Skip to Content

How Much Does a Bale of Hay Weigh? Weight of Square & Round

Last updated: August 16, 2023

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

My friends and I went to the feed store because we heard there was a good deal on alfalfa hay bales. But it turned out that it was only the three-string bales on sale, and I wasn’t sure I could handle its weight. This led me to wonder how much hay bales weigh, not only square bales but also round ones.

Picture of the weight and dimensions of different types of hay bales.

A standard two-string square hay bale weighs between 40 and 75 pounds; a three-string square bale weighs over 100 pounds and some as much as 140 pounds; the average round hay bale weighs about 1,250 pounds, but their weight varies greatly from 563 to 1,584 pounds.

The weight of hay bales can be challenging to determine because many factors, such as its size, moisture level, and density, influence a single hay bale’s total weight. Weight matters when loading, unloading and storing your hay.

Type of HayThree String Bale WeightTwo String Bale WeightRound Bale Weight
Alfalfa110-140 pounds60 to 75 pounds5’x6′ dia 1,200 to 2,000 pounds
Grass Hay75-90 pounds40 to 55 pounds5’x6′ dia 1,270 to 1,700 lbs
Picture of a man carrying a square bale on hay on his shoulder.

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

Understanding Hay Bale Dimensions

When we talk about hay bales, it’s not a one-size-fits-all situation. In fact, the dimensions of a hay bale can vary significantly based on several factors. Let’s dive into what these dimensions typically entail and the main influences that determine them.

Definition of Hay Bale Dimensions Hay bale dimensions refers to the height, width, and length of the bale. These dimensions can tell us a lot about a bale’s volume, which is key when planning storage, transportation, and even determining how much you’re getting for what you pay. For example, a standard small square bale might measure around 14″ x 18″ x 36″, while a large round bale can span 5-6 feet in diameter!

Factors Affecting Bale Dimensions

  1. Equipment: The machinery used to bale the hay plays a pivotal role in the end result. Different balers are designed to produce bales of specific sizes. Whether it’s a small square baler or a large round baler, each has its specifications that influence the bale’s final dimensions.
  2. Hay Type: Believe it or not, the type of hay being baled can influence dimensions. Some hays are denser, like alfalfa, which might result in tighter, more compact bales. On the other hand, lighter hays like fescue or Bermuda might produce a slightly fluffier, larger bale for the same weight.
  3. Moisture Content: Here’s a crucial aspect – the moisture level of the hay when it’s baled. If hay is too wet, it can’t be compressed as much, leading to larger bales. But be careful! Baling hay that’s too wet can lead to mold growth, making it unsuitable for livestock. On the flip side, overly dry hay may not hold its shape well and can result in looser bales.

In essence, understanding hay bale dimensions isn’t just about numbers. It’s about appreciating the interplay of machinery, the type of hay, and its moisture content, all culminating in the final product we see on farms and fields. So, the next time you come across a bale of hay, you’ll have a deeper insight into what went into making it that size!

Picture of a tractor and hay baling machine.

Square Bales

Ah, the classic square bale! For many, this is the iconic image that pops into mind when someone mentions hay. But there’s more to these rectangles of dried grass than meets the eye. Square bales, also known as rectangular or small bales, have been a staple in agriculture for decades. They’re designed to be easily managed, transported, and stored.

Typical Uses and Benefits:

  • Feed: Square bales are often used as a primary food source for a variety of livestock, including horses, cattle, and sheep.
  • Mulching and Erosion Control: In gardening or construction sites, these bales can serve as effective mulch, helping to prevent soil erosion and retain moisture.
  • Ease of Handling: Their manageable size and shape make square bales preferable for small-scale farmers or those without heavy machinery. They can be moved manually, though it might require some muscle!
  • Storage: The uniform shape of square bales allows for easy stacking and efficient use of storage space.

Dimensions and Weight

Common Dimensions of Small Square Bales: Typically, a small square bale measures about 14″ x 18″ x 36″. However, these numbers can vary based on the baler used and other influencing factors.

