Why Are Hay Bales Left In Fields? It is Risky?


If you’re lucky enough to live in the idyllic setting of the rural countryside surrounded by endless fields and greenery wherever you go, then you may have come across fields that have hay bales lying around in them. 

Unless you’re a farmer or someone who’s clued up on agriculture, then you may be bewildered as to what these hay bales are or what they’re used for, and why they’re sitting in the middle of a field instead of being stored away.

Hay bales are made up of mature grass that is cut and then rolled up and then left to dry out in a bale ready for the winter months. The hay can be used to feed a farmer’s animals during the cold winter months when the grass is not growing.

Many farmers can run a self-sufficient farm by growing their hay bales from their many fields to feed their animals during the cold winter month. On the other hand, if the grass present on their land is not good quality then they can purchase hay bales from other farms.

However, if a farmer uses the hay bales to be able to feed their animals through the winter, what are they doing sitting out in the fields?

We’ll be answering this question and also covering more information on the topic within this article. 

A Farmer’s Reasoning

There isn’t just one reason as to why a farmer may leave their hay bales outside for some time, but a multitude of possible reasons.

Lack Of Storage

One reason as to why you may notice hay bales left scattered in a field is because the farmer does not have enough storage facilities to keep them in, which means they have to be left outside all the time.

If the weather is ok for animals to be on the field during the winter months, then it may make it easier to feed them if the hay bale is already sitting there as when you roll it the hay will unravel making it easy to pick up or leave on the floor for the animals.

Feeding animals hay when they’re out in the field in the winter will also ensure they eat the hay first before moving onto the grass and allow grass to rejuvenate and grow back later in the year when the weather gets warmer. 

Laziness/Lack Of Time

Harvesting grass/hay can sometimes be a tedious job, as you have to wait around for 5 days of straight dry weather to begin, carry out, and finish the job. You may have to wait less time if you live somewhere with dry and warm climates.

Harvesting hay is normally done from around May to early fall and can be done by farmers 2-3 times before the dry season ends depending on where they live. This means farmers will need to go through the process a few times each year, which can be a big job if you’ve got many fields to get through.

Some farmers may choose to cut their grass using a sit-on mower and then manually rake it to form hay bales once it’s dried out, other farmers may use special tractors and machinery to cut, organize the hay and then form it into hay bales.

Regardless of what process a farmer chooses to follow, harvesting and making hay bales can be a tedious long job that can take a couple of weeks if you own a lot of farmland. 

This does not take into consideration a farmer’s other daily duties they need to carry out to maintain their farm and also look after all the animals.

So yes, a farmer may run out of time to transfer the hay bales left into the storage, or maybe they just can’t be bothered to transport them into storage.

The Farmer Is Selling Them

If a farmer doesn’t have many animals to feed then they may not need to use all of the hay bales from the harvest and can sell them on to make a profit. One bale of hay costs around $8 depending on the size of it and the type of grass that has been harvested.

This means a farmer with a generous amount of land can make a considerable profit selling their hay bales, especially considering that they won’t be using the hay themselves.

So those hay bales that you’ve spotted lying in the farmer’s field near your home, could be waiting to be picked up by another farmer.

Waiting On Machinery

Farming machinery and equipment can be very costly, so we don’t blame some farmers for not wanting to invest in a bale wagon or machine to transfer the hay bales into storage for the winter season.

If there are still bales left in the field, then the farmer may be waiting on another farmer or professional to come along with their bale wagon or machine to conveniently pick up and transport the hay bales into the barn. 

What Impact Does The Weather Have On Exposed Hay Bales?

In dry and warm climates that don’t experience a lot of rain, it may be easier to leave hay bales out in the field where the baler has spat them out to save the inconvenience of transporting them to storage. 

However, if you experience hot climates, then it could be unsafe to keep hay bales outside indefinitely as they could be at risk of spontaneous combustion if the hay was harvested when it was moist as this produces a bacteria that emits heat and raises the temperature inside the hay bale.

If you live in a humid climate or one that experiences regular rainfall, then this can diminish the quality of the hay and result in it becoming unusable. One way of minimizing this though is by tightly packing the hay into a round bale as the water will run off the sides instead of infiltration through the hay.

What Are The Risks Of Leaving Hay Bales In The Field?

One risk of leaving hay bales in the field is any intruders on the land or visitors to the farm may be tempted to climb upon them for fun (e.g children) and possibly fall off and hurt themselves.

Many people think hay weighs nothing but rolled tightly in a hay bale; they can be quite heavy and could even crush children. This is why they should be properly stored away in a private barn or locked storage facility.

Leaving the hay bales out in the field for prolonged periods can cause damage to the grass and forage underneath them due to them being smothered and restricted of oxygen and light. This could mean that the grass never recovers come next spring.

One of the obvious risks of leaving hay bales in the field is that the bales can become damaged and unusable. In humid or wet weather, moisture will occur and the hay will become moldy and unusable for the animals.

Weeds thrive in moist areas which means not only could the hay bale yield be affected but also the grass underneath the hay bales. 

Delaying the removal of hay bales after harvest for too long can negatively impact the next yield as you could damage the regrowth by driving over it to pick up the harvested hay bales.

Hay bales are easier to transport when they’re new and tightly wrapped out of the baler, and the longer they’ve been left outside and exposed to the weather the more difficult they are to handle and move. 

How To Properly Store Hay Bales

If the climate isn’t right for outside storage, then you should opt for storing hay bales inside a barn or storage unit stored off the floor by using metal shelving, wooden pallets, or on top of old hay will prevent it from sweating on the ground and also hopefully prevent rodents from getting in. 

Barn storage will prevent yield loss from the weather and will hopefully retain the nutritional value of the hay as much as possible. 

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