Making the switch from small squares to large

We produce our own hay for our small (less than 10 horse) barn, and each year it is that much harder to find good help for the unloading and stacking piece. We’ve done all we can to make it easy (bale thrower, etc), but what we’re doing just isn’t sustainable any more. My dream come true would be to have a Bale Baron so that we could enjoy the best of both worlds, but since that is financially out of the question, we are exploring making the switch to large squares instead.

I have the tractors and storage to facilitate having the big bales, but would love to hear more about the day-to-day logistics of feeding large squares. I 100% understand that small squares are easier in the barn, but we just can’t keep going on as we are. Moving to large bales will allow my husband and I to hay ourselves, which is about the only realistic option we have, I think.

For those of you that do feed large squares, what size do you use? I am just starting to research the balers, but it seems like there are a few size options?


I loved the large squares. We had the 4 string 3x3x7 bales. They were in the 700 pound range. One flake was roughly equal to four small bale flakes. I’d fold one in half, stuff it in a hay net, and call it good.

Would do it again in a heartbeat if had ground level hay storage.

I buy them in the Fall because that is when I can get western grass hay ( timothy, orchard grass, brome). I have an overhang in the barn that is protected from rain and bad weather so I park my flatbed trailer in there and feed off the trailer. Unfortunately I don’t really have a big enough tractor to pick them up and move them into the barn but this works for me and eliminates a lot of labor.

I have gotten 3x3x8’s and 3x4x8’s. They separate into thin flakes so I just peel off a flake, fold it up and put it in a hay net or bring it into the barn. The 3x3’s are a lot easier to deal with since the flakes are not as big as the 3x4’s. Since I am hauling the hay a distance the 3x4’s are a better use of diesel fuel. However my selection criteria is quality so I get whichever looks to be the better hay. The size isn’t that important to me since I am not trying to move the bales into the barn.

Currently feeding 3x3x7 to one horse who is allowed free choice so she gets a flake shoved into her giant Tupperware (The Hay Saver) whenever she needs it. When on pasture that 20-30lb flake might last 5 days barring being inside for thunderstorms or high winds. In winter if the weather is complete crap, I might be hauling a flake down from the loft on a daily basis, but if turnout is normal she eats about a flake every couple days.

I used to have to handle 3x4x7 and even larger monster 6 string bales at work. I hated those and they wouldn’t work well for horses whether stuffing them into nets or giant Tupperwares. They are just that bit too big to be decent to handle. If you have the choice 3x3x7 is the way to go imo.

Well, I’ve used the big squares, the 750 lb ones, and the 1300 lb ones. I bought them from several different local sources the first year we moved to this farm, and our own hay production was not adequate. They are OK, you can get used to it. But we switched out own hay production to small rounds instead of small squares. Our small rounds are about 600 lbs. And I am accustomed to using them now, and like them. There’s a learning curve, which ever you choose to use. Whichever you choose, they are easy to handle with machinery. So much easier than picking up and stacking small squares by hand.

If you prefer to stay with small bales…

We use this:

And a bale claw. Done, and done. Easy to grab out of the field and easy to unload and stack. No bale is ever physically touched.


I have no idea with snow as it doesn’t snow here, but for us round bales are better than large square bales. Large square bales have to be kept in a shed. They cannot be out in the rain. Roundbales you can put them outside, non stacked. With the rain you lose the outer layer, however inside is fine. A tractor and a hay spear can move them.

Not much use of big square bales, but we did feed out 6 this spring because grass was just not growing in the cold. The were 3x3x7, 700 pounds. We have tractor forks for moving them, but the seller had a great “forked spear” device that was real handy moving them onto our flatbed truck.

They had 3 small rope type strimgs, certainly heavier than regular binder twine! With our tractor they were fairly easy to unload, stack in the barn. Flakes were big, had to learn how to portion what the horses needed. The flakes fit in the wheelbarrow for putting in stalls. Stored inside, no wasted hay of mixed grasses.

I would buy them again, not hard to use. Husband had fun telling me he was going to get a couple bales to try out. I said just buy a truckload, save on a trip! No, he was only getting 2 bales. Big bales on the truck surprised me and husband got a good laugh!

We have a hay bale accumulator and grapple for loading bales. It sure is a good system when everything works right. Adds a bit of time going back to get bale piles with the wagon if you are used to a person stacking as they come out of the baler. But you do need less people, if labor is hard to find. We did about 1000 bales with the 2 of us last year, field to barn. Our kids came on the weekend to stack bales in the barn. Not quite enough aisle to swing the grapple on tractor, for stacking on the wall areas.

I am willing to pay for machinery that makes haying, stacking easier to do by ourselves. Keeping an eye out for a rubber tread skidsteer that can run a grapple in our aisle. Ha ha

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I have fed both, the large squares and small squares.

We do like others said for the large bales and folded them in half to split the flakes to feed. Fairly easy, a bit messy but very doable. They used to get stacked 4 or so high in a lean to.

Now we have 4 ponies at home and get about 500 small squares in our loft per year (we are lucky to have large grass pastures for the summer to cut down on hay!). My husband and I do our hay by ourselves every year and can get it done in a few hours. Our farmer “bales” with binder twine 21 small bails in a bundle. My husband can pick up the 21 (one bundle) with his forks and put them in the loft where I cut the outer twine off and then can stack them one at a time. Works great! Not sure if any farmers can do that for you if you want to keep with small bales?

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We use large squares and have for years. Best case is using larges for turn-out and smalls in the barn, but if you’re only using larges (which we’ve done before), here’s what we learned:

-Horses can eat a crazy amount of hay when they have free choice access to large bales. If you just put the bales out in the field, they’ll waste a lot. We built a DIY wooden hay feeder. it has a small roof to protect from rain (as long as it’s not really windy), and put it on a pad of stall mats so the area around it doesn’t get mucky and wet, and the horses can’t trample hay into the sand and make a mess. Instead of the nuisance of large square hay nets, I just bought generic sports netting on Amazon and use double end snaps to keep it over the bale. It definitely slows consumption and makes my air ferns have to work a little harder for their food.

-Large bales used for indoor feeding is trickier. Sometimes you get lucky and the large flakes fold in half to easily break apart and feed single-horse portions. But often they don’t. Make sure the bale you’re using is on a piece of tarp or solid non-dirt floor so you can salvage and use all the chunks and pieces that fall out when you’re trying to get a single serving. Sometimes the flakes all want to fall forward over the end you are feeding from. I used scrap 2x6s and attached a 2’ piece at a right angle to a 4’ piece. I use the right angle as a ‘book end’ of sorts to keep the flakes I’m not using standing up straight. A concrete block or other weight may have to go on the long piece if the flakes are really determined to fall down.

We’ve used the 3x3x7 and 4x4x8s. Weight ranges from 750-1200, depending on dimensions, hay type, and how tightly packed. Other than price per pound, there’s no real difference in how to handle/use them.

Large bales are great for stacking and cost-per-ton, but can be inconvenient if you don’t think through the process. I try to use small squares for the stalls, but love the large squares for turnout so I only have to bring a bale out every week or so, instead of tossing hay daily and having a lot wasted.