Common Dimensions of Large Square Bales: These behemoths can measure up to 48″ x 48″ x 96″. They’re often used for commercial purposes and require machinery for handling due to their heft.

Average Weights and Variations: A standard small square bale might weigh between 40 to 60 pounds, while the large square bales can tip the scales at 1,000 to 2,000 pounds or even more. Remember, these are averages, and weights can vary depending on various factors.


Round Bales

The robust and cylindrical round bale often dots the landscape of large farms and expansive fields. Its shape and size might make it seem unwieldy, but there’s a reason for its popularity.

Round bales, distinguishable by their rolled appearance, became popular due to their suitability for mechanical handling. These bales are created using specialized machinery that rolls the hay, wrapping it tightly into a dense bundle.

Typical Uses and Benefits:

  • Feeding Large Livestock Herds: Due to their size, round bales are often utilized on larger farms to feed herds of cattle or horses, especially during winter when pastures may be barren.
  • Field Storage: A significant advantage of round bales is that they can be stored outside without much protection. Their round shape and the way they’re typically wrapped mean that only the outer layer might be exposed to moisture, protecting the inner hay.
  • Efficiency: For farmers with a lot of land, round balers can quickly process large volumes of hay, making the baling process more efficient.
  • Less Labor Intensive: Once baled, round bales can be moved, stacked, and transported using machinery, reducing the need for manual labor.

Dimensions and Weight

Common Dimensions of Small Round Bales: While “small” in the context of round bales might seem ironic, these bales typically measure around 4 feet in width by 5 feet in diameter.

Common Dimensions of Large Round Bales: These larger variants can be quite impressive, often measuring about 5 to 6 feet in width by 5.5 to 6 feet in diameter.

Average Weights and Variations: A small round bale might weigh anywhere from 500 to 800 pounds. In contrast, the larger ones can range from 1,100 to 2,200 pounds, sometimes even more. However, these figures can vary based on several factors.

Picture of a bale of bermudagrass hay.
40lb bale of bermudagrass

Factors Influencing Hay Bale Weight

Whether you’re a farmer producing hay, a livestock owner purchasing it, or someone with a keen interest in agriculture, understanding the nuances of hay bale weight is essential. The weight of a bale isn’t just determined by the amount of hay packed into it.

Several interconnected factors come into play, each contributing uniquely to the final weight of the bale. Let’s delve deeper into these aspects to gain a comprehensive understanding.

Moisture Content

Hay’s moisture content at baling time plays a crucial role in determining its weight. But it’s more than just about weight.

Effects on Weight

When hay is baled at a higher moisture level, it tends to weigh more due to the water content. While this might seem like a good thing (more weight = more hay, right?), it’s deceptive. You’re actually carrying more water, not hay.

Risks of Excessive Moisture

Baling hay that’s too wet can also lead to mold growth within the bale, rendering it potentially harmful for livestock consumption. Moldy hay loses its nutritional value and can be a health risk for animals.

Picture of a 44 lb. bale of hay.
60lb bale of Alfalfa hay.

Bale Tightness or Compression

The machinery settings that determine how tightly hay is packed into a bale can directly influence the bale’s final weight.

Direct Relation to Weight

A bale that’s more compressed will, logically, contain more hay, making it heavier. It’s a bit like comparing a loosely packed suitcase to one that’s been filled to the brim and zipped shut with effort.

Effects on Storage and Transportation

Tighter compression means the bale retains its shape better, making storage and transportation easier. However, too much compression might make the bale challenging to break apart when it’s time to feed livestock.

Hay Variety

The type of hay being baled also plays a significant role in determining the bale’s final weight.

Different Densities

Some hays, like alfalfa, have a natural density and moisture content that can result in a heavier bale compared to other grasses like Timothy or Bermuda.

Nutritional Value and Weight

It’s essential to understand that a heavier bale doesn’t necessarily mean it’s more nutritious. Different hays have varying nutritional profiles. For example, while alfalfa might be denser and heavier, grasses like Timothy could offer different nutritional benefits even if they weigh less.

