PHOTO: J. Keeler Johnson
October 18, 2016

There aren’t many things more satisfying than having a farm that is as self-sufficient as possible, and when it comes to feeding your livestock, making your own hay is a great idea. The two most common types of hay bales are small square bales and large round bales. There are other types as well—such as large square bales and small round bales—but they aren’t as common. Because each type of bale is made with a different kind of hay baler, choosing which type will be most ideal for you is an important step—you don’t want to buy the wrong equipment and discover too late that you’d prefer to be making a different type of bale.

Small Square Bales

Small squares bales are very common because they’re simple produce and easy to handle—they typically measure about 3 feet long by 1½ feet wide and are a bit more than a foot tall. They’re a great choice for a small farm without a lot of hay to bale.

Pros

  • Small square bales are lightweight compared to their larger counterparts, weighing approximately 40 to 60 pounds. This makes it easy for a single person to move them around, stack them or carry them to hungry livestock. It’s not hard to carry a small square bale through an ordinary door or down a flight of stairs, something that can’t be done with larger bales.
  • Thanks to their small size, you’ll be able to produce a large number of small square bales using the same amount of hay that produces only a few large square bales or round bales, making it easier to move just the right amount of hay from place to place.
  • Small square bales can be neatly stacked to fit a lot of hay into a small shed or barn.
  • With small square bales, very little hay goes to waste—it’s easy to distribute it carefully and make sure that all is eaten, rather than trampled or used as bedding.

Cons

  • Even though having lots of small bales can be a pro, it can also be counted as a con—depending on the size of your haying operation, you might have hundreds or thousands of bales to handle and stack, which requires a lot of effort and time.
  • You’ll likely need a large team of people to get the job done because there will be many bales to work with.
  • Because of their size, rain can spoil the finished bales, meaning that they need to be moved to a protective storage place as soon as possible after being baled.

Round Bales

Round balers, as their name implies, produce enormous round hay bales that can weigh hundreds or even thousands pounds and upward.

Pros

  • Thanks to their large size, you can fit lots of hay from large fields into relatively few round bales, which is a convenience if time and manpower are limited and you’re unable to handle hundreds of small square bales.
  • While they are still susceptible to spoiling in the rain, the large size of round bales means that less hay will be affected if a rainstorm hits before they are transported under cover. Some farmers even leave the bales in the fields after baling, often with covers to try to give them a little protection.
  • Because each bale contains a lot of hay, many livestock owners often place a round bale in a pasture and let their livestock feed themselves for days at a time.

Cons

  • As mentioned above, round bales are very, very heavy, and require machinery to move them around.
  • Because of their shape, round bales can’t be stacked like small or large square bales and can take up more space as a result.
  • For hobby farmers with only a few animals, feeding with round bales can be more unwieldy than feeding small square bales.
  • With round bales, significantly more hay can be wasted than with small square bales; the percentage varies depending on feeding methods, but as much as half of a round bale can be wasted through trampling and soiling by livestock.

Baling hay of any type requires plenty of machines and a lot of time and effort, but with some advance planning, you’ll be well on your way to feeding your livestock with hay from your fields.


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