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Bale Weights and Moisture Content can be Variable November 12, 2021, contributed by Yaremcio Ag Consulting, Ltd.

With high forage prices, it is good business practice to get accurate weights and moisture levels in feed that is either being purchased or sold. Bales that are similar in size and appear to be “average” can have a difference of 100 to 200 pounds. Work completed at the Agriculture Canada Research Station in Lacombe found similar weight differences between bales. It may be inconvenient to run a load of bales across a scale to get an average weight, but it is worth the time and effort.

To calculate the value of a load of forty hay bales that have an assumed weight of 1400 pounds and a price of 10 cents per pound, the total weight is 56,000 pounds with a value of $5,600. If the load of bales actually weighs an average of 1550 pounds, the load is worth $6200. If the bales are 150 pounds lighter than expected, the value of the load is $5,000.

Hay bales that are two years old have lower weights than when they were made. Bales can shrink between 10 and 15% compared to the weights at baling. Moisture evaporates, microbial action during storage consumes soluble protein and carbohydrates, which reduces bale weights and also the quality of the hay. Weighing old hay and re-testing for quality is recommended.

Bales contain “dry” feed and water. Using a 1400 pound bale with 15% moisture as the standard or contracted item for sale, it contains 1190 pounds of dry feed and 210 pounds of water. The hay price should be adjusted for different moisture contents. Payment is for dry feed; not water. If hay in the feed yard is 10 cents per pound or $140 per bale, the value is converted to cost per pound of dry matter. For a 15% moisture bale, there is 1190 pounds of dry feed. The price per bale is divided by the number of pounds dry feed to provide a cost per pound of dry matter. This calculates to 11.76 cents a pound on a dry basis. This is the standard cost of dry matter in future calculations. Adjusting bale values is worked back to the cost per pound of dry matter in the bale. If the bales are dryer than expected, the value of the bale increases and if wetter than expected, the bales should be lower in price. The adjustment in price is not linear. Values are listed below.

Bale weight 1400 Pounds

13% Moisture

15% Moisture

18% Moisture

Price of hay in the bale




Pounds Water




Pounds Dry Matter




Price per Pound of dry matter




Value per bale




Barry Yaremcio

Ruminant Nutritionist


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