While the weight of a hay bale provides insight into its content and value, it’s crucial to understand the underlying factors that influence this weight. This knowledge ensures that both producers and consumers make informed decisions when dealing with hay.

Comparative Analysis: Square vs. Round Bales

When it comes to hay bales, both square and round, have their unique places in the agricultural world. They each bring a set of advantages and disadvantages to the table, especially when considering weight, dimensions, transportation, storage, and feeding efficiency. Let’s break down the two to see how they stack up against each other.

Advantages and Disadvantages in Terms of Weight and Dimensions

Square Bales:

  • Advantages:
    • Consistent Weight and Size: Square bales, especially small ones, tend to have more uniform dimensions, making it easier to estimate weight and nutritional content.
    • Easy Manual Handling: The manageable weight of small square bales means they can often be moved without machinery.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Limited Size Options: Generally, square bales are limited to small and large dimensions without much variation in between.
    • Weight Limitation: Given their shape and design, there’s a limit to how much hay can be packed into a square bale before it becomes too unwieldy.

Round Bales:

  • Advantages:
    • High Weight Capacity: Round bales can hold a significant amount of hay, making them more suitable for large-scale farming.
    • Flexible Dimensions: There’s a broader range of sizes available with round bales, from smaller rolls to the massive cylinders seen in commercial farming.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Weight Variability: Due to the rolling method and varying compression settings, round bales can have more weight variability.
    • Less Suitable for Manual Handling: Even smaller round bales can be challenging to move without equipment due to their shape and weight.

Considerations for Transportation and Storage

Square Bales:

  • Transportation: Given their uniform shape, square bales can be easily stacked on trucks or trailers, maximizing space.
  • Storage: Square bales stack neatly in barns or storage sheds, allowing for efficient use of space. However, they are more susceptible to moisture damage if stored outside without protection.

Round Bales:

  • Transportation: These bales often require specialized equipment or trailers for transport due to their size and weight.
  • Storage: One advantage of round bales is their suitability for outdoor storage. The rounded exterior means only the outermost layer is exposed to moisture, protecting the inner hay.
Picture of a round hay bale in a field.

Efficiency in Feeding or Usage Based on Weight

Square Bales:

  • Feeding Efficiency: Small square bales can be easily portioned out for individual animals or small groups. This is especially handy for horse owners or smaller herds.
  • Usage: Given their consistency in weight, it’s simpler to calculate dietary needs based on the number of bales.

Round Bales:

  • Feeding Efficiency: Round bales are best suited for free-feeding larger herds. Placed in a feeder or on the ground, livestock can feed directly from the bale.
  • Usage: Due to potential weight variability, it might be harder to gauge the exact amount of hay being provided when using round bales. However, their larger size can reduce the frequency of feeding tasks.

Both square and round bales have their merits, and the best choice often depends on the specific needs of the user. Whether it’s the consistent, manageable nature of square bales or the robust, large-scale utility of round ones, each has a vital role in the agricultural landscape.

Why use square hay bales for horses?

I’ve always used square bales for my horses, and these are some of the reasons I find them advantageous:

  1. Square bales are more efficient in terms of space used for storage;
  2. Square bales are easier to handle without equipment;
  3. It’s easier to monitor your horses’ hay using square bales;
  4. Square bales are fresher;
  5. Square bales are less likely to mold than round bales;

Why use round hay bales for horses?

I don’t use round bales for my horses, but these are some of the reasons horse owners prefer using round bales to feed their horses’ hay:

  1. If you have the equipment, round bales are easy to move around a pasture;
  2. You get a better price per ton on round bales than square bales;
  3. Round bales are an easy way to free-feed hay to horses;

Practical Implications

In the world of agriculture, the nuances of hay baling go beyond just storing fodder for livestock. The size, shape, and especially weight of hay bales can have significant implications for farmers, sellers, and even consumers. Let’s delve into the practical aspects surrounding hay bale weights.

