The Price of Horse Hay

I received a phone call from a farm manager, asking who I purchased my hay from. I told him my hay supplier had excellent quality forage with good protein levels and averaged 1Mcal per pound. I gave him the phone number and he said he would call him for pricing.

While at the county fair this week I saw the farm manager and his students at the 4-H barn, so I asked if he had purchased any hay for his farm. He told me that the supplier I had told him to call was too expensive. He had quoted him $220 per ton, with a 5 ton minimum. Since he was not use to buying by the ton, he inquired as to how many bales that was, and was told it would amount to about 165 bales. The farm manager said he had done the math, and that the bales would be over $6.50 each, which was just outrageous!

I saw hay in his feed stall and asked if that was the hay he purchased. He said yes, and was proud to say it was only $5 per bale. He had purchased 200 bales for $1000. I lifted one of the bales and was surprised how light they were, so I asked if he knew what the hay has cost per ton. He had no idea. I then asked if we could wheel four of the bales over to the scale in the cattle barn to weigh them. “ You and your tons,” he replied…”Why not!”

Feeling certain he had gotten the best of a bargain, he loaded the bales and we took them to the scale. They varied from 36 to 40 pounds each, so we said an average of 40 pounds each. I then asked him to do the math.

200 bales x 40 pounds =8000 pounds or 4 tons.

$1000 /4 tons = $250 per ton.

He realized his “bargain” was not such a great value and laughed, “I know, I know…You don’t buy hamburger by the patty, and you don’t by hay by the bale.”

15 Replies to “The Price of Horse Hay”

  1. Hay farmers seem to take advantage of people to much. Especially if that person doesn’t understand the math for it. Use to be that farmers could be trusted to tell the truth and not worry about it. Guess they finally got corrupted like the rest. Sad.

  2. I grew up with horses and baling our own hay and know that the weight of bales can vary. I now have to buy my hay and it is always by the bale. I have never known anyone in the Northeast who buys or sell hay by the ton. I can see the value in buying it by the ton but most farmers don’t have scales. Perhaps that is why most famers sell hay by the bale.

  3. Let’s undestand first that profit is not a dirty word. There wasn’t a gun held to the head at either of the guys selling hay. This guy just didn’t take the time to do the math and see which one was a better deal. Guys like this is often the reason the market is out of sight. Nobody haggles or shop prices. I strongly encourage you to do both.

    1. You are correct Bud. Making hay is a lot of work, and farms deserve to make a profit. But as you also mentioned it is smart to shop and compare your options, just be sure you are comparing apples to apples.


  4. Remember to factor in “handling” costs if your dealer delivers and helps to stack the hay. He may have had to pay a helper to load the truck or wagon, too. The more times a bale is touched (from field to barn to truck to your loft), the more the price goes up, and rightly so. Also, in times when hay supplies are tight, paying a bit more all year round from your dealer ensures that he’ll take care of you … when everybody else is scrambling to find hay. Worth it to me!

  5. You need to be careful when buying hay by the weight. Sadly some will wet the hay to get it up in weight. You need to know your seller. Make sure they know that you will be a repeat customer if you are happy with their product. Poor farmer, piffle, business is business and poor feed makes for a poor/possibly sick horse. The farmer is not going to cover your vet bills.

    1. Good suggestion Angel. I have many clients that will buy a small quantity of hay first, and have it tested for Equine Nutrition Values. The report does include moisture. The university of Minnesota has some great information on hay and moisture content on their web site as well.


  6. I live in AZ and we get our hay here at around $15 a bale – not that is outrageous.
    There are times it is more compact than others but is the same price. I would love to get Hay at 6.50 a bale. Do you have any suggestions – i would even have it trucked in if with the gas it was less than $15 bale price.

    1. I am in the same boat Renee. Baled my own horse hay back in Wisconsin for under a buck a bale (small) and then sold it for $2.00. My problem is by the time I ship it 1900 miles I am paying more here. There, however, HAS to be better priced QUALITY hay somewhere. This $625.00 a ton for “cheap” hay is crazy.

  7. I have been dealing hay for 20 years, I service the State of Florida with weekly delivery’s,its getting out of hand the hay prices ! but fuel is the the biggest reason it know cost me 5 dollars just two get it there. farmer cost have risen,windows in the weather are shorter,makes for harder two get it in the barn green and dry.Just a bailer alone two produce the hay is 38000 ? everything cost more

  8. Selling by the bale is commonplace and for good reason. Assuming you have an accurate weight per bale median anyone can do the math. Remember the bale cost has to do very much with handling costs and you handle it by the bale. Wagons must be unloaded by hand, the hay stacked in the barn by hand, and when it is time to load a semi we must stack it back into wagons by hand and then load the semi by hand. Loading a semi can take 4 men 3 hours if you are good.
    We have a very conscious and conscientious approach to our hay business and that costs. We have an office, we are available 24/7, we test every barn as we empty and ship, we send samples of every barn load to each customer, and we give our ups number for people to pay. Once a year we get an unscrupulous customer who disappears and does not pay their bill.
    So there is the value of the hay and the value of the handling and the value of the service. We have many repeat customers who pay more but get more.
    We also do not run out and manage our supply and demand without fail… Many farmers don’t respond quickly, can supply year round consistently, and deal with customer’s needs.
    All good things to remember.

  9. I worked on a dairy farm growing up and we planted our own alfalfa hay for the cows, we had a bushel machine we pulled behind the tractor and the bales of hay flew out the machine into a large wagon with tall metal walls. My job was to stack them into the back of the trailer as my uncle drove the tractor. I can tell you first hand it was hard work. Good memories though.

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