How Much Does a Bale of Hay Weigh [Round vs Square Bales]

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Many factors determine how much a bale of hay weighs, including whether it’s square or round, the type of hay, whether it’s first or third cut, the moisture levels, and so much more. So, to determine the average weight of one of your hay bales, you’ll have to take a step back and look at the details.

With these ideas in mind, let’s look at some of the vital things you need to know about how much hay bales weigh. I’ll give you an overview of the average weight range for most standard hay bale sizes, tell you about specific weights depending on the material and size, and teach you a bit more about lifting and moving hay bales.

Shall we?

Hay Bale Weights: An Overview

Before we get into the details, here’s a bit of info on the average weights you can expect from the most common sizes of bales of hay:

Hay Bale Size and TypeAverage WeightAverage Weight of Light Grass (lightest)Average Weight of Third-Cut Alfalfa (heaviest)
Small Square Hay Bales45 to 85 lbs45 lbs85 lbs
Three-String Hay Bales100 to 145 lbs100 lbs145 lbs
Round Hay Bales700 to 900 lbs700 lbs1,900 lbs
3x3x8 Square Hay Bales900 to 1,100 lbs880 lbs1,100 lbs
3x4x8 Square Hay Bales1,100 to 1,500 lbs900 lbs1,500 lbs
4x4x8 Square Hay Bales1,320 to 1,800 lbs1,320 lbs2,000 lbs

The Factors That Affect How Heavy a Bale of Hay Is

moving hay bales
Hay bale weights will always vary, even from the same harvest and baler.

Hay bales come in all sizes and weights, so you might need to ask yourself some questions when determining how heavy your hay bale will be.

For example, on average, the lightest hay bales weigh less than 45 pounds, and the biggest weigh over a ton! The weight of hay bales varies. Big time!

Type of Hay

What’s inside the hay bale? Is it straw, grass, first-cutting, second-cutting, or third-cutting alfalfa?

Grass hay bales are lighter and leaner than other grasses. Alfalfa hay bales are usually at least 20% heavier than their straw and grass counterparts.

In addition, the cut of the hay bale will make a significant impact on how heavy it is.

First-cut alfalfa is usually lighter than third-cut, and second-cuts fall between those weight ranges.

The Bale Size

Also – there is no standard-size bale of hay. The size depends on a few factors. What type of hay bale is it? Is it a small square, three-string, round bale, a three-by-three, three-by-four, or one of the big boys, a four-by-four?

The Tension

The tension will determine how much hay has made it into that bale. Higher tension means more grass per square foot, while low tension means less hay per parcel.

However, you’ll be able to tell how much tension is in a hay bale by its weight.

The Moisture Levels in the Hay

And finally, maybe the most critical consideration of all, at least with small square bales you’re stacking by hand: what time is it?

Humidity and water significantly affect how heavy your hay will be.

Whether round or square, hay bales will be much heavier after accumulating moisture from the atmosphere. So, avoid moving your hay when it’s raining, foggy, or early morning when dew will appear on the bales. Instead, move your hay when it’s sunniest and dryest outside.

If you are committed to only moving hay when it’s at its lightest – like I am – you can always use a hay moisture meter to gauge the humidity in your bales.

Types of Hay Bales by Weight

dry hay bales resting in storage
Storing bales of hay outdoors results in uncertain loss of physical matter. In other words – your bales may lose weight after long-term storage. Variables like rain, snow, frost, humidity, ground cover, hay moisture, and spacing impact the total amount of hay bale loss.

Let’s analyze a wide variety of hay bale and packaging styles, starting with how much square and round hay bales weigh. We’ll also brainstorm variables that help determine the weight of different hay bale types.

Ready? Let’s begin!

How Much Do Small Square Bales Weigh?

Small square bales can weigh from 45 pounds for light grass hay to 85-pound third-cutting alfalfa bales. How much a square bale of hay weighs is all in the tension settings. The higher the pressure, the heavier the bale.

Because of their lighter weight, most equestrians like light grass and small square hay bales.

They’re easier to handle, simpler to measure out to their horses, and generally dryer than heavier packed bales. Mold and mildew cause problems with horses that don’t affect most cattle, so the dryer, the better for horses.

However, light grass square bales don’t stack well with a bale wagon. 

How Much Does a Three String Hay Bale Weigh?

The next size is the three-string bale. On average, a three-string hay bale weighs between 100 lbs and 145 lbs, with lighter grasses being the most lightweight and third-cutting alfalfa being the heaviest. The pressure in the bale also plays a role in its overall weight.

A standard first-cutting alfalfa three-string hay bale weighs about 125 pounds. Second-cutting with a few more leaves and a few fewer stems can weigh up to 135 pounds, and the heavily leafed third-cutting hay tips the scales around 145 pounds.

How Much Does a Round Bale of Hay Weigh?

Many commercial operations use big round hay bales. These bales unroll behind a truck or tractor with a bale spear and work best with grass hay or first-cutting alfalfa.

Most medium-sized round hay bales weigh between 700 and 900 lbs. However, large round hay bales over 5 feet tall can weigh around 1700 lbs. Tension, grass density, and alfalfa or clover in the mix significantly affect total weight.

Timothy or orchard grass makes premium grass hay in a large round bale and is considered by many the best grass you can feed livestock, particularly horses. These round hay bales usually weigh the most out of all the round bales.