Importance of Accurate Weight Measurements for Farmers and Sellers

  • Pricing and Profitability: For sellers, the weight determines the price. Underestimating the weight can result in significant losses, while overestimating might lead to disputes or dissatisfied customers.
  • Nutritional Consistency: Livestock dietary needs are calculated based on hay weight. Inaccuracies can lead to overfeeding or underfeeding, impacting animal health and growth.
  • Transportation Costs: Shipping or transporting hay is often priced by weight. Knowing the exact weight can help in budgeting and ensuring profitability in the logistics aspect.
  • Reputation and Trustworthiness: Consistency in weight and quality ensures trust between sellers and buyers, fostering long-term business relationships.
Picture of a bale of hay
44lb hay bale

Tips for Maintaining Consistent Bale Weights

  • Regular Calibration: Ensure that baling equipment is regularly calibrated. This ensures consistency in compression and, consequently, weight.
  • Monitor Moisture Content: Invest in a good moisture meter. Baling hay at the right moisture content not only ensures consistent weight but also enhances hay quality.
  • Standardize Processes: Develop a standardized process for baling, from cutting to storage. This minimizes variations in bale weight due to external factors.
  • Continuous Learning: Stay updated with best practices and new technologies in hay baling. The more informed you are, the better equipped you’ll be to maintain consistency.

Safety Considerations Related to Handling Different Bale Sizes and Weights

  • Proper Lifting Techniques: Especially for square bales, it’s crucial to employ proper lifting techniques to avoid back and muscle injuries. Bend at the knees, keep the back straight, and lift with your legs.
  • Use of Equipment: For heavier bales, especially large round ones, always use appropriate machinery like tractors with bale spikes or loaders. Never attempt to move them manually.
  • Stability during Transport: Ensure bales are securely fastened during transportation. A shifting bale can cause accidents or damage to the transporting vehicle.
  • Safe Storage: Store bales in a manner that prevents them from rolling or falling. This is particularly vital for round bales, which can cause serious injuries if they roll onto someone.
  • Wear Protective Gear: When handling hay, use gloves to protect against cuts, and wear steel-toed boots to protect your feet from accidental drops.

Understanding the practical implications surrounding hay bale weight is essential for anyone in the hay production or selling business. Ensuring accuracy, maintaining consistency, and emphasizing safety can lead to better profitability, smoother operations, and enhanced trust in the market.


Hay baling is a nuanced process with implications far beyond just storing fodder. The choice between square and round bales isn’t merely aesthetic but is rooted in practicality, efficiency, and need.

To recap, square bales, often smaller and more manageable, provide consistent weight and size, making them suitable for manual handling and precise feeding requirements. They’re perfect for small-scale farmers or individual livestock owners who need to portion out feed systematically.

On the other hand, round bales, with their potential for greater weight and variable dimensions, serve large-scale farming operations well. They’re ideal for free-feeding bigger herds and are built for outdoor storage, with their design helping shield most of the hay from the elements.

Each bale type has its unique advantages and challenges, influenced by factors such as moisture content, compression, and the variety of hay. Beyond these factors, practical considerations like transportation, storage, safety, and the very profitability of hay-selling hinge on understanding bale weights and their implications.

As you navigate the world of hay baling, be it as a farmer, seller, or consumer, let your needs guide your choice. Whether you prioritize easy handling, feeding precision, storage efficiency, or bulk feeding, there’s a bale out there that’s just right for you. Embrace the knowledge, make informed decisions, and choose the bale that fits not just your farm but also your vision.

Below is a YouTube video of a bale of hay being weighed.

YouTube video


How many square bales of hay equals a round bale?

The amount of square bales that equals a round bale depends on the size of each. Approximately 30 small square bales of hay equal one large 5’x6′ diameter round bale.

How long does a square bale of hay last one horse?

A square bale of hay should last an average horse four days. .012 (percent of body weight) X 1,000 pounds (horse weight)=12 pounds (daily hay ration). Most square bales weigh 40 lbs. However, if you’re trying to put weight on a horse, you may want to feed more.