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

Hay bales come in large square bales, small square bales, and round bales. 

The lightest weight is less than 45 pounds, and the biggest ones weigh over a ton!

So the weight of hay bales varies. Big time! Grass hay bales are lighter and leaner than other grasses. Alfalfa hay bales are heavier.

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?

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

And finally, maybe the most critical consideration of all, at least with small square bales you’re stacking by hand.

When are you picking the bale up? It’s sure a lot heavier at the end of a long July day than it was when you picked the first one up just before the sun popped over the eastern horizon early in the morning.

With these ideas in mind – let’s look at some of the vital things you need to know about how much hay bales weigh.

Shall we?

My Hay Weighing History

thick hay bales harvested and rolled
You never know how much the bale of hay weighs for sure until you see 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.

(Ouch!)

My dad had an International Harvester wire-tire baler when 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 tire balers!

You could set the tension on a wire tie baler so high it would pop shear pins like popcorn.

But they did make very hard, very heavy, easy-to-stack hay bales.

It’s easy to stack, not easy to lift.

A wire tie baler could crank out 110-pound square bales all morning until the dew dried on the field, and you had to shut down.

A wire tie baler could crank out 110-pound square bales all morning until the dew dried on the field, and you had to shut down.

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

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.

We’ll also brainstorm variables that help determine the weight of different hay bale types.

Ready?

Let’s begin!

Small Square Bales

In the modern era of polyester and sisal, small square bales can weigh from 45 pounds for light grass hay to 85-pound third-cutting alfalfa bales.

How much does a square bale of hay weigh is all in the tension setting!

The higher the pressure, the heavier the bale.

You’ll break down a lot, shattering shear pins on the flywheel and occasionally on the timing chain of your baler when you set the tension too high or hit a clump of wet hay.

Cowgirls like light grass small square hay bales. They’re easier to handle, simpler to measure out to their horses, and generally dryer than heavier packed bales.

Dry hay is excellent hay for horses. Mold and mildew cause problems with horses that don’t affect most cattle.

Light grass square bales don’t stack well with a bale wagon. 

What does a small square bale weigh that can be stacked mechanically? A good size is 70 to 80 pounds. They’re compact, tight, pick up without stress with the bale loader and pack tightly in stacks.

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07/07/2022 10:00 am GMT

Three Strings Hay Bales – But It Is No Guitar

The next size is the three-string bale. What does a three-string bale weigh? That depends on pressure once again, and whether it is grass or alfalfa.

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.

Round Bales

Many commercial operations use big round hay bales. The hay bales unroll behind a truck or tractor with a bale spear.

Round bales work best with grass hay or first-cutting alfalfa. How much does a round bale of hay weigh? Well, in the case of grass, they’ll tip the scales from 700 to 900 pounds.

Tension, grass density, and alfalfa or clover in the mix make a big difference in total weight.

Timothy or orchard grass makes premium grass hay in a large round bale and is considered by many the best possible grass you can feed livestock, particularly horses.

Big Squares

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.

3×3 Hay Bales

What does a 3×3 bale of hay weigh? A good mix of 40% grass and 60% alfalfa in a first cutting 3×3 will weigh just shy of 1,000 pounds. Straight, third-cutting hay can tip the scales at 1,100 pounds if packed correctly with perfect moisture content.

3×4 Hay Bales

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

What does a 3x4x8 hay bale weigh? We’ll discuss the weight in terms of alfalfa. First-cutting hay is prime cattle feed.

There is a lot of roughage in the stalks. But, loads of protein and nutrients are in the leaves of first-cutting hay.

A first-cutting 3x4x8 hay bale can weigh between 1,100 and 1,400 pounds.

What does a second-cutting alfalfa 3×4 bale of hay weigh? 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 to feed for cattle. It is a hot feed, meaning high-energy feed. Cattle can bloat on third-cutting forage hay and require bloat blocks along with special feeding precautions. (No fun!)

But – what does a third-cutting 3×4 bale weigh? These are the heaviest in this dimension by far, weighing around 1,500 pounds.

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

4×4 Hay Bales

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 on the market. Often referred to as one-ton bales, they don’t usually come in that heavy.

What does a 4x4x8 bale weigh? Weights vary greatly with moisture content, weed mix, and alfalfa concentration. A 4×4 first-cutting bale comes in around 1,650 pounds on average but can weigh up to 100 pounds more.

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 bales and the 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.

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07/07/2022 09:25 am GMT

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.

If you have questions, feedback, or tips about hay bale weight – please share them!

(What is the average weight of a bale of hay on your homestead? Please let us know!)

We love to hear your insights and spend all day thinking about this stuff.

Thanks again for reading – please have a great day!

Read More – Here’s How to Keep Your Chickens Warm During Winter Without Electricity!

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