Hay Bale Basics
HAY! What is it?
Anyone that has grazing animals on their farm knows how important hay is. A Hay Bale can come in different varieties, shapes and sizes. On our farm we need to know about hay because we feed it to our animals, but we also grow it. Knowing about your hay is important, you need to know what you’re getting and if its right for your animal.
Types / Varieties of a Hay Bale
There are a few different varieties of hay that you can buy for your livestock. The more common being grass or legume (alfalfa) hay varieties, with grain hay being the least common type.
GRASS HAY such as Timothy, Bermuda and Orchard Grass have a high fiber content with a low amount of protein and calcium. This makes it easier for most animals to digest. Timothy hay is one of the most well know hay varieties and can be found almost anywhere.
LEGUME HAY is still high in fiber but unlike grass hay it is more nutrient rich. It has more protein and calcium than the other types of hay. The high nutrients found in legume hay can cause problems with certain species of animals. Alfalfa is the most well know legume hay, it can be found anywhere in the United States.
GRAIN HAY is more commonly called oat hay. Oat Hay is cut while the grass is still young, and the heads have not opened yet. This type of hay has to be cut at the right time, or you will find yourself with straw rather than an edible hay.
Hay Bale Shapes & Sizes
There are different shapes and sizes that you can choose from when buying your hay. In recent years round bales have become the economical choice for most. If you don’t have a way to move or store large bales small square bales might be right for you.
ROUND BALES are large cylinder-shaped bales of hay that are measured by the width x diameter of the bale, a 4 x 5 round bale is 4 ft. wide x 5 ft diameter. These bales are considered the economical choice for larger farms with the right equipment and number of animals.
SQUARE BALES are the smaller old-fashioned version of hay bales ( That are actually rectangles). The production process is longer, it requires more labor and the cost is higher. For small farms that don’t have a tractor, space and a lot of animals, the smaller bales are worth the cost. Smaller bales are easier to transport, store and will be less likely to go to waste.
Which Type Do You Need?
Different types of livestock require different varieties of hay based on the nutritional value. While one type of hay might be good for one animal, it could harm another. Knowing your livestock and what they require is the first thing to consider. If you dream of cows, horses, goats or any other type of grazing livestock, buying hay is in your future.
When you are ready to buy your first load of hay, know what size and type of hay are right for you and your situation. No money or hay wasted!