Understanding Round and Square Bale Hay for Horses, Part 1

In this two-part series, we’ll explore the two bale types and how to best utilize each. Here we’ll look at round bales.
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Understanding Round and Square Bale Hay for Horses, Part 1
Reduce feeding losses by using any number of hay feeders, including rings or nets to keep animals from trampling the hay. | Photo: Photos.com
Hay for horses comes in many forms, but the two most common are round bales and small square bales. Both have significant advantages as well as challenges and can be a source of quality forage for horses when managed correctly. In this two-part series, we will explore round and square bales and how to best utilize each. This month’s article will focus on round bales.

Before purchasing or putting up hay, remember that forage quality does not depend on size or shape. High-quality (or low-quality) hay can be packaged in round or square, large or small bales. Forage quality is at its peak when harvested at the correct stage of maturity. The extent of quality loss is related primarily to timing, management, and weather conditions. Once baled and stored properly, forage quality losses are minimal over a long period of time. Improper feeding of hay can also lead to quality and quantity losses.

Process: Baling hay can be an expensive endeavor. Those costs (plus shipping and taxes) are typically included in the price of the hay. Making round bales requires fewer passes over the field and less time, fuel, and twine compared to making square bales. Hence, round bales are often more economical.

Hay baled at higher moisture levels is more likely to heat, causing forage quality losses and potentially even fire. Before storing round bales inside, allow them to go through a “sweat,” allowing the inside bale temperature to return to ambient temperature. See the University of Kentucky article “Hay Fire Prevention and Control” for more information on this topic

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