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Round Hay Bales: Uses, Costs, and Weight

Last updated: March 13, 2023

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

My friend, an expert equestrian, puts out round bales for his horses. I was taught not to let horses eat from round bales because they make horses sick. But with the price of hay skyrocketing, I decided it’s worthwhile to check them out.

In general, round hay bales are used to feed cattle in the winter when grass isn’t available. They’re cheaper than square hay bales, but because they typically weigh over 1,000 lbs, you need a tractor to move them around. Some round bales of hay are suitable for horses.

Round hay bales are a popular way to store hay. They come in different sizes and weights and can be used for various purposes. This article explores the different uses for round hay bales, how much they cost, and how much they weigh. I hope it provides you with all the information you need.

Harvesting hay

Hay is primarily used to supplement livestock’s diet when natural forage is unavailable. And around here, hay season is a big deal. Cattle ranchers planted their fields, and now they have to choose the optimal conditions to make hay.

Almost every farm animal eats hay, and it’s a staple in horses’ feeding programs. However, not all grass is suitable for horses; horse hay is typically cleaner and provides more nutrients than what’s fed to cattle and goats.

Hay harvesting is done with a hay baler, a machine towed behind a tractor. First, the grass is laid down with a hay cutter, then raked into rows with a fluffer to let the air dry it out. Once dry enough, a baler collects and packs the dry grass into bundles called bales.

There are several different types of hay bales. The most popular ones are small square bales and large round bales – and these have variations depending on what you’re looking for. But for today, I’m limiting the discussion to round hay bales.

Picture of round hay bales wrapped in a field.

Round Hay Bales-The Tractor Eggs  

We have all seen these round balls in white plastic strewn along fields. They have become part of our cultural landscape. There are deep insights about agriculture inside the round hay bales, layer by layer; they lie sandwiched between the grass and the plastic. The tractor egg has hatched a quiet revolution in agriculture without us noticing it.

Round hay bales have only been around since the 1970s. They are the essential diet of most ranch animals. From cattle to horses, goats to sheep, round hay bales are the most efficient way to preserve grass. Knowing what type of round hay bales to provide for your animals is the best way to keep them healthy and happy.

Round hay bales are grass pressed hard together in a cylindrical bale using a round baler. Usually, both the bale width (length of the cylinder) and diameter are about 1.25 meters. The bales are wrapped in plastic, usually, foil plastic which is applied in 6-8 layers so that the plastic gasket is airtight. It is essential to achieve proper fermentation.

This preservation method does not require any permanent facilities, and the entire harvesting work takes place mechanically with a cutter, fluffer, round baler, and packing machine. The balls are usually collected and stored outdoors. White plastic is preferred, as it reflects much of the radiation.

Picture of a round hay bale in a field.

What are round hay bales used for?

There are multiple reasons for using round hay bales. The collecting, hauling, and storage of square bales is expensive, and the labor to distribute the hay is even more costly. There is a lot of work in making and preserving hay. The potential benefits of using round hay bales are:

  • System simplicity
  • Easy to transport
  • Requires less labor than other storage systems
  • Optimal cost-benefit ratio
  • High nutritional value of forage
  • Ease of storage, transport, and handling
  • It does not require an expensive investment in structures

Why are round bales left in the field?

Hay is the grass that is preserved by drying. The drying takes place outside and/or in a high dryer. The forage must be so dry (minimum 85% TS) that microorganisms cannot grow even if it’s stored unpackaged.

There is a huge plus in leaving round hay bales in the field, and that is that farmers just need to remove the plastic from a bale, and it’s ready for the animals. The headaches involved in handling and transporting it to and from the barn are removed, making it cost-effective to leave the round hay bales in the field.

Cost of a Round Hay Bale?

Asking how much a round bale of hay costs is similar to asking how does a car costs? Every model is different, and the same goes for hay; some types of hay are much more expensive than others.

Currently, a round bale of bermudagrass hay costs $120-$160 per ton, and a small square bale of the same hay costs $320 per ton. If you buy a round bale of Alfalfa, expect to pay $300 or more per ton.

Factors that play a role in hay costs include demand, quality, type, and size of the bales. To get an accurate price on hay, you should check out the hay reports and markets; they typically keep the prices updated.

Weight of a Round Hay Bale?

Round bales of hay may fluctuate significantly in weight. Knowing the weight of a hay bale can be important since they are often sold on a dollar-per-ton basis. Knowing the weight can also help determine how much access to it your intended animals should have.

Bale weight varies depending on the type of hay, moisture content, the type and brand of baler used, how tightly the bale was packed, and the output of the baler. In general, a round hay bale weighs from 800 to 1,500 lbs. Round bales made with straw weigh considerably less, typically around 400 lbs.

Picture of a horse eating from a round hay bale.

Are round bales of hay good for horses?

For many people, the idea that horses should never be fed round hay bales is a widely held misconception. The truth may surprise you: properly stored and handled round bales are perfectly safe for your equine friend to eat.

Just remember a few things; first, put the round hay bale in a feeder to prevent waste and ruin. Horses will break up a round bale, and half of it will be trampled over and wasted. Choose high-quality hay, and place it in a location that doesn’t encourage mold.

Feeding round hay bales to horses: Cons

While there are some horse owners who prefer to feed their horses round hay bales, there are also several disadvantages to this type of hay. One of the main problems with round bales is that they can be difficult to handle, especially for smaller horse owners.

In addition, round bales often contain more dust and debris than square bales, which can trigger allergies in some horses. Also, because round bales are typically fed in an open pasture to multiple horses, it’s challenging to know how much each horse is eating.

Further, some horses are bullied and kept away from the hay. Finally, round bales are more prone to mold than square bales, leading to an increase in horse health problems such as colic. For these reasons, many horse owners choose to feed their animals in square hay bales instead of round ones.

Feeding round hay bales to horses: Pros

Round hay bales are a popular choice for horse owners as they offer a number of benefits. For example, round bales are more efficient to produce than square bales, and they can be stored for longer periods of time.

In addition, horses are less likely to waste round bales, as they can only eat from the outside of the bale. As a result, horse owners can save money on hay by switching to round bales.

Round bales are also easier to transport than square bales, as they can be easily moved around using a tractor with a hayfork. This is especially beneficial for horse owners who don’t have helpers. Overall, round hay bales offer a number of advantages for horse owners, making them a good choice for feeding horses.

How many square bales are in a round bale?

There’s no simple answer to the question of how many square bales are in a round bale, as it depends on the size of the round bale and the size of the square bales. However, we can give you a rough idea.

A standard horse-sized round bale roughly weighs between 1,100 and 1,200 pounds. A standard horse-sized square bale typically weighs between 50 and 60 pounds. This means that a round bale is equivalent to between 28 and 32 square bales. Of course, this is only a general estimate, so your best bet is to ask your local hay supplier for specific information.

Below is a helpful video that discusses using round hay bales to feed horses.

YouTube video

What to consider when choosing hay bales?

•             Possibilities of transport, storage, and handling.

•             Shape and size to optimize storage and transport space.

•             Hay density and bale moisture.

•             Regular weights and measures.

•             Straight and well-defined edges.

•             Well tied or, if necessary, well wrapped.