How Much Do Big Squares Weigh?

massive hay bales from a farm in denmark
Here you can see gorgeous bay hales stacked fresh from a farm in Denmark. Different farmers worldwide process their hay in different heights and dimensions. That’s another reason it’s difficult to say whether a bale of hay weighs 100 pounds – or 1,000!

The big square hay bales come in three varieties; 3x3x8, 3x4x8, and 4x4x8. Those numbers are all in feet.

How Heavy Is a 3x3x8 Square Hay Bale?

A 3×3 square bale of hay weighs between 880 to 1,100 lbs on average. A good mix of 40% grass and 60% alfalfa in a first cutting 3×3 will weigh less than 1,000 pounds. Straight, third-cutting hay can tip the scales at 1,100 pounds if packed correctly with perfect moisture content.

How Much Do 3×4 Square Hay Bales Weigh?

The 3x4x8 bale has become a favorite for many reasons. It packs a lot of hay into one easily portable package and stacks easily with a utility tractor.

A 3x4x8 hay bale weighs between 1,100 and 1,500 lbs when it consists of alfalfa, but lighter grass bales of this size are usually around 900 lbs. A first-cutting 3x4x8 alfalfa bale can weigh between 1,100 and 1,400 pounds.

Second-cutting weighs a bit more since there are more leaves and lighter stems than the first. More leaves pack tighter creating a bale that weighs 1,150 to 1,450 pounds.

Third-cutting hay is dangerous for feeding cattle. It is a hot feed, meaning a high-energy meal. Cattle can bloat on third-cutting forage hay and require bloat blocks and special feeding precautions. (No fun!)

Read More – What’s the Best Hay for Goats? Read Our Hay Goat Guide!

How Much Do 4×4 Square Hay Bales Weigh?

hungry goats invading the hay bale storage
Your livestock love to eat alfalfa and hay bales by the ton. But there’s no way you can weigh these hay bales. It looks like the hungry goats already seized control before we got a chance!

The 4x4x8 bale of hay is the largest square bale on the market. Often referred to as one-ton bales, they don’t usually come in that heavy.

A 4x4x8 square hay bale weighs between 1,320 and 2,000 lbs. A 4×4 first-cutting bale comes in around 1,650 pounds on average. A second-cutting 4×4 is usually about 1,800 pounds and packs in nice tight blocks.

The heaviest bales you can purchase are third-cutting 4×4 bales. They can weigh a ton or slightly more. The high concentration of leaves, with fewer stems, packs a very tight bale.

The more compact the bale, the lighter the weight! (Although, the tightly-packed bales seem denser.)

The caveat with these big boys is the land sailing you sometimes do with a lighter tractor. Third-cutting bales can tip or roll a smaller tractor or lift the rear end off the ground if you don’t have tractor weights attached.

After the small and three-string bales, if you have a size two hat and a size 50 shirt, everything else depends on machinery to stack, move and feed.

Hay is the largest commodity for feeding livestock, but it can vary in size – especially in weight.

My Hay Weighing History

thick hay bales harvested and rolled
You never know how much the bale of hay weighs until you see it with your own eyes. Not even the farmer may know the correct weight – unless they throw the hay bale on a scale!

I’ve been around hay bales for a long time, and my back can attest to that experience.

My dad had an International Harvester wire-tire baler when I was in high school. He purchased a bale wagon when I headed off to college. A wise choice on his part! Those small square bales were heavy.

Wire tire balers are a rarity these days with the high cost of steel. Polyester twine and sisal have replaced wire balers.

You could set the tension on a wire tie baler so high it would pop shear pins like popcorn, but they made very hard, heavy, easy-to-stack hay bales. However, although they were easy to stack, they weren’t easy to lift!

From that, I’ve learned that hay bales packed with twine and sisal are easier to lift than wire-tied bales, even if they have a bit less hay per square foot.

Although you might want as much hay as you can get per square foot of your bale, getting a bale that’s a bit lighter has its perks. Stacking, tossing, and moving these bales is loads easier, so if you are concerned about moving your hay, try to pick a lighter option with less tension.

In addition, when purchasing hay, be sure you are buying it by the pound. Since so many variables determine how heavy your bale of hay will be, size isn’t the best determinant for price.

Read More – How Much Hay Do Cows Need During Cold Winters? This Much!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

As a veteran hay mover, baler, and enthusiast, I’ve heard a lot of questions about how much hay bales weigh in my day. So, I thought I’d give you the answers to some of the questions you might be wondering about:

How Many Square Bales Equals a Round Bale of Hay?

On average, a round bale of hay equals between 15 and 20 square bales. However, while round bales generally have more hay than small square bales, 4x4x8 square bales are usually heavier than one large round bale.

Is It Cheaper To Buy Round Bales or Square Bales?

It is usually cheaper to buy round bales than square bales. Buying your hay in bulk with a round bale offers a discount, but you’ll still have to transport that round bale, which might cost you extra.

Weighing Hay Bales – One Straw at a Time!

We know that weighing hay bales is a lot of work. It’s also tricky to know how much your hay bale will weigh without throwing it on a scale yourself.

So, knowing what weight to expect from your hay bales can help ensure you have the tools (and muscle) to stack and store them.

If you have questions, feedback, or tips about hay bale weight, please share them! We love hearing your insights and spend all day thinking about this stuff.

Thanks again for reading – please have a great day!

More Reading on Homesteading With Hay:

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