the price; it was a win-win situation.

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.

Hay bales by the ton.

The average price for a ton of square bale hay is between $90-$300/ton. When you are purchase hay, you often pay by the bale or ton. Following are averages 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 types. For instance, alfalfa hay is much more expensive and is denser than grass hay.

The weight of square hay bales vary.

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 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.

What factors determine the price of a bale of hay?

If you’ve called around to find out the price of a bale of 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, and that too makes a difference.

bale of hay, picture of hay bales,

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 is typically twenty-five tons or more of hay.

The grade of hay is vital to ensure your horse is getting 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.

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, where 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.

Timothy hay is 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.

picture of square bales of hay, bale of hay,

Different hay provides different benefits.

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 feed for the horses. It’s best when harvested in the pre-or early bloom stage. By harvesting in these stages, it ensures high nutrient content. But it could be a bit expensive.
  • Bermudagrass hay: It most commonly uses 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 the 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 ten percent in most grass has. 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 price of a bale of hay.

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.

How to choose hay for your horse.

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

picture of horses eating hay, bale of hay,

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.

But 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.

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