While farmers and ranchers know all there is to know about hay and hay bales, not everyone is so informed. In fact, one of the most common questions people want to know as they drive through the country is why some hay bales are round and others square.
Hay can be baled in many different shapes and sizes. The shape of the hay bales comes down to the baling equipment that is used. Older balers produced square or rectangular bales while newer balers usually produce round bales of hay.
Balers that produce the large round bales you see dotting the countryside are the most common type of balers available today. These balers produce what are referred to as ton bales. These bales of hay can weigh up to 1,500 pounds. This is compared to the square or rectangular bales of hay that are much smaller, weighing in at about 50 pounds.
There are many factors that go into making a decision about which type of baler best fits a particular agricultural operation. Small square or rectangular bales of hay can take a long to produce. Hay for such bales must be dried for long periods of time between the time they are cut and the time they are baled. These types of bales also take a great deal of time to stack, transport and store.
Large round bales require less time to dry between cutting and baling. This is because they are packed more densely and their shape makes them more moisture resistant. Large bales also can be transported and stored by a single person and a tractor, so less manpower is required.
The type and number of animals being fed by hay bales is also an important consideration. Larger farming and ranching operations will require significantly greater amounts of hay. Large bales are best for these operations since they are the most economical. Large bales also last longer than smaller bales because they ferment naturally. This helps to prevent mold and keep the hay from rotting.
Likewise, smaller operations do better with small bales as they are easier to transport and store, especially when space is a consideration. While small bales are more expensive, they are also less likely to go to waste on a small farm or ranch.