How Long Does A Round Hay Bale Last?

Importing hay is all about logistics. From the moment you harvest the hay to baling it and shipping it out to customers, you have to think about precisely how long the hay will be fresh and thus saleable for. How long does a round hay bale last?

A round hay bale is good for five to six days out in the paddock. By covering the bale with a hay net, you could increase the longevity of the round for bale eight to 10 days.

If you have yet more questions about how far a round bale of hay can take your hay importation business, this is the article for you. Ahead, we’ll discuss topics such as how much hay is required to feed two horses and how to increase the longevity of round hay bales. You won’t want to miss it!

How Long Is A Round Bale of Hay Good For?

Hay Bales stacked in the paddock

Hay bales stacked in the paddock

Hay is dried herbaceous plants such as legumes or grass. As such, its lifespan is anything but infinite.

From the moment hay is harvested, it begins going bad. The average lifespan of a round bale of hay is five to six days, which isn’t very long.

Should you choose to cover the hay bale with a hay net that includes1.75-inch holes, then you can extend the life of the hay. Now you’d get between eight and 10 days from one rounded bale, which is a lot more time to work with.

As we indicated in the intro, hay importers like yourself must be aware of how long a round bale of hay will last so you can expedite the shipping process. After all, if the hay arrives to your customer too late, then they’ll have paid for a bad product.

The customer might want a refund, which hurts the bottom line of your company. They’ll almost certainly leave a bad review, which can prevent other potential customers from wanting to do business with you.

Besides using a hay net, you do have other options for extending how long a round bale of hay lasts. We’ll talk about those more later, so be sure to check that out.

How Long Will a Round Bale of Hay Last Two Horses?

Let’s say the hay arrives to the customer in perfectly good condition. The customer wants to feed a round bale of hay to some horses on their farm. If the customer has two horses, how long will a round bale of hay feed the equestrian animals?

A single round bale of hay will last 2 horses approximately 2 weeks if they had little other food available.

Well, we should preface this by saying that the duration of hay between two horses depends on several factors. If the horses have other feed available, then they might not munch on the round hay bale quite as voraciously.

The size of the horses and their age also play a role. If the horses are young, then they could have ravenous appetites. Older horses might eat less.

The health of the horses is also important. If the horses are ill or injured, then they might not eat at a normal rate compared to healthier horses.

Check out how much do hay bales weigh.

How Many Horses Will a Round Bale Feed?

You had a potential customer send you an email about your round hay bales. The potential customer has more than two horses. They’re interested in buying a rounded bale, but they’re curious how many horses can eat one bale.

What should you tell them?

A round hay bale that’s fed over seven or 10 days should be enough for four to seven horses.

How Can You Tell If a Bale of Hay Is Bad?

Due to the reasons we talked about in the first section, you cannot risk shipping out rotten or rotting hay to your customers. How can you be sure that the hay in your possession has gone bad?

Here are some indicators.

Mouldy Look and/or Smell

Mould on Hay bales

Most people have smelled mold and/or mildew before. You know what the smell is like quite well, as it’s not something you can easily forget. If that smell begins to permeate the hay you planned on shipping out, it’s a good idea to inspect the bale for mold or mildew.

Mould and mildew are often dark colours such as black or grey, but not exclusively. White is another popular colour for mildew (as well as mould), and mould comes in every colour you can imagine, from pink to purple, blue, green, orange, red, and yellow.


Mould can lead to excessive heat build up and cause hay bales to burn. Check out our full article explaining how hay fires start and how to prevent them.

Even if you don’t see mould on your round hay bale, if you smell it, then it’s a good idea to cancel the order and refund the customer. The smell is there for a reason. The mould or mildew could be deep within the bale where it’s not visible to you.

Once the customer receives the hay and cuts it open to feed their horses or other livestock, the mould and/or mildew will be there as plain as day.

Very Dusty

Hay can contain some dust, but the less, the better. Dust can sometimes masquerade as mildew, so again, if you smell something strange and you see dust on the round hay bale, it’s not a good idea to ship it out.

Very dusty hay even without any smell of mold or mildew can still be indicative of a bale that’s going bad. If a horse or livestock animal eats the dusty hay, it could end up with respiratory side effects.

Lacks Colour

Hay isn’t overly colourful, as good hay shouldn’t have too much green in it. When the hay lacks any colour at all and appears as though it’s been bleached, you certainly want to pay attention to it. The hay may be going bad.

Tips for Prolonging the Life of Round Hay Bales

As we said we would, we want to wrap up by discussing how to increase the longevity of your round hay bales.

Use A Hay Net

As we said we would, we want to wrap up by discussing how to increase the longevity of your round hay bales.

Bale Hay Tightly

How tightly do you bale your hay when you make rounded bales? If the answer isn’t very tightly, then you need to start baling them tighter going forward. The tighter the hay is baled, the less moisture the hay can incur. This helps the hay stay better longer.

Don't Put Hay Directly On The Ground

When storing hay, avoid resting it on the ground if you can. The ground can be very cold or hot depending on the season. Cold damage isn’t going to do too much, but exposure to the heat can allow the moisture content of the hay to rise.

The hay can develop mould and/or mildew, and eventually, all the heat generated from these fungi could lead to spontaneous combustion.

Plus, the hay can get dirty, and if it’s intended for livestock food, it wouldn’t be very saleable.

Provide Overhead Cover

We’ve mentioned this on the blog before, but now seems like a good time to reiterate that you must store your hay in a shed, a barn, or some sort of structure that has overhead cover. This prevents the hay from exposure to the elements, especially direct sunlight.

It’s ideal if the structure has sidewalls as well to prevent rain or snow from blowing in from the sides.

Conclusion - How Long Does A Round Hay Bale Last?

A round bale of hay lasts on average less than a week, but its lifespan can be improved to about 10 days. Signs that your hay is not appropriate for sale include a very light colour, excess dust, and a smell and/or appearance of mould and mildew.

Try tightly baling your hay and storing it in optimal conditions so it lasts longer. This way, you can ship the hay to happy customers!


  • Neville Janke

    Neville Janke is a qualified agronomist and Horticulturist with over 20 years of experience guiding farmers in the Agricultural and Horticultural industries. With this experience, Neville has been helping long-term users of Hay and grain to experience the Feed Central way of sourcing quality Feed for hungry cattle.

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