Millions of tons of hay are grown around the world each year. Not just equines, hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, and other cattle such as cows, sheep, and goats also feed on it. That’s a lot of hay we need to grow to fulfill the requirements of our four-legged friends.

If you are a hay producer, you must have wondered how much hay you can grow per acre. Or, simply, a common question, ‘how many round bales per acre?’ must have popped into your mind.

Well, if you are wondering how many bales of hay per acre can be produced, continue reading as we are going to discuss all about hay production per acre in this article.

Did You Know?

In 2021, 120 million tons of hay were produced in the United States alone.

How Many Round Bales per Acre Can Be Produced?

There is no definite answer to this question, as the number of round bales per acre depends on several factors. However, in general, an acre of land can produce about eight to 10 round bales of hay, considering that the average production of hay in one-acre amounts to two tons. Since a ton of hay can give us four to five bales (40 to 45 pounds each), two tons can raise the tally up to 10.

Nevertheless, it is just a rough estimation because, as already discussed, certain controllable and uncontrollable factors determine the exact outcome.

To learn about the production of hay per acre in a bit more detail, check out our following video.

Factors Influencing Number of Round Bales per Acre

Generally, five main factors determine how many round bales per acre can be produced.

They are:

1. Size and Weight of Bale

It is the foremost factor determining the number of bales per acre. Since round bales can vary in weight and resultantly in size, from 40 to a thousand pounds, the number of hay bales decreases as their weight increases. The quantity of the hay remains the same but only gets divided into a few large or several smaller bales.

2. Type of Hay

The type of hay grown in a piece of land plays the most decisive role in determining how many round bales of hay per acre can you produce because some forages guarantee greater yield while others do not. For example, have a look at the difference in the per acre yield of different types of hay arranged in ascending order:

Type of HayBales per Acre
Orchard GrassOne to Three
Fescue HayTwo to Four
Triticale HayTwo to Four
BermudagrassThree to Four
Timothy HayFive to Six
AlfalfaUp to Six

However, note that the above figures are general and may vary due to several other subfactors. Also, it is in your horse’s best interest to always have the best quality hay, i.e., the most nutritious one. Therefore, when deciding on which type of hay you should grow, the nutritional value must be the first priority, not the yield.

3. Soil Fertilization

Fertilization of soil makes a huge difference in the number of round bales of hay per acre. Since fertilizers are rich in nutrients required for hay’s proper growth, soils with nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium always witness better growth on them.

However, note that testing the soil of your land beforehand is very important to get the proper assessment of nutrient quantities already present. If you add more fertilizers than required, it might affect productivity and not for the better.

Therefore, manage the fertilizer input by crop rotation and following regular fertilization programs. To get the optimum hay yield per acre, you have to find the best fertilizer for pasture and determine how much fertilizer per acre of hay is ideal.

Farming Tip!

You should fertilize your hayfield with phosphorus up to four times the rate of its removal by hay. Otherwise, you will get 40 to 60 percent less yield than the actual potential of your land.

4. Weather Conditions

Bad weather conditions in seemingly favorable seasons can significantly reduce the number of hay bales per acre. For instance, unexpected rains and hailstorms can jeopardize the growth of hay on a piece of land. Not just this, even the stored bales of hay are not spared by harsh weather conditions: if not kept properly, hay bales already made may also go to waste.

5. Geographical Location

Geography determines several factors that can either increase or decrease the number of hay bales per acre. Take, for instance, the length of growing seasons. If the length of a growing season is short, fewer cuttings will take place, while on the other hand, if the season is long, cuttings will take place in a comparatively larger number. For example, in the southern territories of the United States, one can expect up to five cuttings per season, while in the northern parts, the number of cuttings usually does not go beyond two.

Other than that, temperatures, sunlight, and humidity also play an important role.

6. Pest Management

Pests like armyworms destroy plant leaves and rob hay fields of both the quality and the yield. Similarly, unattended weed growth steals water and nutrients from the soil and hamper plant growth, affecting the yield. Therefore, it is imperative that you effectively manage pests and prevent weed growth in your hay fields for optimum yield.

How Many Square Bales of Hay per Acre?

How many round bales per acre

Since there is no difference between the weights of bales regardless of their shape, we can safely reach the conclusion that whether the bale is square or round, an acre of land can produce around eight to 10 bales of hay. The difference in shape is only because different machines are used in the bailing process. Also, there is no difference in the nutrition values.

Buying vs. Growing Hay: Which Is Cheaper?

Buying hay is considered a little cheaper than growing as it allows you to put your time and equipment to better use—on more profitable farming operations. The time spent on growing, baling, and storing hay can also be saved if the hay is bought instead of produced on one’s own farm. But before you make this decision, you need to assess a few factors carefully as both buying and growing hay have advantages and disadvantages. For instance, when buying hay you will be dependent on the market for your hay stock for winter. Similarly, you will also not be able to control the quality of the hay.

How Many Hay Bales Does a Horse Need?

As per the rule of thumb, a horse needs about 1.5 to two percent hay of its weight. Taking the average weight of horses to be a thousand pounds, the daily requirement of hay comes out to be 15 to 20 pounds, equivalent to about half a bale (considering one bale has 40 pounds of weight).

However, based on this rule, large horse breeds such as the Shire, whose weight can go up to a whopping 2,400 pounds, may need a full bale of hay (40 pounds) every day.

Final Words: How Many Round Bales of Hay per Acre Can You Produce?

While it is hard to guess how many round bales of hay per acre can be produced as many factors are involved, it is safe to say that you will get around eight to 10 round bales of hay per acre. Factors in determining the bales of hay per acre production include bale size, type of hay, soil fertilization, weather conditions, geographical location, etc.

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